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.
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In the ever growing digital age, access to the Internet is becoming increasingly important. Laptops, smart phones and iPads mean we can access our emails, the Internet and our office desktop at the click of a button, and they are common place onboard ships these days.
Though Wi-Fi access probably won't be the main consideration when picking a cruise holiday, it may be useful to know who offers it, where you can gain access, and what the cost is when planning your holiday. Whether a workaholic or keeping in touch with friends and family, being online for some people is a must.
Internet costs onboard cruise ships can seem a little inflated and this is because ships connect to the outside world via satellite, which is more costly than the copper wires running into most homes. Connection is also weather dependent and will sometimes be turned off from the bridge. Fortunately you are on a cruise ship to relax, enjoy the hospitality and visit great destinations, therefore having access is a bonus.
Most cruise ships have offered Internet cafes or Internet access in their libraries for quite some time, but due to increased demand Wi-Fi connections onboard are increasingly popular. On some ships, such as Azamara, you can access the Wi-Fi network throughout the ship, other cruise lines access may be limited to hotspots (certain lounges or decks) and some even include access in your stateroom or suite.
If you are lucky you may be given limited free access from your suite, or for reaching a certain level with the cruise line's loyalty program, though generally you will be using the Internet on a pay as you play basis. Some cruise lines offer packages — Celebrity Cruises offer 100 minutes for $70 and 500 minutes for $250 — here is a run down of the basic costs of keeping in touch on your cruise:
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