Should WiFi Be Free on a Cruise? A Look at the Expense for Cruise Lines


Anyone who’s ever been on a cruise is aware of the astronomical rates for using the on board Internet. In a world where we’re growing more and more attached to technology, it seems odd that cruise ships aren’t catching up.

Installing wireless internet on a cruise ship is very expensive. Most cruise lines don’t offer free WiFi to their passengers because of the cost to install and maintain this connection.

But still, are these prices justified? Here’s a look at why it costs so much to go online on the high seas.

How Ships Obtain the Signal

Each ship must install a large satellite antenna at the highest point of the ship, which then communicates with satellites to broadcast the signal. The ship then must build a protective casing around the antenna to protect from the elements. Since each ship has a set amount of bandwidth that splits between all passengers, the speed cannot keep up with what users have at home. The cost to match an at-home speed on a cruise ship would be thousands of times more than what an average person pays each month.

Cost to Cruise Line to Maintain Connection

On average, a cruise line spends up to $80,000 per month, per ship, to maintain Internet connection. This helps passengers understand why they must pay a fee to access the Internet while onboard. Installing the connection is certainly not cheap, and the fees to continue service really add up.

Maximizing Money Spent

Since these satellite connections are not cheap, the cruise lines must share the cost with passengers in order to stay profitable. To maximize the money you spend on internet access while onboard, frequent cruisers recommend using the computers in the early morning or late night hours. This results in faster speeds, since fewer people will share the bandwidth at non-peak times.

Check Before You Buy

Passengers may also want to check with their cruise lines to make sure that the websites they want are available. For example, many cruise lines block access to Skype, a popular video-chatting website. Since this and other popular video streaming sites use so much bandwidth, the WiFi connection via satellite simply cannot keep up.

Package Deals Help Save Money

Many cruise lines offer package deals to save money per minute. This is a more cost-effective way to use the Internet while onboard the ship, especially if you have multiple family members who will be sharing the usage. Depending on the cruise line, you may be able to choose between a bundle of minutes, or unlimited access for the duration of your cruise.

The cost of wireless internet should not deter passengers from booking their vacation cruise packages. When considering what else is available on many of these cruise ships, such as casinos, dance clubs, swimming pools and hot tubs, and luxurious spas, you might want to think about unplugging from your devices for a few days. Those who do not have that option can simply pay a low price to connect to the Internet for as much time as is needed. These options make it clear that a cruise is a great choice for anyone.

Considering all of the other luxuries that are included in the booking price, including food, drinks, entertainment, and more, it makes sense that a cruise line simply cannot afford to offer free wireless Internet as well.

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