Can you really get Wi-Fi on a cruise ship? Absolutely, yes. Is it as fast and reliable as it is at home? Not yet, but things are changing fast. Internet access on a cruise will soon be just as seamless as connecting from your living room.
On the many cruise ships I’ve sailed on, I’ve experienced both blazing fast internet and internet so slow it made me wish for dial-up speeds. (Forgive me if you’re too young to know what “dial-up” internet is. You can check out a local museum for details.)
Cruise lines realize how important it is for their passengers to stay connected at sea. Plus they know they can make a few extra dollars by offering it to passengers.
Uploading photos of your trip, using messaging apps with friends and family, and checking in on pets and loved ones back home is all easier than ever with most internet plans on a cruise ship. And now with streaming plans you can even keep up with your favorite shows through streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney Plus. Even video calls can be clear and lightning fast if conditions are right on a cruise.
In this article we will cover everything you need to know about Wi-Fi internet on a cruise ship, including how much it costs for each major line. We’ll keep this post updated as changes take place.
How does Wi-Fi on a cruise ship work?
Cruise ships are equipped with a variety of technologies to provide passengers with reliable and convenient Wi-Fi access. In most cases, cruise ships get Wi-Fi through satellite technology. This type of internet connection uses satellites in space to connect the ship to the internet. Additionally, some cruise lines may also use cellular networks or land-based wireless networks to supplement the satellite connection.
Cruises often install multiple antennas on board that are able to receive signals from multiple sources. Passengers can then access the Wi-Fi network on their own devices, such as phones and tablets. The cost of Wi-Fi may vary depending on the cruise line and package purchased, but we’ll cover more on that later on.
What slows down internet speed on a cruise ship
The primary factor that can slow down internet speed on a cruise ship is the limited satellite bandwidth available to the ship. Cruise ships are often in remote areas and away from land-based networks, making their access to internet speeds more limited than on land.
This can cause websites and applications to load slowly, or even not at all. The spinning wheel of death is all too common on voyages in remote locations.
Additionally, cruise ships may also experience congestion due to multiple people attempting to access the same network simultaneously, leading to slower speeds. Other factors such as weather conditions and technical issues can also contribute to slower internet speeds. Even mountain ranges can limit the line of site needed for reliable internet connectivity.
Don’t forget, you’re on a moving vessel. This means connection to the internet can be spotty and is much more reliable when you’re in port.
Why is that? Some cruise line like Carnival will combine satellites with land-based towers for internet when the ships are close enough to use them. The reliability of land-based towers will be much better as well, and this is more cost-effective for cruise lines.
Starlink on Cruise Ships
Starlink could be a game-changer when it comes to internet on a cruise ship. Operated by SpaceX, this revolutionary satellite internet service that has the potential to bring high-speed internet access to millions of people around the world who currently do not have reliable connectivity. And now it’s being implemented by cruise lines. By using a network of low Earth orbit satellites, Starlink aims to provide fast and affordable internet to just about anywhere on the planet. On cruise ships sailing all around the world passengers will be able to get online with speeds never dreams of at sea before.
In an effort to improve their reputation for unreliable Wi-Fi, cruise lines are turning to Starlink, a high-speed broadband internet service developed by SpaceX. Hurtigruten Expeditions has already equipped its entire fleet with Starlink, and other cruise companies like Norwegian and Royal Caribbean are also adopting the technology. Even luxury line SeaDream Yacht Club has added Starlink to their ships.
These are the beginning stages of this technology on cruise ships, so stay tuned to see how this effects both price and performance of Wi-Fi at sea.
Using Wi-Fi on a ship without paying for a package
Whether you sign up for the paid Wi-Fi or not, you should still connect your phone or tablet to the ship’s Wi-Fi. This will allow you to see all of the relevant information about your cruise the the cruise line’s app. You will be able to see the program for the day, the shows and events scheduled, and even the menu for the restaurants on board.
In fact, one of the first things you should do when you get on the ship is to connect to the ship’s Wi-Fi so you can make any reservations for shows or check out your account for adding any additional amenities to your journey.
How much does it cost to get Wi-Fi on a cruise?
In the “old days” of cruising you would pay for internet access by the minute. Today you pay for unlimited internet by the day, but you still typically pay for only one device. If you want more than one device connected to the ship’s Wi-Fi you will have to upgrade or buy a different internet package.
The price of Wi-Fi on a cruise ship can range from $15 to $30 and more per device per day. On luxury cruise lines or even some premium lines there is free Wi-Fi included in the cost of the cruise fare. Some cruise lines that offer complimentary internet include Viking, Virgin Voyages, Silversea Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. You can also sometime buy a package combo that includes free internet access with some lines like Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Princess.
We’ll have some tips for saving money when using Wi-Fi later on in this post.
Cost of Wi-Fi for Main Cruise Lines
Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival offers three different internet packages that vary in speed in restrictions. Keep in mind that if you pre-pay for internet access before your cruise you will save money. The prices listed below are for pre-cruise prices. If you decide to wait and buy a Wi-Fi package after you get onboard the ship it will cost a few dollars above the listed price.
- Social Wi-Fi Plan ($12.75, per day): As the name suggests this package only allows you to access social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. You can also use some of the most popular messaging apps such as Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger. While most websites will be inaccessible with the Social plan you will be able to access popular airline sites so you can check on your flights. What you can’t do with this plan is access any streaming services, most websites, email, Skype, and even Facetime services cannot be used. It really is only a good choice for updating your status or posting a photo on social media and not much else.
- Value Wi-Fi Plan ($17.00, per day): The Value plan allows all of the above with social media sites and also allows passengers to access other websites such as news, finance, sports, weather etc. This plan is more suitable for surfing the internet. Speeds will be a little faster with this plan, allowing you to post pictures online faster than the Social plan, but services like Skype, Facetime, and streaming will not be accessible.
- Premium Wi-Fi Plan ($18.70, per day): Carnival states that the Premium plan is up to 3 times faster than the value plan. With Premium you can access social sites, browse the web, and use services as Skype and Zoom. Streaming capabilities for services such as Netflix are only available on certain ships.
Carnival allows you to change your plan and upgrade if you need to. You can even use multiple devices per plan so you can switch back and forth between your cell phone and tablet with one plan. But with one plan you can only use one device at a time.
Celebrity now has “XCelerate” Internet at Sea, a cutting-edge Wi-Fi service that boasts faster speeds compared to typical internet access on cruise ships. This new service is now available on all ships in Celebrity’s fleet, except for those on Galapagos sailings.
Celebrity offers two internet packages for basic internet and streaming: Basic Wi-Fi and Premium Wi-Fi.
- With Basic for $20 per day you can use messaging apps, check your email, and browse the web. You cannot send large files via email nor can you upload photos and videos to social media accounts with this package.
- With Premium for $35 per day Wi-Fi passengers can use streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu and upload photos and videos to social media accounts. The unlimited Wi-Fi service allows users to use video chat apps as well like Skype and Zoom.
When you choose Celebrity’s “Always Included” fare option, your base fare will come with complimentary Basic Wi-Fi, gratuities, and the Classic Drinks Package included.
Costa offers internet packages in different sizes based on how much data you will be using and how you will be using it. There is a data package in which you pay for a set data amount and a social package where you pay a flat fee but can only access popular social media applications. There are three different amounts of data you can purchase with a data package: 250Mb, 500Mb, and 3GB.
Prices may vary but you can expect to spend about 35 euros for the 250Mb plan, 45 euros for the 500Mb plan and 110 euros for the 3GB plan. The social package can usually be purchased by the day and will cost about 5 euros for one 24-hour period.
For those just wanting to check something online and get right back off there is a Quick Check plan as well, in which you pay by the minute. Typical costs are .25 euros per minute.
Disney Cruise Line
Disney Cruise Line has different Internet plans for you to choose from on their ships through [email protected] You can pick a plan that works best for you based on how often you want to use your phone or other devices while on the cruise.
Through the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App passengers can sign up for Wi-Fi service. With Disney you pay by the data you use. While you can use as many devices as you want on a single plan, all of the data accumulates and is charged against your account.
If you want to pay as you go rates can be around .25 cents per Mb of usage. Or you can buy larger amounts of data for less. A 100Mb package may cost $19 while a 1,000 Mb package can go for $89.
Concierge guest categories can get 100Mb of internet usage for free while others may get free unlimited internet for the duration of the cruise.
Holland America Line
Holland America has three different internet packages from which to choose. They call come with unlimited usage along with the restrictions of what apps or websites you can use with them. No video streaming services are supported with any of the packages below. So apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime video and Hulu will not be able to be used.
- Social, $10 per day: This package is mainly for using messaging apps only and keeping up with friends and family on popular social media sites. No audio or video features are supported on this plan.
- Surf, $15 per day: Along with what the Social package offers, Surf will let you browse the internet, check your email, and check on various sports apps. This package comes complimentary with the ‘Have It All’ fare.
- Premium, $20 per day: Audio and video streaming are supported with this package, including everything from the above two packages.
MSC offers both streaming and browsing internet services on their fleet of ships. There are two packages to choose from and you will save 20% off the price if you book before your cruise rather than waiting until you board the vessel. The pricing can vary depending on the number of days in the itinerary, the number of devices being used, and which package is selected.
- Browse Internet Cruise Package: This package allows you to browse the internet, send and receive emails (including attaching photos), and using popular chat messaging services like Whatsapp. You will not be able to use a video chatting app or streaming service like Netflix or Hulu with this package. The price starts around $12 per day.
- Browse & Stream Cruise Package: With this plan you can do all of the above, including use video streaming services, video chat, and live stream on social media websites. Prices start at $16 per day for this plan, but again, the itinerary and length of cruise may vary the price.
Norwegian Cruise Line
You will save about 15% off the price of Wi-Fi on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship if you buy the package before the cruise. There are basically two types of internet plans with Norwegian: one for browsing and one for streaming. You can determine how many devices you want to have access for those two types of packages and find a plan just right for you.
As you add on more devices you will save some money so let’s list all the packages and prices here.
The plans below are for browsing the internet, checking email, and checking social media sites. Video streaming services are not accessible with these plans.
- Unlimited Wi-Fi for 1 device: $25.50, per day.
- Unlimited Wi-Fi for 2 devices: $44.99, per day.
- Unlimited Wi-Fi for 4 devices: $84.99 per day.
The premium plans listed below allow for video streaming and video chatting. Services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and Youtube can be used. The line states that a VPN may also be used with the premium packages.
- Unlimited Premium Wi-Fi for 1 device: $34.99, per day.
- Unlimited Premium Wi-Fi for 2 devices: $57.99, per day.
- Unlimited Premium Wi-Fi for 4 devices: $109.99, per day.
Princess claims to have some of the best Wi-Fi at sea, and you might be able to get it for free as well. MedallionNet Wi-Fi is complimentary for those who book Princess Plus or Princess Premier.
Wi-Fi on a Princess ship will cost $15 per day for one device and $40 per day for a 4-device plan.
You will be able to post videos and photos, use streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu, browse the internet and FaceTime with friends and family back home.
Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean has been a pioneer of innovation in the cruise industry, and that is also the case with how the line has implemented Wi-Fi on their fleet of ships. VOOM is the name of their high-speed internet service that the company claims is 6 times faster than any other internet at sea. The technology allows for passengers to use the internet from just about anywhere on the ship as well, so even staterooms should get a great signal for connecting online.
The VOOM service uses a combination of satellites and cellular networks to provide guests with fast internet speeds and low latency, making it possible to do things like stream videos and make video calls while at sea.
Recently, Royal Caribbean announced that some ships will start using Starlink technology for internet as well. It is only on select ships right now but should be fleet wide in the near future.
There are two types of internet plans to choose from with Royal Caribbean: VOOM Surf and VOOM Surf & Stream. These packages are made available for up to 4 devices.
- VOOM Surf (Around $22 per day): This package allows you to browse the internet, send and receive emails, and chat on popular messaging apps like Whats app.
- VOOM Surf & Stream (Around $27 per day): This package allows you to stream from video services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video, as well as live video chat, stream, and post videos and pictures on social media.
Royal Caribbean’s “The Key” program includes complimentary internet of surf & stream package for one device.
Access to the internet is complimentary on Virgin cruise ships. With basic Wi-Fi included there is an option for “sailors” to upgrade for some faster download speeds if they’d like as well. For $10 extra you can get access to streaming services and carry out video chats with the onboard Wi-Fi.
Tips for getting better Wi-Fi speeds on the ship
- Use the Wi-Fi during non-peak hours. Early mornings and late nights can be the best times to use the Wi-Fi, but anytime you can get on the internet when most people are doing something else will allow for faster speeds. The more people on the network the slower it will be.
- Find areas of the ship that have a better signal. Whether you try the internet cafe or other public areas of the ship, there are always some parts of the ship with a better signal than others. You can even ask crew members about this since they will usually know where the best locations are.
- Try your stateroom balcony to see if there’s better signal. Even if your cabin gets a weak signal you might find that outside on the balcony you have a better connection.
- Disable background applications on your devices. This is always a good idea if bandwidth is limited. You don’t want all those background devices hogging the internet when you’re trying to check your email or send out a social media update. You can block these background apps in your settings.
- Turn off automatic updates of applications. In addition to turning off background apps it’s a good idea to make sure your phone will not start updating apps while you’re using the internet. Again, this will just slow down whatever you’re trying to do, and since Wi-Fi speeds can be unreliable you have to make every megabit count.
- Wait until you’re in port. As stated above, cruise ships will typically have a much better connection when in port because they can tap into some land-based towers for internet connections. Of course, if you’re in port you have some other options for connecting to the internet as well that we’ll talk about below.
Tips for saving money on Wi-Fi while on a cruise
- Check for promotional offers: Some cruise lines offer promotional deals on Wi-Fi packages, or even early bird specials if you buy a plan by a certain time.
- Use the Wi-Fi in port: If you are planning to spend time in port, you may be able to find free Wi-Fi in port towns. This can help you save on Wi-Fi costs while you’re on the ship. Some ports even have Wi-Fi for just $5 for the entire day so if you want to check all your email or download a few movies while in port you can save some cash.
- Use your phone’s data: If you have an international data plan, you may be able to use your phone’s data for internet access instead of purchasing a Wi-Fi package. I have T-mobile and love the free international data and texting. Just be sure to know what your plan covers so you don’t get a surprise bill when you get back home.
- Share a package: If you are traveling with friends or family, consider purchasing a larger Wi-Fi package and sharing the cost. This can help you save money on a per-person basis.
- Wait for deals: Some cruise lines and travel agencies offer different deals depending the period of the voyage and the advance you book it, look out for them.
FAQ on Wi-Fi on a Cruise Ship
Can I stream movies or music on a cruise?
Most cruise lines these days offer a streaming package that will allow you to stream with Netflix, Hulu, Youtube TV and other services. This plan will typically cost more than the basic package and keep in mind that the signal strength of the connection may not always allow for streaming. You should expect some buffering if you’re ship is out at sea. It’s usually best to download the movies you want to watch ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about signal strength during your cruise.
Can I use a VPN on the cruise ship?
It really depends on the cruise line and which VPN you are using. Some cruise lines state on their websites if they allow VPNs or not and others are more elusive. Here are a few things we know about cruise lines that mention using a VPN on their ships.
According to Carnival’s website, “VPN connections are not supported. Discuss your VPN limitations with your company’s IT department if you are planning to work while sailing. We are not able to change your settings on board”.
Celebrity’s websiteclaims that VPN’s may not work on their ships, saying that any applications that use a lot of bandwidth or require a dedicated connection may not be supported.
Norwegian Cruise Line states on their Wi-fi package page that VPN support is only offered with the premium internet packages and not with the basic offerings.
On Royal Caribbean ships users have reported a mixed bag of results. While most are not able to connect to the Wi-Fi on Royal Caribbean ships others have had limited success. This may depend on the VPN you are using as well, but for now just assume you will not be able to use your VPN with this line.
Why is cruise ship Wi-Fi so expensive?
Wi-Fi on a cruise ship can be expensive for a few reasons. One reason is that the cost of setting up and maintaining the necessary infrastructure to provide internet access on a ship is quite high. The ship needs to have special equipment on board to connect to satellite networks, and this equipment is expensive to purchase and maintain.
Additionally, because the ship is constantly moving, it can be challenging to maintain a stable internet connection, which can add to the cost of providing Wi-Fi. It’s also a way for cruise lines to generate revenue, and with more people feeling like connecting to the internet is a necessity rather than a luxury it can bring in a substantial amount of money.
Can I bring my own Wi-Fi on a cruise?
I’ve traveled with my own hotspot on a cruise before. And while it’s nice to have another access point to the internet if the ship’s Wi-Fi is acting up, you have to keep a few things in mind. That hotspot is really only useful while you are near land or a port. Out at sea you probably won’t have much of a signal at all. When walking around a port of call, however, it can be nice to have that internet connection so you don’t have to find a coffee shop or internet cafe to check emails and post to social media. After all, the ship’s Wi-Fi is only good if you’re actually on or near the ship.
Are there computers on the ship I can use for internet access?
Some ships have done away with internet cafes for using the internet, so you will want to check with the specific cruise ship you will be sailing on. Many of the newer or refurbished ships have gotten rid of this feature since most passengers bring their own devices on board. That being said, if your ship does have computers onboard you can usually expect a pretty good Wi-Fi signal in that area.
What happens if you don t put your phone on airplane mode on a cruise?
If you don’t put your phone on airplane mode on a cruise, it will continue to try to connect to cellular networks, even though you are far out to sea. This can result in high roaming charges depending on your network in addition to a significant drain on your battery. Nothing wears out a phone batter faster than not having any bars.
Some cruise lines will let you connect your cell phone to their networks as well and even offer packages for this, but it’s usually very expensive and I don’t typically recommend it.
Can you text on a cruise ship without Wi-Fi?
Yes, it’s possible to text on a cruise ship without Wi-Fi by connecting to the ship’s cellular network, but you’ll need international roaming on your mobile plan and the cost can be high. Check with your mobile carrier and cruise line for rates before you depart to avoid surprise charges.