Holidays and excursions no longer mean truly ‘getting away from it all’. Passengers now expect to be able to check and send emails, stream video and make calls while on board.
WiFi is now available on virtually all seagoing cruise ships. The industry’s biggest players are investing millions of dollars in communication infrastructures – on land, on ships and in the sky by way of satellites. As a result, WiFi service and prices are more in line with what passengers are used to on land.
There are still plenty of ships with slow, expensive and spotty service, but they are no longer the norm. However, there will always be some level of unreliability, especially the further out to sea you are.
VSAT requires a clear line-of-sight between the ship’s antennae and the satellite. Sometimes it might be blocked by a tall building, the mountains of the Norwegian fjords, or the ship’s mast itself. Congestion can also cause issues – with more passengers online and requiring data, speeds will become slower.
Some cruise lines are beginning to use hybrid systems that combine expensive satellite connections with cheaper land-based links. This can work well for an on-board social media package, but video calling apps require much higher bandwidth and would be more expensive to use.
The fastest internet connections are found when few people are online, such as late at night, or in a port when passengers are ashore.