It’s great to keep in touch with family and friends while you’re away on holiday, but getting a signal in the middle of ocean can prove problematic at times. Plenty of major cruise lines first installed internet cafés on cruise ships in the early 2000s, although the speed may not be what you were used to at home. Over the past few years however, bandwidth has significantly improved and operators like Royal Caribbean®now have WiFi across their fleet, meaning passengers don’t have to go without internet for longer than it takes to step aboard.

Through investing millions of dollars into satellite technology to improve connectivity, it would seem that most cruise lines are now tapping into their passengers’ desire to stay connected. Virtually all seafaring vessels offer WiFi when cruising, while guests can now expect to find many more cost-effective WiFi charges on cruise ships and plenty of solutions to accommodate different budgets. Internet on cruise ships is also stepping up in terms of speed, with Celebrity Cruises® launching Xcelerate and Norwegian Cruise Line creating SpeedNet across their fleets in 2016. Updates such as these enable guests to catch up on Netflix, Skype home and share enviable holiday snaps online in seconds. Take a look at our guide below for everything you need to know about WiFi at sea.

Buy WiFi as part of your package

With so many of the major cruise lines offering high speed WiFi across their fleets, there are a whole host of ways to access the internet onboard. Buy your package at the time of booking and you can make some seriously hefty savings, just look under add-ons in your online account. Buy a set number of minutes plan for a flat rate, enjoy unlimited use with a daily price plan or try out a data plan in which you simply paying for the data you use. Free WiFi is also becoming a common perk to entice passengers to book.

Many ships also offer a tiered pricing plan – with those merely wishing to access social media, surf the web and check emails benefiting from a cheaper rate to those looking to stream music and films. For instance, Carnival’s WiFi@Sea enables guests to access social media from as little as $5 a day.

Inform your network provider

Before you depart on your cruise, don’t forget to inform your phone network provider so that you can rest assured your device will work during your vacation. It’s one way of ensuring you’ve got the best deal too, as with the ship’s satellite provider charging a transmission fee on top of your provider’s roaming rate, it’s all too easy to rack up hefty charges. If you do need to make a phone call, try to use WiFi-based apps like Skype and WhatsApp to avoid being charged for both data and minutes while roaming.

If you’re looking to minimise costs further, keep your phone on airplane mode when at sea, as incoming text messages can also leave you with some unexpected data charges. 

Get connected when you port

With many bars and restaurants in harbour towns aware that cruisers are eager to get online, you’ll find plenty of establishments offering free WiFi to paying customers when you dock. Another top tip is to ask crew members before disembarking if they know of any hotspots ashore. Spending six to nine months at sea, as regular visitors to your ports of call, they’re certain to know of all the best places.

Try to connect off-peak

Despite the advances in technology, internet provided by a satellite service at isn’t as reliable as a land connection. Many factors contribute to this, from tall buildings in port blocking the signal between the ship and the satellite, to the ship having to change course quickly.

Congestion within the signal path can also be a problem as more people are on their smart phones and laptops using data, which can result in slower speeds. For the fastest connection, try to access the ship’s WiFi when less people are likely to be online, such as at peak meal times or during a popular show. Ask the Internet Desk Manager for the best times to log on.

Take advantage of onboard internet lounges

If all this talk of smart phones, WiFi packages and laptops is triggering your technology anxiety, worry not, most ships still come equipped with comfortable and easy-to-use internet lounges. These are perfect if you simply want to send a quick email to loved ones or upload some photos to Facebook.

If staying connected during your cruise is a top priority, be sure to check with your cruise line before you embark on what special offers are available.

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