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    Cruise lines under fire for high internet fees

    Despite the fact that many cruise companies pride themselves on offering an all-inclusive holiday experience, and with free internet becoming increasingly common in hotels, bars and even fast-food restaurants, research by Telegraph Travel has revealed that every major cruise line is still charging for internet and Wi-Fi access – with rates as high as £37.85 for a single hour's browsing.

    More than 20 cruise lines were analysed in the study. Regent Seven Seas had the highest fees. The company charges a "pay as you go" rate of $0.95 (59p) per minute, or $57 (£35.40) an hour, in addition to a one-off "activation fee" of $3.95 (£2.45). Alternatively, passengers can opt for a $600 (£373) bill for 20 hours of browsing.

    Celebrity Cruises, Cunard, NCL and P & O were also found to impose some of the highest fees. Celebrity charges passengers $24.95 (£15.50) for 38 minutes' access, or 41p per minute; Cunard charges $0.75 (47p) per minute, or $47.95 (£29.80) for two hours' access; NCL charges $0.75 (47p) per minute, or $55 (£34.20) for 100 minutes' usage. P & O charges 50p per minute or £35 for 100 minutes' access; its charge to send a single email is £2.50.

    Four hours of internet browsing on an Azamara Cruises ship will cost holidaymakers $99.95 (£62) – marginally more expensive than on Carnival Cruise Lines, which charges $89 (£55) for the same amount of web time.

    The cheapest pay-as-you-go access was 20p per minute, offered by Fred Olsen, while Paul Gauguin Cruises offers some of the best-value packages, with 250 minutes' access costing $0.25 (16p) per minute – although the line does charge an activation fee of £2.45.

    Several readers have contacted Telegraph Travel to express frustration at the charges, with some criticising the speed and reliability of the internet access they have paid handsomely for.

    "The cost of accessing the internet was so overpriced it wasn't worth it," said Geoff Hebden, 58, from Ipswich, who took a P & O cruise last year. "And yet small businesses, bars and cafés across the world offer it free – it's ridiculous."

    Cruise lines defend their charges by citing the high cost of providing the service – internet access at sea is delivered using satellite communication, making it dearer than the same service on land.

    "The cost of providing internet access from the middle of the ocean is expensive," said Graham Sadler, managing director of Regent Seven Seas. "As a luxury cruise brand we choose a fast speed, which may be reflected in the charges – but the quicker download speed means it may eventually become cheaper."

    In contrast to ocean-going cruise lines, several river cruise companies – including Scenic Tours, Viking and AmaWaterways – do not charge for internet access.

    Irish Ferries, which operates services between Ireland and the United Kingdom and France, does not charge, either, even though it uses satellite communication to provide the service.

    A spokesman for the company said that it could not say how much it spent on providing passengers with the service, as it could not "separate out the cost of providing free Wi-Fi from [the cost of maintaining its existing] satellite equipment".

    Assessing how much cruise lines make from internet charges is difficult: none of the companies surveyed by Telegraph Travel responded to queries about the number of people who use internet services or how much those services cost to provide. However, a press release issued in 2010 by Silversea Cruises – which currently charges guests $0.50 (31p) a minute to go online – claimed that 65 per cent of its passengers used some form of on-board internet service.

    "There is no doubt that internet charges provide a lucrative revenue stream for many cruise lines," said Jane Archer, Telegraph Travel's cruise correspondent. "The fact that these connections are often very slow - so you end up spending more - only rubs salt into the wound."

    By The Daily Telegraph

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    I've never tried the Internet at sea. The cost is too prohibitive for me. Plus, I've heard nothing but bad things about the service. Why pay for something that doesn't work well?

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    We usually need to do some work while we’re cruising – it’s hard to really get away – and that means paying for internet service. We’re afraid that if service was cheaper/free, so many people would use it that it would be even slower than the current glacial speed. We’d sure be willing to pay a premium for fast service!

    Regarding the free internet service on river cruises, it’s a fantastic amenity but it seems even slower than the internet on the big ocean ships!

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