Internet on ships: Will it ever be free?

Given that "ever" is infinite, it might. Not likely in the lifetime of people on cruise ships today.

It is both a curse and a blessing for cruise lines…a curse because they are forever fielding complaints about slow connections, a blessing because it generates enormous revenue — and that's part of the reason it's not going away any time soon. See that big "bag" on the top deck? That's the satellite connector, and it's not cheap, so the revenue is required.

It is both a curse and a blessing to cruise ship passengers…a curse because it's usually expensive and getting more expensive by the minute of poor connection time, a blessing because more ships are making it possible to connect from your stateroom, so you can spend your fortune in comfort.

Carnival has just made an announcement that on its new Breeze, set to launch this month and be christened in Barcelona, anybody with a laptop or iPad or Kindle or smartphone or assorted other portable electronic devices will be able to access "certain features" at a Fun Hub station, at no cost. The "certain features" are the daily newspaper or newsletter provided by Carnival, menus from the restaurants, videos and other items of cruise interest (aka, Carnival cruise interest).

The minute Breeze passengers hit the Internet access button, the meter starts.

In this age of constant contact with loved ones or business associates, or both, Internet access is often critical even when you're at sea.

At what price? And could "free Internet" ever be practical?

On the Oceania Riviera last month, because it was the ship's Christening Cruise, the Internet was free for everyone from everywhere on the ship, including staterooms. If it seems like a good idea, consider the connection time or the number of times "your connection was re-set." One night, in attempting to upload content to Cruising Done Right, it took five hours of waiting and re-setting.

Like almost everything in life that's free, it was too good to be true.

Norwegian Epic
7 nights
June 20, 2012
Rome (return): Livorno, Cannes, Marseille, Barcelona, Naples
Inside: $649
Cost per day: $92
www.ncl.com

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