Cruise lines charge up to £10.50 for just half an hour's internet access. Donald Strachan examines the best and worst operators
On-board cruise Wi-Fi often uses satellite technology, and can therefore be expensive. Most cruise lines also admit that signals can occasionally be weak and browsing speeds slow. Skype and video-streaming are unlikely to work reliably. For fast, free Wi-Fi, the best advice is to follow the crew when they disembark at ports of call.
Most major cruise operators supply Wi-Fi on a pay-as-you-browse basis, generally costing $0.65 to $0.75 (39p44p) per minute. Prepaid bundles of online time usually work out better value. Prices are broadly similar.
P&O Cruises (0843 374 0111; pocruises.com ) provides internet at designated hot spots. Bundles are available ranging from £10.50 for 30 minutes to £62.50 for 250 minutes of online time.
On Norwegian Cruise Line (0845 201 8900; ncl.com ) short trips, prepaid bundles include $24 (£14.20) for one hour. Long-cruise bundle rates include $100 (£59.25) for 250 minutes. Norwegian charges internet users an initial “activation fee” of $3.95 (£2.35), as does Holland America Line (0843 374 2300; hollandamerica.co.uk ), where it also costs $100 (£59.25) for 250 minutes on board.
Seven Royal Caribbean ships have in-cabroom Wi‑Fi, with the rest providing wireless internet via hot spots in public areas. Prepaid bundles also include $100 (£59.25) for 250 minutes. In March the company announced major investments to boost Wi-Fi speeds on two of its ships, Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas.
Celebrity Cruises (0844 493 2043; celebritycruises.co.uk ) offers five internet bundles, including 208 minutes for $100 (£59.25) and 555 minutes for $200 (£118.50).
Cunard (0843 374 2224; cunard.co.uk ) sells three different bundles on its three Queens, including 240 minutes for $90 (£53.30).
Arctic and Antarctic specialist Quark Expeditions (0808 120 2333; quarkexpeditions.com ) charges on the basis of traffic, with 30MB costing $50 (£29.60).
A few lines stand out for slightly cheaper browsing packages. Fred Olsen (01473 742424; fredolsen.co.uk ) has Wi-Fi hot spots in public areas on all four of their ships. The line’s pay-as-you-go rate is 20p per minute, and passengers can buy prepaid tokens up to £50 for 300 minutes.
Luxury yacht cruise operator Compagnie du Ponant (0800 980 4027; ponant.com ) sells bundles including 240 minutes for €60 (£48.60) and 1,000 minutes for €180 (£145.75).
Saga Cruises (0800 096 0079; travel.saga.co.uk ) offers free Wi-Fi in public areas on both of its ships.
From this autumn, Crystal Cruises (020 7399 7601; crystalcruises.co.uk ) will offer repeat guests 60 minutes’ free internet access a day. Standard Crystal Wi-Fi charges come in five bands, with 300 minutes for $115 (£68.30).
The technical challenges are less severe for river and coastal cruise ships, which can access cellular Wi-Fi. This is reflected in more generous pricing. However, cellular coverage can sometimes be patchy in remote areas.
Emerald Waterways (08081 020142; emeraldwaterways.co.uk ) reports “being asked more and more during the booking process” about Wi-Fi. Emerald provides free Wi-Fi to all passengers, and an iPad for guest use in some cabins. Viking River Cruises (0800 319 6660; vikingrivercruises.co.uk ) uses a mix of satellite and cellular technology to offer free in-cabin Wi-Fi to all passengers on its European cruises, including in Russia and Ukraine. On Viking cruises around China and south-east Asia, passengers connect using desktop computers at the on board internet cafe (also free). AmaWaterways (0808 223 5009; amawaterways.co.uk ) provides unlimited free Wi-Fi to passengers. Fjord specialist Hurtigruten (020 3582 6642; hurtigruten.co.uk ) offers free onboard Wi-Fi on its coastal routes.
By DONALD STRACHAN, THE TELEGRAPH
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