Faster and cheaper internet service. It’s what cruisers aboard the popular cruise brands owned by mega-company Carnival Corp. can look forward to with the expansion of WiFi@Sea, a technology solution that will be available across most of the company’s fleet by the end of 2016.
The system, rolled out in pilot testing early this year, is described as a first-of-its kind solution that integrates a combination of advanced satellite systems, onboard software, networking equipment, land-based antennas and Wi-Fi from port connections. Carnival hopes the technology, already in use aboard 30 of its 100 ships, will change how millions of travelers stay in touch during their cruise and generate more interest in cruise vacations, especially among tech-savvy millennials and people of all ages who want to stay in touch, research destinations or share their vacation experiences via social media.
All cruise companies embrace technology that enables passengers to share their vacation photos and comments on social media sites – it is, after all, a kind of free advertising and in recent years has emerged as an important marketing strategy. With the expansion of WiFi@Sea, guests will be able to access the websites, social networks and apps most important to them at speeds up to 10 times faster than those previously available on the company’s ships, Carnival says.
The brands also are rolling out new pricing models for internet access, with Wi-Fi packages based on the types of services guests will be using throughout their trip versus the previous system of charging for the amount of time they will be online. For example, guests who are only interested in using Wi-Fi to post to their social networks can purchase a basic package for a lower fee than more sophisticated packages. (Carnival Cruise Line during a pilot program charged $5 per day for access to social media sites only.)
This change, says Carnival, gives guests the freedom they prefer for unlimited use of the specific internet services and applications they are interested in without the worry of time constraints. Specific package offerings and pricing structures vary by brand, but in all cases the company says it’s working to create more value and a better overall connectivity experience.
“As we continue to enhance our WiFi@Sea system, we implement technologies, packages and overall approaches that will create the best experience and value for our guests wherever their cruise vacation takes them,” says Reza Rasoulian, vice president of global connectivity and shipboard technology operations at Carnival Corp. “We optimize all of our service layers continuously to ensure a great connectivity experience. With this approach, we are giving our guests faster internet speeds without constraining the time they can be online through our packages, which has led to more people than ever using their devices to connect while on our ships and a steady improvement in guest satisfaction ratings as the new plans and pricing are rolled out.”
Carnival’s 10 brands are: Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Seabourn, AIDA Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard, P&O Cruises (Australia), P&O Cruises (UK) and Fathom.