Wi-Fi on Cruise Ships

The time has come for the industry to solve the problem with Wi-Fi on cruise ships By: Kenneth Shapiro
Shapiro // © 2015 TravelAge West
Shapiro // © 2015 TravelAge West

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Read more about Virgin’s new Wi-Fi.

The comedian Louis C.K. has a hilarious rant that has come to be known as “Everything’s Amazing, Nobody’s Happy.” The premise is that even as technology helps us achieve heights that were once inconceivable, it raises our expectations and gives us more reason to complain. I’m reminded of this routine when it comes to technology and the travel industry.

As you can read in this issue, Virgin Airlines has announced that it is improving its onboard Wi-Fi to the extent that passengers will now be able to stream high-quality video from sites such as Netflix, Hulu and YouTube during a flight. We also recently reported that Marriott will soon offer Netflix in many of its hotel rooms. For some time now, tour operators have offered free Wi-Fi access onboard their motorcoaches.

Then, there’s the cruise industry.

Someone I know is taking an Alaska cruise later in the summer, and she asked me if what she heard about the difficulty with Wi-Fi on cruise ships was true.

“I thought the ships were so modern,” she said in disbelief.

For the most part, despite building multimillion-dollar ships, the cruise industry has yet to employ a workable Wi-Fi solution. To be fair, there are major technological hurdles in offering thousands of passengers unlimited bandwidth and connecting from a remote moving target. Several major lines are making progress (check out Royal Caribbean International’s partnership with O3b, for example). Of the smaller ships, starting in January 2016, Silversea Cruises will offer at least one hour per day of free Wi-Fi to all passengers, and those sailing in the upper level suites will receive complimentary Wi-Fi for the duration of their voyages. Regent Seven Seas Cruises is expanding its all-inclusive product to include free Wi-Fi for select passengers.

In survey after survey, Wi-Fi ranks as one of the most important features for travelers. It’s hard for cruise passengers to understand that you can ice-skate at sea or be served by a robot bartender, but you can’t binge-watch “Orange Is the New Black.” Now that travelers can get fast, reliable Wi-Fi in their hotel room, on a motorcoach and on an airplane, they will most certainly demand it in their staterooms.