As the Facebook generation approaches full swing, more and more of us are using the internet and mobile phones to stay in touch with friends and family while on holiday. Whether it's posting holiday pictures to Instagram, tweeting your latest cocktail choice, or posting a blog about today's shore excursion, staying in touch has never been easier.
But, has it ever been so expensive? The costs of data roaming on mobile devices and onboard Wi-Fi can seem astronomical at times, especially when compared to the age old action of sending postcards. To some extent I understand why internet costs are high onboard the ship, for starters a satellite connection isn't going to be cheap to run. But why can't more ships access internet connections in port, vastly reducing the price on those days, and why do mobile phone companies charge so much?
Data Roaming In The EU
Here's a little run down of the basic data charges for the UK's main carriers. These are all based on EU bundles and range between 25mb and 30mb per day of data. 30mb with Orange should cover most people's Twitter, Facebook or Instagram addictions, along with being able to use Google maps etc on your phone in port.
Cruise Ship Wi-Fi packages
Cruise ship Wi-Fi prices vary massively from 25p per minute with Fred. Olsen to $2 per email with Oceania Cruises. Though pay as you go cruise ship Wi-Fi prices are available, for the sake of comparison I'll stick with the package prices in order to give a better overview of the best value for money. Note: not all cruise lines offer bundles.
Cruise ship Wi-Fi has a distinct advantage, which isn't the price, but is the convenience. As long as the ship has satellite signal, you can browse and upload away. The main problems, however, are the cost and the speed. Carnival are currently testing a new technology offering vastly improved speeds, while Royal Caribbean are set to test a system next summer — which claims to offer fibre optic-like internet speeds.
Here are the package prices for some of the most popular cruise lines for British cruisers:
These prices have been taken from Cruise Critic and are meant as an indication of cost as cruise lines can change their pricing at any time. But, as you can see, surfing the net onboard is definitely a luxury item as opposed to an everyday holiday cost.
Looking at the prices, for me using data roaming on my mobile or tablet is 100 times more preferable than the costs of using the internet on a sea day. Why not spend your free time at sea preparing your images, writing you draft tweets and offline blog updates, and actually do the online sending when you're in port? In some ports you may even find cafes and bars with free Wi-Fi, which is a win-win situation — enjoy a good coffee in the sun while uploading your photos without the worry of how much data you are using.
I'm sure once the latest EU legislation comes into play, data roaming around the EU will slowly become more affordable and eventually shouldn't cost anymore than using your phone at home, while satellite internet connections on cruise ships will always be at a premium.
Send your thoughts to @Iglucruise.
All-inclusive drinks packages are becoming increasingly popular onboard ships as cruisers look to keep tabs on their spending. But, are these packages value for money and good for cruising?
We now live in a society where responsible drinking is encouraged and getting legless on holiday is seen as crass, inappropriate behaviour. But will an endless supply of booze take us back to the Costa de Sol of the 90s, or will it mean people can enjoy their cocktails and cold beers in a more relaxed way?
Drinks packages on cruise ships are not a new thing — Thomson have been offering all-inclusive upgrades for years and sister line, Island Cruises, are going all-inclusive full stop come 2013. Most major cruise lines have offered soft drinks packages in the past, usually consisting of one price for a cruise worth of soda, fruit juice and mocktails. In general these deals aren't often abused and even if they are, the sugar wears off eventually. So, could the adult-only drinks deals offer a sensible, good value way to enjoy your cruise onboard?
At a glance the all-inclusive options range from ship-wide, to cabin. The per cabin deals usually stipulate everyone staying in the cabin has to purchase the package, and sometimes everyone in the party— this is to stop people trying to buy it once and then get drinks for several people, which is smart. The prices vary too, from £24 per person per day for wine and beer with your meals, to $71 pppd for unlimited premium drinks by the glass.
Value For Money?
Value for money really comes down to how much you would normally spend onboard, what you usually drink and how much you value not having to second guess your bar bill at the end of the cruise. Some people will happily enjoy a couple of glasses of wine during lunch, a cold beer by the pool, a couple more glasses of wine during dinner and a cocktail in the evening, and they will gain exceptional value for money.
The route Fred. Olsen has taken is to offer a selection of all-inclusive cruises, where house wine, beers and spirits are included. This is similar to Island Cruises, who will offer the same on all their cruises circa April '13. With the cruise fares not rising by huge costs, this amounts to great value as your only worries onboard are the shops, shore excursions and luxury drink items.
Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Oceania and MSC Cruises have all gone down the route of offering cruise packages. MSC are the only cruise line offering the dinner only package, which is $24 pppd. The main packages include house wines, beers, house cocktails and spirits on an unlimited basis. So if you like a drink at $40-$50 pppd, these are good value, as five cocktails in a day can set you back nearly $50 and you are on holiday after all.
There are also a few premium packages, which don't include wine by the bottle, but do include more premium wines by the glass as well as premium spirits and cocktails, these usually give you 25% off decent bottle of wine or fizz. So if you prefer the finer things in life — in moderation of course — but don't want to scrutinize your bill at the end of the cruise, the $70-odd pppd, actually works out good value too — premium cocktails, such as a decent Martini, can cost your $15 a go onboard some ships.
Personally I think these packages are a good idea, and the next cruise I am on offering them, I will most likely be taking advantage. These deals aren't designed for people looking to "drink their money's worth", they are designed to help you kick back and relax on your cruise and are priced to reflect the quality of drinks you can enjoy, as opposed to the quantity.
Cruise lines are trying to appeal to the variety of audiences they have onboard these days, and during a time of supposed austerity, paying one price for a week's worth of drinks on your cruise is going to appeal to the mass markets. Well done to the cruise lines for recognising it, but fingers crossed the old Costa del Sol crew will stick to their cheap hotels, Linekar bars and Spanish beaches.
Here's a selection of 2013 all inclusive cruises, just in case they take your fancy.
Being a fan of shopping in New York, Simone Clark, Iglu's Managing Director, decided to try a Transatlantic cruise home as opposed to flying on her recent trip.
I enjoyed my first Transatlantic crossing onboard Queen Mary 2 at the beginning of July, though I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Would I get bored? What was there to do? Would it be claustrophobic? On previous cruises, I've always enjoyed port days over the sea days so this was a real test.
I stayed in an extremely hot and humid New York City for five days of shopping, exploring and sight seeing (I also got to see the Independence Day fireworks). So it was a superb feeling to not have to waste a day transferring to the airport, then lugging cases around before flying overnight and coming back tired and jet lagged. Instead, I took a taxi from the hotel direct to Manhattan Pier in 55th street and was in my cabin within the hour sipping on champagne! (Note: Usually the ship sails from Brooklyn but we sailed from Manhattan as a Princess ship was in port).
Spectacular Sail Away
Queen Mary 2 felt like an oasis right next to the hubbub of the city. We sailed away in the sunshine at 5 o'clock after a relaxed lunch. I'll never forget it — the most spectacular sailaway ever. Passed the towering skyscrapers of midtown and lower Manhattan, then Brooklyn and New Jersey on the other shores and then right passed the Statue of Liberty before squeezing under the low Verrazano bridge out to sea. Then out on the open seas with no land to be seen until Southampton in a week's time.
What to do
There's so much to do on a Transatlantic cruise - depending on what you like.
For me it was a big learning exercise and I attended all the lectures in the Illuminations Theatre, approx two to three a day. I became an expert in espionage and counter-surveillance, cracking the Enigma Code, Beatrix Potter and the Solar System. I also found time to attend talks from the celebrity speaker and broadcaster Nicholas Owen — and attend two Planetarium shows. In my spare time I enjoyed two RADA productions of Hamlet and the Canterbury Tales and then exercised in the gym and on the Promenade deck (3 laps = 1 mile). We had some glorious sunshine on a couple of days, so we relaxed on deck and on our balcony and also had a very enjoyable afternoon tea one day.
There are also daily bridge classes and tournaments, dance classes, RADA workshops, computer classes, various gym classes and spa treatments for you to enjoy. I just didn't have the time to fit it all in!
Evenings are also packed with 3D films in the cinema, jazz bands, theatre productions and of course traditional ballroom dancing in the Queen's room. Wow! I came back relaxed and couldn't believe how quickly the time passed, if only I had the time I would always travel transatlantic this way, slower definitely is better in this case.
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