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Wi-Fi on Cruise Ships - Tips and Fees

Cruise InternetWi-fi on cruise ships is more expensive and less troublesome than many people expect.

Imagine being on a Caribbean cruise, plowing through choppy waters and heavy winds in the middle of a tropical storm and trying to stay in touch with work via a satellite feed from an Internet cafe in the middle of the ship.

It sounds like a challenge, but it was not. However, it was expensive.

I buy Internet access on every cruise because I write about my experiences as they happen. Internet access on cruise ships has a reputation for being slow. In my case, it was not terribly slow—just kind of slow. I was able to handle email, Web surfing and even processing files back and forth with relative ease throughout a storm that lasted days, although it was not at the same speed as my work access.

However, it was expensive. By the end of the week, I had spent more than $150 to stay in touch with work.

8 Times More Expensive

To put it in perspective, my cell phone provider charges $10 per gigabyte of data transfer. On my latest cruise, the cruise line was charging $25 per day for 300 megabytes of data transfer, or about $83 per gigabyte. That’s more than eight times higher than my cell phone provider.

I brought my own laptop and accessed Wi-Fi both in the ship’s Internet cafe and in a lounge next to it. Many ships have cafes with desktop computers that often have an extra fee for usage.

If you want to save money, research the ports of call for every stop on the cruise to see if Wi-Fi is available in the cruise terminal. For example, in Nassau Bahamas, the terminal had free access and was packed with ship passengers going online.

Another option is Internet cafes located near the terminal. They usually have access rates far below the rates on the ships.

But if you are in the middle of the ocean all day and need access, there is no choice but to use the ship’s Wi-Fi.

Cruise Ship Prices

Internet access
Credit: Pixabay license

Unfortunately, cruise ship internet prices are top secret in many cases. For example, Disney, Celebrity, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Holland America do not allow anyone to see Internet prices on the public parts of their websites.

In some cases, passengers who have booked a cruise can get prices by logging into the cruise line website for details. In other cases, such as Disney, passengers can’t get the information until they board ship. Otherwise, passengers can call or email the cruise line to get the information.

Regardless, some of the cruise lines offer wi-fi package discounts if passengers book the package in advance of the cruise. They also sometimes offer free internet as an incentive to buy the cruise.

Holland America, my latest cruise line, charged $25 per day or $99 for a six-day, seven-night voyage. I waited until getting into port to use free wi-fi if I could find it. Then I waited until the final two days, both at sea, to buy the ship access. The price for a single day had risen to $30, but the cruise line offered the two final days with plenty of data for $40 or $20 per day.

Carnival is one of the few cruise lines that has public information about Internet packages on its website. Based on anecdotal evidence, some of the other cruise lines have similar packages. The Carnival program includes:

  • The “Social” plan is $6.80 per person per day. Access is limited only to social media accounts and not to websites.
  • The “Value” plan is $10.20 a day. It allows access to most websites, but it doesn’t allow music or video streaming.
  • The “Premium” plan is $14.45 a day and allows streaming music and video.

Keep in mind that demand ebbs and flows throughout the day. So the cheaper plans may suffer from slow speeds at times.

Norwegian also posts Internet prices that include a discount if booking in advance online. The onboard packages are:

  • Unlimited surfing at $30 a day, but no streaming.
  • Unlimited surfing with streaming at $35 a day.
  • Social media only at $15 a day.
  • 250 minutes for $125 or 50 cents a minute.

MSC Cruises has a slightly different approach. It has unlimited surfing “from $159.90” and discounts up to 20 percent. Other packages are less expensive, but they also limit the amount of bandwidth used. An unlimited 24 hour package is available for $44.90.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
August 17, 2021

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