Wi-fi and Cellular Access While On a Cruise

Wi-fi and Cellular Access While On a Cruise
Staying connected to internet and cellular access can be a costly endeavor while on vacation, yet necessary nonetheless. Even our vacations may involve staying accessible to those back at the office. Having never taken a cruise before, I assumed global phones and calling plans along with wireless data cards would keep me in touch enough during a Disney Cruise with the family. Lesson learned: Do your homework on accessibility according to ports of call, proximity to shore, and the overall cost of staying connected at sea whether using your personal laptop, the ship’s internet terminals, or your cell phone.

Cellular Access
Before departing for my Disney Cruise, I assumed that as long as I paid for my global cell phone and wireless data card, I would have no problem making a weekly conference call and responding to emails. Well, I was somewhat correct, but it came at a price. First, despite having a global phone and global plan, I quickly learned that access was not guaranteed, and when it was, use of my Verizon phone and plan were still subject to specific “Disney” rates. That rate was $2.49 per minute!

Now, in an emergency, I wouldn’t hesitate to pay these Mickey-controlled rate hikes, but participating in a moderately important conference call gave me pause before dialing. How do these calls usually go? Well, they usually start 5 minutes late to begin with. Was it worth paying over $12.00 just for people to join before anything substantive was discussed? Probably not.

Had we been in a port-of-call covered by my global plan, I would have been covered at the usual rates, however, I would have had to leave the ship to make the call. Considering most ports are in busy commercial areas, or have noisy surroundings, it would have been difficult to pull off. We were miles from any land on that day anyway. Again, had it been the difference between losing a case or a client, I would have eaten the cost right along with the free ice cream offered all day long. However, if I could do it over again, I would have spent more time researching the rates and the possible alternatives to scheduling or planning my participation using my cellular phone.

Bottomline: It pays to know before you go when it comes to cellular access. so if your cruise week requires that you act like a business traveler on some days, confirm with you cellular carrier the costs of actually making calls from the particular cruise line and specific ship so you can inform your co-workers or employer about your realistic level of accessibility while away.

Internet Access
Many cruise lines differ as to the cost and accessibility of internet use. In fact, cost can differ even amongst the different ships in the cruise line fleet. Check with your specific cruise line and ship prior to departing to understand the access available to you. Here are a few cruise line’s specific posted policies and costs.

Disney Cruise Line
If using the Disney public internet café or personal laptop wi-fi, access is through the ship’s satellite. I cruised on the Disney Wonder and the rates for internet use were $0.75 per minute to “pay as you go”. In other words, packages of minutes could be purchased for a slight discount, or you could pay minute-by-minute for the actual minutes you use. I found that my wireless data card did not work while on the Disney cruise regardless of location on the ship, or with relation to the ship’s proximity to land.

According to Disney’s website, the Wonder’s sister ship – the Disney Magic – packages its internet minutes differently according to the number of minutes intended for use. This is helpful information to choose a plan that fits your budget and according to what you anticipate will be necessary to accommodate your business internet needs. Obviously unused minutes are not refundable.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
Royal Caribbean’s website states that the base rate for internet access on their ships is $0.65. Pre-paid packages may be purchased for onboard use. These packages can be used on your personal laptop with Wi-Fi capability, on in one of the shipboard internet cafes/workstations.

Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival has an extensive fleet, so check online when you book a cruise on a specific ship. The reason being that, according to their website, access may be limited to certain areas of certain ships, i.e., you may not be able to use personal laptops for wireless access in your staterooms. The cost associated with internet access onboard Carnival ships is posted on their website as a base rate of $0.55 per minute. Packages may be purchased and the number of minutes offered per package may differ according to length of your desired cruise.

Overall, if you need to turn part of you cruising vacation into a working vacation, make sure you know the limitations associated with your destinations and cruise provider. Don’t be shy about contacting the cruise line directly and investigating all of your options.

Travel safely.

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