This post is written from my perspective on my first world cruise with Holland America, but most everything here is applicable to many other cruise lines.
Staying connected while on cruise is no longer viewed as a luxury but as an essential feature of any cruise experience. Shipboard internet is expensive, but some lines e.g. Viking Oceans and others are including internet is the basic fare, but for the time being most lines charge extra and charge a lot for internet access.
Here are some tips to save some money and have an improved internet experience.
Get your device working correctly before you leave. If you have never used your phone on a public Wi‑Fi network, go to your local Starbucks or McDonalds or anywhere there is free public Wi-Fi and verify that you can get logged on and that you can send and receive e-mails. Trying to troubleshoot basic connectivity issues onboard ship can be difficult.
Take advantage of sign up bonus opportunities. Holland America usually offers an additional 10% of access time if you purchase a package in the first few days of a cruise. The daily On Location guide or similar publication will usually advertise these specials. If you think you may use more than the largest package available minutes (currently 1000 minutes) during the cruise, open a second account with a different user name and buy another package so you can take advantage of the early sign up bonus.
Make sure you have a good Wi-Fi connection when you logon.
Most cruise ships have dozens of devices to broadcast their Wi-Fi throughout the ship so you can pretty much get a Wi-Fi signal anywhere. However, make sure that your Wi-Fi signal shows a strong connection. The symbol for this connection usually looks something like this:
You can still connect with a weaker signal but your speed may be less than if you find a spot with a better signal.
However, the strength of the Wi-Fi signal tells you nothing about the strength or speed of the internet coming on to the ship. You could have the strongest Wi-Fi signal possible, but if the ships internet is not working well or is saturated, your performance will still be slow.
Make sure the SHIP has a good connection to the internet before you log on and start paying.
Most HAL ships give you free access to the New York Times or their own website, or other free sites. Log on to one of these free sites first to see how responsive they are before you logon to your account and start paying. If the free sites are slow – then everything will be slow – come back later.
Keep track of your activity and ask for credit if the connection hangs
Make a note of when you log on. If you get nothing but a spinning wheel and nothing will load, logoff rather than waste your time staring a screen with nothing happening. After you logoff you can talk to the internet manager – usually in the Library on HAL ships and request a credit.
Don’t forget to logoff
Your account may still be connected to the internet even after you close all your browsers. Type in logout.com into the address bar to make sure you are logged off.
Get a travel router to be able to connect multiple devices to the internet thru a single ship board account.
If you have a laptop and a Ipad/Iphone and would like to keep them both current with your email, get a travel router which will allow you to rebroadcast the ships internet to multiple devices. I have used the HooToo Travel router HERE, but there are many different choices and they all pretty much do the same thing. Before you take on your cruise, be sure to give is a test run at your local Starbucks or anywhere else with a public WiFi – because setting these up and using them, while not rocket science, is a little more complicated than simply connecting to the internet.