Staying connected possible while on the seas

Published 3:52 pm Friday, October 17, 2008

A reader recently asked if they could stay connected while on a cruise vacation. Yes to being able to access the Internet but honestly I was not sure about the personal cell issue.

With all the updates in technology and cellular services I had not kept up with what my provider AT& T was offering so it was research time.

A quick browse of their Web site indicated that yes I could be connected at sea if I had the proper type of equipment (phone). Digging a little deeper into their information I discovered that AT&T offers wireless service on over 130 cruise ships worldwide with international roaming service. Sure you can use your same wireless number that you use in the USA but you’ll be hit with cruise ship roaming fees starting at only $2.49 per minute.

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Be assured that at $2.49 a minute for personal communications this guy will keep his phone shut off while at sea. I’ll rely on those discounted phone cards that you can purchase just about anywhere these days and find a pay phone in port to make my calls. Or I’ll locate a landside “Internet” café pay a reasonable fee and log on into cyber space.

For those cruise guests who want the option of staying connected to the rest of the world most of the major cruise lines offer Internet access in their onboard Internet Cafés and wireless networks using the ships own satellite connection. The Internet Cafés are generally open 24-hours a day and feature private terminals with the latest flat panel computer monitors. You’ll have the ability to send and receive e-mail, chat online and surf the full net. You can also access your own e-mail account through major providers like Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, AOL, etc. Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean also provide their cruise passengers the option of creating their very own “vanity” temporary cruise e-mail account allowing you to send notes to your friends stuck on land.

Wireless Internet access is available aboard many fleets.

Depending on the vessel, you’ll have either limited wireless access in and around the shipboard Internet café and select public areas or a complete bow to stern wireless network.

This bow to stern network allows cruisers to enjoy Internet access from literally anywhere on board, including all public areas, lounges, bars and pool decks, guest suites and cabins. To take full advantage of this feature, guests should bring their personal laptops along with them, as the number of laptops available for rent onboard is limited. In addition, this network provides support for the latest Wi-Fi enabled iPhones, Palm Pilots and BlackBerry’s.

Current Internet Café price options on Carnival Cruise Lines starts with an initial one-time Activation Fee of $3.95 for each user. Then you are offered several Internet pricing packages.

Their basic a la carte package has a pay as you go charge of $0.75 per minute available and minutes will be rounded to the next full minute. Discounted time plans are available and these average from $0.40 to $0.55 per minute. You do have to purchase these in a block program ranging from 30 minutes up to 250 minutes. Please note that the Internet pricing options are identical, whether an Internet Café terminal is utilized, or a laptop and there is no refund for unused minutes, upgrading of selected pricing options is not available and plans are subject to change.

Be sure to check with your cruise line, booking agent and cell service provider before you lug your electronic devices along. I would also check with the tourism offices in your ports of call and see if they can provide a list of local Internet Cafés.