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The Internet, WiFi & Cell Phones Make For Tech Savvy Cruise Travel
Stay In Touch While Out to Sea

Crown Princess Internet Cafe
The Internet Cafe aboard Princess Cruises' Crown Princess

by Linda Coffman

Summer 2009 — Here's a two part techno-trivia question for you. Quick! "What was the name of the first cruise ship to feature an Internet cafe and what year was it launched?" The ship was Norwegian Cruise Line's newest flagship, Norwegian Sky, and the year was 1999.

Imagine that. Until just a decade ago there were only two ways to communicate with the outside world from a cruise shipyou could either toss a message in a bottle overboard or use the expensive (very expensive) telephone in your cabin. At least the latter option was better than making calls through the ship's radio room as in ocean liner days. However, the modern convenience of making calls from your cabin will cost from $6 to $15 a minute (depending on ship) and is charged to your onboard account.

Today you'll find that cell phone connectivity, Internet access, and even WiFi wireless capabilities are available on most cruise ships. With these advances, tech-savvy cruisers are bringing their gadgets with them to stay connected with friends, family, and businesses during their cruise vacation.

While some ships offer wireless Internet connections only in certain public room "hot spots," others feature it from bow to stern in all accommodations. Internet usage is billed directly to your onboard account and charged either by the minute or in discounted packages of minutes. With your own laptop, it's often cheaper to find an Internet cafe ashore where even a WiFi connection is often delivered at broadband speed and much faster than you'll encounter on most ships.

Cell phone accessibility is a bit trickier. In essence, the ship acts as a towerservice is activated while at sea and shut down in port. Your phone may also pick up signals from towers in ports of call. Check with your mobile provider before leaving home to ascertain whether you'll be able to use your phone on the ship. Your provider must have an agreement with the cruise line's service provider. Plus, you will also have to enable international roaming in order to use your phone on board and in most ports. Per minute charges will be billed by your mobile phone service company.

The following is an overview of the cell phone and Internet access on popular cruise lines:

Azamara Cruises
The roaming network provided by Cingular Wireless Maritime Service enables Azamara passengers to make and receive calls at sea, using their mobile phones. Passengers also can access the Web in the Internet Cafe, which is open 24 hours. Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest are both fully wireless, including staterooms.

Carnival Cruise Lines
Cell phone service is available on all Carnival ships, allowing passengers to make and receive calls, send and receive text messages, view emails and browse the Internet. In addition to a 24-hour Internet Cafe on all ships, Carnival offers wireless Internet access, either limited to the Internet Cafe and select public areas, or throughout the ship, depending on the vessel. The network also supports the latest WiFi enabled devices. Passengers can access their own email accounts via the Web, or  use an optional a temporary email address through Cruise email.

Celebrity Cruises
Cingular Wireless Maritime Service has an agreement with Celebrity, allowing use of your phone to make calls at sea. Internet access is available 24/7 in the ships' Internet Cafes. You can use your own laptop at wireless access points located in several areas around the ships.

Crystal Cruises
Crystal has partnered with SeaMobile to offer passengers the ability to make and receive calls via their phones as well as send text messages. Passengers on Crystal ships receive their own email address printed in their cruise documents and can utilize the line's private email system to send and receive messages for a fee. They also can access their own Web-based email 24/7 in each ship's Internet Cafe or through the ships' wireless WiFi service.

Disney Cruise Line
With Disney's Cellular at Sea service passengers can make and receive calls and text messages on their mobile phones once their ships are about 12 miles out to sea. Disney ships have Internet Cafes and laptop users can access the Web at convenient WiFi "hot spot" locations around each ship.

Holland America Line
SeaMobile partners with Holland America Line to provide passengers the ability to use mobile phones to make calls and send text messages. The Explorations Cafe (or Internet Cafe) on each Holland America ship provides 24/7 access to the Internet. Wireless connection hotspots are located around the ships and you may even get a signal in your stateroom, depending on its location. For a fee, the cruise line can set up a personal cruise email account.

Norwegian Cruise Line
NCL passengers can use personal cell phones onboard all the cruise line's ships. All NCL ships feature 24/7 Internet Cafes, as well as WiFi hot spots in most public areas and some staterooms. NCL offers several Internet minute package plans. All passengers are provided special Cruise email addresses.

Princess Cruises
The advanced cellular network onboard Princess ships allows passengers to make and receive calls provided that their mobile phone service company has a roaming agreement with Maritime Communications Partner. International roaming must also be enabled. All Princess ships offer Internet access in their Internet Cafes and WiFi "hot spot" networks.

Regent Seven Seas
Regent passengers can use their mobile phones at sea in select areas of the ships thanks to a partnership with Wireless Maritime Services. Text messaging is also available on compatible GSM devices. Computer centers with Internet access are centrally located on each Regent ship for  surf the Web, as well as sending or receiving emails via the computers. WiFi hot spots are found in select public areas. On select ships, computers can be connected via modem to the Internet service and WiFi is available throughout.

Royal Caribbean International
All Royal Caribbean ships provide mobile phone service for passengers. In addition to Internet Cafes open 24/7, you may also use your personal laptop to connect with the Internet. All RCI ships have WiFi access "hot spots" in select public areas and the line's newer vessels s have WiFi capability throughout the ships.

Yachts of Seabourn
The luxury ships feature an onboard GSM mobile phone network enabling passengers to send and receive calls on their mobile phones. Passengers can use the computer centers on each vessel 24 hours a day to access the Internet, or send and receive emails. WiFi access also is available in most suites and public areas.

Silversea Cruises
Silversea passengers may use their own mobile phones, laptop computers, and other wireless devices to make and receive calls. All ships have 24-hour Internet Cafes with Web access and email capabilities. In addition to WiFi "hot spots" in public areas, Silversea ships feature WiFi access in all suites.

Here's a little known factoid: For those of us who still depend on FAX machines for certain communications, most ships can send and receive FAXes. Just ask at the Information Desk.

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