Coming To A Ship Near You: Complimentary Wi-Fi — At Long Last

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Do you demand more access when you’re cruising? © 2011 Ralph Grizzle

A couple of years ago we asked, Which Cruise Line Will Be The First To Offer Free WiFi? Cruise passengers, then as now, were eager for ships to up the ante when it came to internet access. One of our readers responded to our query with the following:

First cruise line to do it will get a TON of business from me. I’ve gone on a couple cruises and really enjoyed them, but I haven’t been back due to the internet issue. I run an internet business and need connectivity 24/7. If internet access were included I would have probably spent half of last year on cruise ships. 

Well, dear reader, start packing: Your ship has arrived.

Beginning this year, Regent Seven Seas Cruises will include up to 500 minutes of free Wi-Fi internet access across the fleet for those who book Concierge-level and higher suites. The line’s Seven Seas Voyager will begin the new program on October 31, 2014, with Seven Seas Mariner and Seven Seas Navigator following on November 3 and November 6, respectively.

To ensure guests get online without a hitch, the line upgraded existing infrastructure, doubling the available bandwidth on each ship; expanding the reach of the Wi-Fi signal to include all public rooms, suites and outdoor deck spaces; and replacing all of the related technical components onboard with newer models.

Regent is not the first cruise company to offer free internet access on ships, but it is the first ocean cruise company to do so — to our knowledge anyway. River cruise companies have long offered free internet, and Viking Oceans announced last spring that it would include internet access on its new ships.

What about you? Does internet access influence the number of days you spend at sea?

Read related story, Our Ship, Your Office: Cruise Lines Keep Cruisers Connected

March 15, 2 p.m., Caribbean Sea — Clad in a purple swimsuit, broad-rimmed hat and polarized sunglasses, Raelyn Lucklow is enjoying yet another sunny day at sea. One of 700 passengers on Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Mariner the Dana Point, California, resident appears totally at ease. But something is amiss. Instead of reaching for sunscreen or a tropical cocktail, Lucklow reaches for her laptop. “If I knew the ship didn’t have internet, I wouldn’t go,” says the design consultant for Preserved Treescapes International. “I can only take time off if I can continue to work through my computer. There’s no one who can take my place. There’s no one who does what I do. So if I’m down for a week it’s basically horrible.”

Read the rest of Our Ship, Your Office.

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14 Comments

  • This is all due to Torsten Hargen and his announcement that Viking Oceans will be including wi-fi. I would like to know why this starts in 9 months time and not now, and why for only the highest paying guests…are we back to first and second class? All to often the cruise companies play catch up, because of a competitors actions, as we saw with the gradual inclusion of alcohol on luxury cruises with Crystal being the last to hold out.

    When I studied marketing, we focussed on the wants of the customer, not on cost controls. Customers have obviously wished for and wanted wi-fi on board since at least 2009 when Ipads first made portable internet very popular.

    Given the choice I would take free wi-fi over a “butler”.

    Note to Eddie Bornstein, Crystal still have the chance to be the first to market with free wi-fi for all passengers…now wouldn’t that shock the competition!

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      • The X7 is the most advanced satellite modem we have ever developed. We were very excited to put it to the ultimate test – on a cruise ship with upwards of 6,000 passengers and crew, with thousands of mobile devices.”

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        • That is more than 3 times the number on-board a Crystal ship, including crew and passengers Elliott…so the bandwidth limitation is not what is holding them back…simply it is cost cutting.

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          • I doubt everyone on one of the 6000 passenger mega ships purchases on-board wi-fi, probably no more than 10% simultaneous peak usage, so the speeds and feeds stat provided by the vendor is not relevant.

          • Uh, how is it not relevant? If only 600 passengers are using WIFI, then having 100Mbps spread among them (166kps each) is a lot better than those same 600 passengers using a 10Mbps link (17kps each). The experience difference there is roughly the difference between 2G cellphone data and 3G.

          • You’re right, the local hardware onboard the ship can support 100Mbps, however that’s not what’s coming down from the satellite. Until the constellation is improved, internet at sea will be slow. It’s not like you can just fly up to the satellites and upgrade the hardware to support increased bandwidth. New satellites with increased capacity must be placed in orbit.

          • Stressed bandwidth is one of the reasons that I often order room service – or wake up at 3 a.m. These are often the only times on some ships when I am able to access anything other than the equivalent of 2G. That is, the bandwidth is less stressed when everyone is at dinner or asleep – or clubbing until the wee hours.

        • So they’ve changed out the satellite constellation? That’s where the bottle-neck is, not the hardware on the ship. The signal from the satellite is the most limiting factor with onboard internet.

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  • Your story has a sting in its tail, though. Regent is offering “free wi-fi” only to those passengers who pay for a “Concierge” level suite or above. That’s only a minority of the 700 passengers on board, most of whom book Regent’s standard verandah suites, and they will still have to pay for internet. Viking Ocean’s first ship hasn’t even hit the water, yet they have cruises out to Q1 and Q2 of 2016 where whole categories of suites are already fully sold. It is only a matter of time before Regent, Seabourn, Silversea and Crystal (and Oceania, Viking’s closest competitor) will have to catch up and offer free wi-fi to ALL guests. Why wait?

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    • Actually, repeat guests who achieve certain status levels in Regent’s loyalty program get unlimited free wi-fi. During the Circle South America Cruise we did last year, everyone who did just the Lima to Buenos Aires segment was on the ships wi-fi system at no additional cost.

      Reply
  • The “next gen” is already here…Crystal or anyone else COULD do it if they really wanted to. Just announced “High performance, iDirect X7 wi-fi internet satellite systems will be installed on the Norwegian Breakaway, offering speeds of up to 100Mbps at sea.”

    Reply
  • Just announced…you can call me Nostradamus

    LOS ANGELES, Jan. 21, 2014 /PRNewswire/ Crystal Cruises announces the newest perk to its All Inclusive luxury cruise experience: Free Wi-Fi for Crystal Society members, the line’s “club” of repeat guests, beginning Fall 2014. Effective with Crystal Serenity’s September 19 New England/Canada sailing and Crystal Symphony’s October 15 Panama Canal cruise, each Crystal Society guest will receive 60 minutes of complimentary internet access for every day of the cruise. For example, a 10-day cruise will offer 600 free minutes per person (or 1,200 free minutes per couple), a 12-day cruise offers 720 free minutes per person (or 1,440 free minutes per couple), a 14-day cruise offer 840 free minutes (or 1,680 free minutes per couple), etc., which can be used any time throughout the voyage.

    Reply

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