Connecting to the internet at sea has long been a bit of a point of contention for cruise lovers - it's great to be able to stay in touch with home but the WiFi onboard is usually prohibitively expensive and patchy at best. Admittedly, some people love getting away from it all completely, but that's not true of everyone - and it's nice to have the choice.
Carnival WiFi and social media packages
Gabriela Gonzalez, Vice President of guest technology at Carnival, said of the planned improvements: "Fast, affordable and reliable social media channels and the internet have become essential on today's cruise ships. We have thoughtfully approached this area to ensure we are providing options that guests sailing throughout our fleet find truly valuable and reliable."
Enhanced internet access will offer a dramatic increase in speed and bandwidth. The previous Carnival offering, still the norm on a lot of their ships, was pricey pay-by-the-minute internet packages. Not only has the quality been improved but the format has changed too, with cruisers now able to purchase premium internet access (you could even Skype as long as there are no satellite issues) for USD$25 per day. We're not sure what the pricing plans will look like when this makes its way Down Under early next year, but it's likely to be far better than before.
On top of that, you can opt for internet lite with a few more tiers of internet access. If you won't be needing huge bandwidth, just checking emails and sports scores, you can pay $USD16 per day for a value package. This is unlimited but slower. If all you need is to keep in touch with those back home, you can purchase a social package for $USD5 per day. This allows unlimited access to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, What's App and some other popular social media sites - a fantastic option!
Carnival's enhanced internet and packages are currently available on 13 ships, and we look forward to them being rolled out fleetwide
There's an app for that
Soon, cruisers will also be able to make use of Carnival's new HUB mobile app. Available for no charge on iOS and Android, it can also be used freely onboard so you don't even need to buy an internet package.
The app allows cruisers to view schedules, see menus, pull up deck plans, view onboard account balances, purchase beverage packages, upload photos and more. For a USD$5 flat fee over the whole cruise, passengers can also make use of a chat functionality to converse and coordinate with their friends and family onboard, a handy way to make and coordinate plans.
The app has been debuted on the Carnival Breeze, and well received. It will be available fleetwide around mid-2016. If you're cruising with Carnival and plan on making use of HUB, don't forget to download it before you sail!
The satellite situation
Satellite technology has been improving and is beginning to offer more bandwidth and more reliable service offshore. The ship is a moving target for connection, which can make things tricky, but it is slowly getting better. Now, many ships offer WiFi packages but the value and quality of these vary. Here's a bit of a lowdown on the WiFi situation on some of Australia's favourite cruise lines:
- P&O Australia offers internet access at their onboard computers and also in many public areas. It costs around 75 cents per minute for pay as you go, or you can choose a plan for a certain number of minutes - 100 minutes costs $55.
- Princess cruisers can connect at their internet cafe or via WiFi in public areas. Their pricing is more expensive than P&O's - USD$0.79 per minute or USD$69 for 100 minutes.
- Royal Caribbean has WiFi in various hotspots throughout their ships as well as internet access in the internet cafe. The basic price is USD$0.65 per minute or USD$55 for 100 minutes. High-speed "Vroom" internet access is available on the newest Quantum-Class ships.
- Holland America offers access to WiFi throughout the ship, as well as workstations in the intenet cafe. Charges are USD$0.75 cents per minute or various packages including one for 100 minutes at USD$55.