In the modern age, it’s rare to leave the house without a smartphone. With so much of our daily lives wrapped up in our devices, it’s hard to imagine going on vacation without them. A common worry among cruise passengers is finding WiFi connections during their voyage. In this post, I’ll explain everything you need to know about accessing the Internet on a cruise ship, ensuring you are fully prepared for your next cruise vacation.
How Cruises Connect to the Internet
Historically, finding a good Wi-Fi connection on cruises is common and frustrating. Frequent cruisers note slow loading times, error pages, and signal loss as common problems with the Internet connection aboard cruise ships.
These connectivity issues are due to the fact that cruise ships are not connected to Internet cables, meaning they have to rely on satellite signals for their WiFi. Essentially, every time a guest connects to the Internet aboard a cruise ship, their signal needs to be transmitted from the ship’s antenna to a satellite in orbit and back again. On a moving cruise ship, this process is constantly interrupted.
For example, in certain cruise destinations such as Norway, the towering fjords can prevent the ship’s antenna from connecting to the satellite. This is also common on smaller river cruises, for the city skylines they sail past can also obstruct this satellite connection.
Despite this, however, cruise ships can connect to land-based satellite networks, but only when they’re within close proximity, meaning this service tends to be spotty and unreliable.
WiFi Options for Passengers
Taking all this into consideration, let’s go over the best options for accessing a reliable and affordable Wi-Fi connection on your cruise.
Most cruise companies offer some type of WiFi plan available for purchase. These plans vary in both price and features, but will typically allow you to check social media feeds, check-in for your flights, and browse your email. This is the case with Royal Caribbean’s basic Wi-Fi plan which costs guests $19.99/day per device. They also offer a higher speed plan for $24.99 that supports streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+.
Carnival Cruise Line offers even more affordable options, with their Social WiFi plan allowing guests to browse their favorite social media apps for just $10/day per device. In addition to this basic service, Carnival also offers both a Value plan ($14) and a Premium plan ($17) with slightly higher speeds.
As both technology advances and demand for reliable Internet increases, many cruise companies such as Viking and Celebrity Cruises have begun offering WiFi plans included in the cruise’s initial fare. And while these companies also offer add-on services at a fee, for many passengers, these all-inclusive plans are more than sufficient.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that even with the most premium WiFi plans, your Internet browsing experience will be slower and more unreliable than what you’re used to at home.
Now, if you want to take more control over the WiFi situation on your cruise, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
First of all, certain cruise destinations are better suited for high-speed Internet connections based on their large concentration of satellites. This is the case in the Caribbean, for example. Maritime companies have capitalized off the high number of cruise ships in this region and placed additional satellites in the area, allowing cruise companies to offer more reliable WiFi plans to their passengers. This is not the case in more remote destinations such as Antarctica or Alaska. So if you want to increase your chances of finding a cruise ship with reliable Internet, choose your destination wisely.
Furthermore, many cruise companies offer special discounts for buying WiFi packages in advance or for being members of their loyalty programs. When you plan your cruise vacation, look into these options, as they could save you both time and money.
Lastly, if instead of relying on WiFi networks, you’re interested in using your phone’s data, certain phone companies such as AT&T offer cruise plans allowing you to pay for data access as well as calls and texts. Depending on your network, this option could be worth checking out. If not, however, be sure to switch your smartphone to airplane mode for the duration of your voyage to avoid being charged for roaming fees by your phone company.
Internet connection aboard cruise ships has come a long way. And as both technology advances and our dependence on it increases, cruise ships will become better equipped at providing fast, affordable Internet access to their passengers. Until then, however, cruises still have many options.
But perhaps the most reliable and affordable of them all is to use your cruise vacation as an opportunity to disconnect from the online world and enjoy the present moment. You can always post an Instagram photo dump of your experience when you get back home.