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Connecting to the Internet while on Ships…

2010-01-12Where in the world am I today?: At Sea in the Caribbean aboard the Emerald Princess.

The two biggest things you need to know about connecting to the Internet when you’re aboard ships is that it’s Slow and it’s reasonably $pendy. Now my experience of connecting to the internet while on ships has been limited to three lines, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Carnival, so I can only really talk about my experience on these three lines, and some of this information may not be current because I haven’t been on a Carnival Ship in a while. If anyone reading this knows more about the situation on other ships and cares to add information to the comments section it would be a welcome addition to this particular technical issue that performers face when performing on ships.

On both Carnival and Royal Caribbean I connected to the Internet using the wifi connection and pricing plan that was available to passengers. The log-in procedure for both was fairly simple. On Royal Caribbean I went to the ‘Internet Café’ onboard and set up a wifi account by swiping my cruise card (the card you receive when you join the ship which you use to charge all of your expenses to) and following a fairly straight forward log in procedure. Basic pricing started at 55¢ a minute for the wifi connection but if you wanted to buy a chunk of time there were plans that offered a slight discount depending on the number of minutes you wanted to purchase. In this situation I opted for the by the minute rate and really tried to limit the amount of time that I was connected to simply darting online, grabbing my emails, sending anything that needed to be sent then disconnecting. If you’re not careful, it’s really easy to let this sort of plan run up a significant bill… Especially if you inadvertently forget to disconnect – Ouch!

When I got to perform as part of the Barenaked Ladies Ships and Dip cruises (I did them in 2007 and 2008) I was on a couple of different Carnival Ships and their Internet connection policy was much the same as it was on Royal Caribbean. Log on, set up an account and pay by the minute of connection time…

Princess (which I seem to work on the most) has a slightly better deal. For what ever reason, I’m able to connect to the Internet on Princess Ships at the crew rate. To do this I go up to the crew internet cafe, pick up a $20.00 internet access card (pictured in the image that accompanies this post) and get 180 minutes of internet time. This works out to a little over 11¢ a minute which represents a significant savings. On many Princess ships you need to go up to the Crew Lounge to connect to the crew wifi signal, but on some ships like the Emerald Princess which I’m sailing on at the moment the signal reaches all the way to your cabin so you never have to leave the comfort of your cabin when you want to connect to/surf the net and at 11¢ a minute you can actually do a bit of surfing with out the threat of having to mortgage your house or sell your children for lab experiments to pay for the cost of it… Princess has however put some blocks up in the system… You can’t connect to YouTube for example because the bandwidth required to play streaming videos is such that it really slows down the system.

Speaking of the speed of the internet on ships… It’s slow… Really slow compared to what it’s like on land. This is because the internet connect is set up through the ships satellite communication system and as a result you’re limited to what the ships communication system is capable of. You’re also sharing that capability with not just your fellow crew members, but also all of the passengers on the ship. So even if Princess hadn’t put a block on YouTube, chances are you wouldn’t want to watch any videos via YouTube anyway because they’d take so long to download that the ‘free’ nature of what YouTube offers would end up costing you far more than it’s worth.

What I often end up doing is keeping emails in my inbox that require some sort of longer internet connection to deal with until I’m either at a port where there’s an Internet Café or just wait until I get home and breath a deep sigh of relief when I open my laptop and my computer finds the home signal… Ah the joys of a nice fat pipe to the wonderful world of the Interweb!

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