Mythbusters. All You Need to Know about At-sea Connection Cost & Speed
Have you planned your next vacation on a cruise liner? Picked your favorite swimsuit to bathe in a clean ocean, relax, discover new places, and enjoy every moment. And what about connectivity?
On-board Internet isn’t as fast as on-land connectivity speeds. Some cruise lines offer free connectivity solutions, while some others sell Internet plans. We looked at the top cruise operators for their Internet packages and compared their costs for travelers. While planning your next vacation cruise, use this post to ensure that you won’t find yourself stuck without data.
In this article, you will learn about:
- Internet at Sea & on Land
- Internet at Sea Is Less Reliable than On-Land Connections
- Internet Cost on the Top Cruise Lines in the World
- Comparison Table
- Final Thoughts on Using Internet at Sea
Internet at Sea & on Land
When leaving for a trip on a cruise liner, it’s important to realise that even if you pay for Internet on a ship, this doesn’t mean that you can access the web instantly in the first port of a country where you land.
This is essential for every traveler to access the web instantly, especially on a visit to a foreign country. It’s a headache to buy a local SIM card every time you arrive in a new place during your cruise. As a great alternative to using local SIMs, you can take care of your connectivity abroad with an international SIM card or a global WiFi hotspot.
You can purchase such connectivity solutions in advance, before leaving for a trip on a cruise liner. In fact, you can continue using a SIM or WiFi hotspot no matter what country in the world you visit. Provided that you top-up your balance at least once a year, you can continue using unthrottled Internet connectivity in different places in the world. Having an international SIM card installed in you unlocked smartphone, you will be able to connect to local cellular networks globally without the need to switch SIMs in your device.
You can use international connectivity services together with WiFi on your cruise liner. The former will keep you covered “on land”, while the latter provides connectivity at sea.
Internet at Sea Is Less Reliable than On-Land Connections
The biggest players in the cruising industry invest millions into onboard connectivity to provide the best possible experience to every person on board. Depending on the cruise line that you choose and your location on a ship or at sea, you may often feel less comfortable browsing the web than at home.
There are many factors effecting the quality of connectivity at sea. The ship may be too far away from the internet service tower or there may be too many people on board browsing the web at this particular moment. The sad truth is that most of the cruise lines won’t provide you the kind of Internet connection needed to watch your favorite movie online or quickly download several episodes of your favorite TV show.
Connectivity on cruise liners is delivered through satellite antenna transmitting a signal from the ship to satellite, which then sends a signal back down to earth. In order to speed up this process, many satellite companies have started to add more satellites in order to increase bandwidth and connect more land-based towers when cruise liners sail closer to shore. But the major limitation is in a clear path between a cruise liner and the satellite. In order to deliver uninterrupted connection, the antenna needs to be pointing at the satellite.
When a ship is near a mobile phone tower, you can access faster 3G and 4G services, which are much faster than the connectivity delivered through satellite.
Internet Cost on the Top Cruise Lines in the World
The cost of staying connected wirelessly differs by cruise lines and ships. Most lines offer WiFi Internet connection on board and break down pricing by minutes and offer connectivity plans - the more minutes you purchase the less you pay per 1 minute. There is a growing trend of cruise lines offering at-sea WiFi packages based on passengers’ behaviors and the ways they use Internet connectivity. For example, there can be packages for email and texting services, others focus on video streaming services, etc.
There are lots of cruise lines offering WiFi connectivity packs to their clients. Let’s see what the industry leaders offer.
Azamara Club Cruises
Azamara Club Cruises garners high praise from cruisers and critics for its upscale cabins and trips to far-flung destinations. The cruise line offers on-board Internet/WiFi connectivity throughout the 3 ships sailing to more than 260 ports across 80 countries.
Azamara has an agreement with AT&T and Wireless Maritime Service to offer an advanced roaming network to let vacationers make and receive calls using your mobile device and phone number. At Azamara Club Cruises, you can choose from 3 AT&T cruise ship packages that are available for AT&T customers:
- All packages are valid for the duration of a single cruise only.
- Their system doesn’t support Skype, VOIP, VPN connections, and high bandwidth programs.
- Internet connectivity is slower than what you have at home. This is affected by the ship’s location and weather conditions.
- 1-day pass will provide you with the Internet access for 24 hours, beginning from the moment you buy it.
- You can buy the Full Voyage Unlimited Package at any time during your voyage and for the full duration of your trip.
Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Cruise Line is part of a family of companies owned by Carnival Corporation. With a fleet of 25 ships, this is one of the largest companies in the industry. They offer fun vacations at sea and ashore, featuring day and nighttime entertainment like stage shows, musical performances, deck parties, casinos, etc. Their ships operate 2- to 24-day voyages, departing from every coast in the U.S., as well as Canada, Puerto Rico and Barbados. They are best known for Caribbean cruises, as well as such exotic destinations as Mexico, Alaska, the Bahamas, Europe, Hawaii and the Far East.
Speaking about Internet access, you can choose from 3 WiFi plans offering average connectivity speeds of 5.1.Mbps.
- Social WiFi - $6.80/day - access the most popular social websites and applications, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, SnapChat and the most popular airline sites. Does not include access to most other websites or apps.
- Value WiFi - $10.20/day - surf all your favorite sites, including email, news, sports, weather, banking and finance. It does not support Skype calling or music/video streaming (such as Spotify or Netflix).
- Premium WiFi - $14.45/day - provides the fastest possible connection on board, at speeds up to 3 times faster than our Value Plan. Supports Skype video calling, where coverage allows.
Crystal Cruises is a luxury cruise line that’s been delivering excellent travel experience for over 25 years. Here you can find services ranging from trips across the world’s greatest oceans to the grand rivers in Europe and remote yachting harbours. Crystal Cruises offers complimentary Internet and WiFI access throughout all their ships. The cruise line encourages you to bring your own devices with you on board to start using WiFi connection for free. The company also warns that certain applications (apps) available on personal phones and other devices are satellite dependent and thus subject to interrupted availability.
Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony also offer Wireless Maritime (Cellular) Services (WMS). You can use your own mobile phone to make and receive calls from fellow traveler on board, as well as call family and friends who are away on land. Charges for using WMS are similar to your roaming charges of your cellular provider.
Disney Cruise Line
There are 4 distinguished ships in the fleet of Disney Cruise Line. They offer their guests impressive comfort and Disney-exclusive activities that bring families together en route to exotic ports of call. The cruise line offers Internet packs based on your online needs. Also, instead of paying for every minute, it’s more cost effective to pay for the megabytes of data that you consume. Using the on-board WiFi, you can connect everywhere on your ship, use social media, chat with your friends, and simply stay connected when you are at sea.
One of the best things about using WiFi connectivity on the Disney Cruise Line ships is that you can share your WiFi package with others. In order to start browsing the web, simply login to your account from any WiFi-enabled device and start using the same package with other people with whom you travel. The combined usage is tracked on one meter, which can be monitored via the browser window.
For the most up-to-date on-board connectivity rates, Disney Cruise Line recommends to refer to the information provided in the stateroom. On average, the costs are like this:
- Email Plan: $60 (up to 200 MB of data)
- Surfing Plan: $120 (up to 500 MB of data)
- Unlimited Plans: Prices vary by destination and duration. Seven day plans typically start at $250.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Regent Seven Seas Cruises are popular for their luxury ships with the best cabin accommodations in the industry. One of the greatest advantages of traveling with this luxury cruise line is the possibility to use unlimited free shore excursions that let you try such exclusive experiences as meals with master chefs, behind-the-screens tours, and much more.
The cost of WiFi connectivity is already included in the cruise fare. Guests can use free unlimited WiFi at the record 50mbps speeds on all ships, all suits, public rooms, and outdoor decks. One login can be used on one device at a time. There are no restrictions in terms of the things that you do on the web. For example, you may feel free to use WiFi for general web browsing, social media, messengers, email, etc.
Royal Caribbean Cruise
This is one of the oldest and most popular cruise lines in the industry. It was founded back in 1969 in Norway. Right now the company operates in Miami, Florida, and has over 25 ships sailing throughout the world. However, the cruise line is mainly famous for their Carribean cruises.
While positioning themselves as the leader in the industry, Royal Carribean provides the fastest Internet at sea. Guests on ships can choose from two Internet options to stay connected on ships:
- Surf - $15.99 per day
- Surf + stream - $19.99 per day
VOOM is available onboard all ships fleetwide. Prices for internet access vary and are subject to change. Every package is available for a single device. So, if you use the same login details on the second device, then the connection will be lost on the first one.
Windstar Cruises is a luxury brand that’s popular for their small ships with less than 350 guests. Such trips on smaller ships let the cruise line offer more personalized travel experiences for their guests.
WiFi connection is delivered through satellite, which means that the connection speeds are automatically slower than your home connection. Recently, they have modified their Internet usage packages from minutes to the amount of data that you use.
Just take a look at their Internet Usage Plans:
- Email plan - $60 for 200MB of data to use during your cruise.
- Surfing plan - $120 for 500MB of data
- Unlimited plan - $35 for 1 day
All packages only allow for one device to connect to the Internet at a time.
With all that said, let’s now quickly review what the aforementioned cruise lines offer.
60 Minutes package - $19.95;
One-Day Pass - $29.95;
Full Voyage Unlimited - $19.95 per day
Social - $6.80/day;
Value - $10.20/day;
Premium - $14.45/day.
25 Mbps download and 8 Mbps upload
Email Plan: $60 (up to 200 MB of data)
Surfing Plan: $120 (up to 500 MB of data)
Unlimited Plans: Prices vary by destination and duration. Seven day plans typically start at $250.
Surf - $15.99 per day
Surf + stream - $19.99 per day
Email plan - 200MB - $60;
Surfing plan - 500 MB - $120;
Unlimited plan - $35 per day
Final Thoughts on Using Internet At Sea
Cruising is a popular vacation choice for many travelers around the world. It’s become really convenient to travel the sea and still have unlimited access to all habitual things that you do at home, including going to a restaurant, watching movies in cinemas, as well as browsing the web using your smartphone or laptop.
On-board Internet doesn’t deliver lightning-fast browsing speeds. Even though cruise lines invest huge amounts of money in satellites in order to deliver reliable WiFi on board, you need to realize that web pages and social media news feed won’t load as quickly as they do when you are at home.
Some cruise lines offer free WiFi on board, while many others sell Internet plans that are oriented to different ways of data use (like email, social media, etc.). Travelers also need to take care of uninterrupted connectivity on land. If you do not want to receive a thousand dollars bill for roaming charges when you come back home, play wise and take care of your connection abroad in advance. Use a global SIM card for your unlocked smartphone or a portable WiFi hotspot to connect up to 16 locked or unlocked devices at a time.