Soon, Cruise Ships Will Have Wi-Fi That Actually Works

Expanded onboard Wi-Fi is taking over the cruise industry. But how much will it cost?

By 2016, all Carnival ships will have expanded Wi-Fi capability. New service will be up to 10 times faster than the current standard—comparable to the Wi-Fi speed at your average coffee shop. The service will consist of a combination of land-based Wi-Fi in port and satellite-based at sea.

So far, Carnival has not announced how much it will charge for the expanded Wi-Fi service. Instead, said a spokesperson, each individual brand will set pricing policy.

Carnival isn’t first with expanded shipboard Wi-Fi. Earlier this year, Royal Caribbean announced high-speed onboard Wi-Fi on its new Quantum of the Seas, based on a steerable satellite feed. But Carnival is upping the ante with its fleet-wide deployment.

Carnival is clearly bowing to the tsunami of demand for Wi-Fi everywhere. Wi-Fi has become a virtual necessity in hotels, it is rapidly becoming near-universal on airplanes, Amtrak makes it available to 85 percent of its riders, premium bus lines offer it, and cruise lines are the next step. You might think that people choose to cruise in part to get away from it all, but that obviously doesn’t extend to keeping connected online.

One big question remains: How much will it cost? Currently, on three ships, Carnival charges $39.99 per complete voyage for a low-speed connection or $99.99 per voyage for faster service; costs are higher on some other cruise lines. Onboard Wi-Fi won-t be free any time soon. But if you gotta be connected, you gotta be connected, regardless of the cost. Live with it.

Would you pay for Wi-Fi on a cruise?

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By Ed Perkins

A nationally recognized reporter, writer, and consumer advocate, Ed Perkins focuses on how travelers can find the best deals and avoid scams.

He is the author of "Online Travel" (2000) and "Business Travel: When It's Your Money" (2004), the first step-by-step guide specifically written for small business and self-employed professional travelers. He was also the co-author of the annual "Best Travel Deals" series from Consumers Union.

Perkins' advice for business travelers is featured on MyBusinessTravel.com, a website devoted to helping small business and self-employed professional travelers find the best value for their travel dollars.

Perkins was founding editor of Consumer Reports Travel Letter, one of the country's most influential travel publications, from which he retired in 1998. He has also written for Business Traveller magazine (London).

Perkins' travel expertise has led to frequent television appearances, including ABC's "Good Morning America" and "This Week with David Brinkley," "The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather," CNN, and numerous local TV and radio stations.

Before editing Consumer Reports Travel Letter, Perkins spent 25 years in travel research and consulting with assignments ranging from national tourism development strategies to the design of computer-based tourism models.

Born in Evanston, Illinois, Perkins lives in Ashland, Oregon with his wife.

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