Cruising to Work

High-tech on the high seas


By: By Jane Lasky


Crystal Cruises
Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Onboard the Carnival Miracle, clients can check in with friends and family in the Raven Library. // (c) Carnival Cruise Line
Onboard the Carnival Miracle, clients can check in with friends and family in the Raven Library.

A while back, when it was time to take our family vacation, I was ready and willing but not quite sure I was able. The problem was that my job was getting in the way. Just before we were set to leave, I was assigned work that was due before I was scheduled to return. Not to be deterred, I decided to go anyway, hoping I would not have a problem working while I traveled.

Thankfully, on our Regent Seven Seas cruise from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., through the Panama Canal to Los Angeles, I was able to work every morning and join my family for cruise activities in the afternoon. Sometimes, I worked on my laptop in our stateroom, or I used the ship’s computers alongside other working travelers. This way, I was able to finish all my professional chores while still enjoying the fun at hand.

What turned out to be crucial, though, was the full use of my cell phone during the trip. A day before we reached Los Angeles, my best friend called to let me know that there was a fire in my neighborhood, and homes were being evacuated. From then on, I was checking my phone regularly. Thank goodness I had complete service due to the very sophisticated, high-tech capabilities onboard.

This sort of opportunity to stay in touch is making cruising far more accessible to people with all sorts of concerns: the welfare of children or aging parents, quick decisions in the workplace to name a few. High-tech offerings make longer cruising feasible for those who need to be constantly connected, and it keeps families and friends at both ends happy, as they send one another images of the cruise and home events.

Progress onboard has unfolded very quickly. Carnival, for instance, has an agreement with AT&T and the Maritime Telecommunications Network, which allows guests to make and receive calls as well as to transmit text and multimedia messages from their personal electronic devices.

Crystal Cruise Line’s ships have a similar alliance through SeaMobile, which offers what they dub "quiet zone" technology, designating certain areas onboard the Crystal Symphony and the Crystal Serenity as cell-phone free.

"Today’s luxury travelers want to stay in touch, and they want it to be convenient, but they don’t want to be disturbed," said Thomas Mazloum, Crystal’s senior vice president, hotel operations. "Unlike land-based resorts, the quiet zone technology protects areas sensitive to cell phone use, such as the dining room and theaters."

In addition, Crystal’s guests can see faxed reports of international business news and watch the stock market in real time through the line’s Computer University at Sea.

It was once thought impossible to maintain Wi-Fi and Internet services for river cruise lines because of the height limitations needed for passing under bridges, but the industry found a solution, and river passengers can now tap into this technology.

The only hitch is the cost of satellite-based online services, and cruise lines and their partners are working to resolve it. Meanwhile, Internet packages sharply reduce the cost of using the Web while afloat.

Jess McVay, director of IT for Regent Seven Seas Cruises, noted, "We continue to explore ways of making the services perform faster and providing them at a cheaper rate to our guests. Fortunately, we are working closely with satellite service provider SeaMobile, who is as actively engaged and committed to providing better and cheaper services to our guests as we are."

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