In this digital age, most travellers consider smartphones, tablets and laptops as essentials they need to pack along with their other basic stuff. They use it to do work, to connect with their families and friends, and to run their businesses while basking in the luxury of a holiday.
If you are an avid traveller who needs fast Internet connectivity wherever you go, you may have intentionally avoided cruising in the past. It is common knowledge that though Internet is virtually offered in almost every seafaring cruise ship, it is still exasperatingly slow, unreliable and expensive. These problems were discussed in the article “Internet at Sea: 9 Things You Need to Know” posted at Cruise Critic – Features Section. If you perpetually lured by the sea and you would want to take a plunge, find out what you need to know about the Internet at sea.
… here are the nine things you need to know about Internet at sea.
- Internet via satellite will never be as fast as your broadband at home.
It’s the sad truth: Internet at sea is not going to be as fast as on-land connections anytime soon.
…on land, there might be only two miles of fiber optic cable from your house to a main substation. The jump from your house to substation is virtually instant. But ships have to shoot a signal 22,300 miles into space and then have that signal return to Earth …
A bigger limitation to speed is the set amount of bandwidth a cruise line controls… the more bandwidth the line purchased, the more juice (or Internet pages) can travel through at one time…
In the end, the quality of your Internet signal depends a lot on how much money the cruise line wants to pay. Companies can pay for more bandwidth to make the connection faster, but it’s not really cost effective. “Technically you could have any connection you want — essentially as good as you have at home — but the costs are just astronomically prohibitive,” says Oosthuizen…
- Satellites don’t come cheap — so neither will Internet access at sea.
The satellites used for at-sea Internet connections cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Oosthuizen explains that “One consumer — a cruise line — can’t afford to keep a satellite up in space. If we could, we’d have a brilliant connection. But instead the signal gets chopped up into a multitude of users, invariably slowing it down.”…
- When onboard Internet is unreliable, the ship is not always to blame.
If you’ve cruised enough, you know that at some point, shipboard Internet simply won’t work…
In actuality, slow Internet connections are beyond a cruise line’s control. In order for there to be a connection, the antenna needs to be pointing at, and have an unobstructed line of sight to, the satellite. But sometimes that pathway between the antenna and the satellite is blocked…
- Head for the Equator for a better connection.
Here’s a reason to take that exotic cruise: the closer you are to the equator, the more reliable your Internet service is likely to be… A ship on the equator will, therefore, have the satellite directly overhead; the farther from the equator the ship is, the closer the satellite will be to the horizon…
- There are work-arounds for travelers who must get online on vacation.
For those searching for the fastest Internet connection, the best tip is to use the Internet when few people are online, such as late at night or in port when most passengers are ashore. The more people online sharing the limited bandwidth, the slower the connection will be.
Other facts you must know…
- There are certain tricks that cruise ships can do to improve Internet connectivity. For instance, Crystal spent a huge amount to make their Internet connection better. They accomplished this by installing two devices. One identifies redundant data and prevents it from being repeatedly transmitted so the page can load faster. The second is a package shaper that assigns higher priority to certain users with highest priority or 80 percent of the total bandwidth capability going to the passengers.
- Skype is commonly blocked because it can easily detect bandwidth limitations. It tends to use much of the bandwidth as it works on improving the voice quality. This is likely to hog the bandwidth and slow down other connections. So, don’t expect to be able to use Skype while onboard anytime soon.
- You can save more if you will turn off your mobile phone. This is because you have to pay twice for the service; one to your service provider back home and the service provider on board that has a mini-cell tower that charges every transmission you make to the satellite and back to land. Reduce costs by turning off your cell phone or set it in airplane mode and by not using the ship network to download messages. Schedule the download when you get to a free Wi-Fi hotspot ashore.
The most positive information you would be happy to know is that “There’s hope for the future.
There are other technologies that may prove helpful to the cruise industry in the future.” You may say that this future has already started with Carnival’s called WiFi@sea.
In the article “Carnival’s fast wireless network for cruises” published in iOl Travel and written by Barbara Liston, you can read how this $10 million baby works even in the middle of the ocean. Expect Carnival to set this up in all its 10 cruise ships that’s expected to boost its bookings and revenues.
“Carnival said it is outfitting its cruise ships with a hybrid wireless network that will provide guests more reliable and faster connectivity at sea, one of the trickiest places on earth to obtain Internet access.
… Called WiFi@sea, Carnival says the system is the first of its kind in the cruise industry and that it will work in all locations including mid-ocean. The system uses satellites and land-based antennas installed along the company’s cruise routes.
“What we have developed more than the antennas and the satellites is the capability to be able to switch from one technology to another smoothly,” Ramon Millan, Carnival’s global chief information officer, said in an interview.
Jamie Cash, senior vice president of technology for World Travel Holdings, a large cruise travel agency, said improved connectivity at sea, where Internet service has been provided through satellites, can be a big marketing tool.
WiFi@sea is said to be 10 times faster than Celebrity’s erstwhile satellite service. Its software has the ability to identify the best options in a fleet of so many systems available along the cruise routes. It is believed to work with certainty as this system went through a two-year pilot before it was installed in the 3rd week of October, 2014.
Travellers who expect more advanced technologies to be provided to them on board world-class cruise ships can now look forward to better real time experiences while cruising. Just before booking, make sure you won’t be having interruptions of Internet service or difficulty uploading video and images. Make it a point to ask: How’s your Internet connectivity?