In a bid to appeal to younger travelers, Carnival Cruise Lines has unveiled a first-of-its-kind hybrid wireless network designed to provide passengers with Internet connectivity speeds up to 10 times faster than before as well as improved reliability.
WiFi@Sea, as it's being called, utilizes a combination of strategically located land-based long-range Wi-Fi antennas installed along cruise routes, traditional Wi-Fi at each port and an array of satellites. Key to the technology is the software's ability to seamlessly switch between sources.
Anyone that's tried to use an Internet connection while on a cruise is well aware of just how frustrating of an experience it can be. In addition to turtle-like speeds, connections are flaky at best and drop frequently.
The service is initially being rolled out for ships sailing in the Caribbean this quarter before coming to Alaska in the summer of 2015. Mediterranean, Baltic, Western Europe and Asian regions will see WiFi@Sea installations spring up through 2016. The service will eventually be offered on all 101 ships across Carnival's nine brands, we're told.
Carnival has been piloting the new Internet offering for well over a year. Pricing will be ship-specific and although no figures were given, I suspect it'll be just as - if not more - expensive than it is today.
With any luck, Carnival's move will prompt its competitors to improve their wireless Internet offerings as well.