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Why Shipboard Internet is a Bad Investment

We travel a lot.

We have visited 20+ countries and counting.  We like cruise ships because we don’t have to pack and unpack every day and schlep a half ton (seems like it anyway) of luggage up and down stairs, narrow hallways, cobblestone streets every.single.day.  Because we’ve done exactly this.  A LOT.  But on a ship you only unpack ONCE. And pack back up ONCE.  Which is sounding pretty good as we get older.

Everyone needs to be connected in today’s world.  The very idea of NO INTERNET for even an hour causes most people to go into withdrawal, break out in a cold sweat and start gnawing on their fingernails.  When you are on a cruise ship, unless you’re in port, you can’t even use your phone to see how many LIKES you got on your most recent, vitally important post.  And this causes your anxiety level to peg the meter.

So the ships offer you Internet.

For a very hefty price.

Prices range from about 75 cents per MINUTE to $100 for 250 minute packages – or price per megabyte plans.  All of this is VERY expensive compared to being home.

So you think “OK, that’s expensive, but I NEED my Internet.”

And you give the cruise line a wad of cash so you can stay connected.

This is when you find out shipboard Internet is S.L.O.W.


Shipboard Internet is a bad investment in general.

If you’re lucky you’ll get DSL speed (3.0 Mbps). (Think back to 2004)

This can go WAY down when more people are using it.
At home you are probably getting between 22 Mbps and 200 Mbps depending on your provider.  For YOU and you alone.

Shipboard Internet is via satellite.

It’s not like the ship can drag a high speed optical cable around behind it for thousands of miles, you know.

On the high side, satellite speed is 50 Mbps. On the low side it is 25 Mbps.  To provide Internet to EVERYONE on the ship.

Divide that by the number of people using it at any given time and that gives you your speed.

Let’s just say for the sake of discussion that ONLY 100 people are using the Internet at once.  And that the ship has a FAST satellite feed.  That means you get a measly 1/2 Mbps for your own use.  And that’s assuming no one is streaming YouTube cat videos in their cabin at the same time.  You are getting 1/100th of the speed you have at home (if you have a relatively slow connection)

That’s not a lot of speed for what they charge.

Latency is also a big factor (the amount of time for a response when you click on something).

At home you probably have a 30 millisecond (ms) latency or somewhere in that range. On the ship it is more like 650 ms.
This is because when you click on something, this happens:

  • <Click>
  • Your request travels 22,000 miles up to the satellite.
  • The satellite sends your request 22,000 miles down to terrestrial Internet.
  • The response goes 22,000 miles back up to the satellite.
  • The satellite sends the response 22,000 miles back down to you.
  • 650 ms later

If you’re just checking your email this is not a big factor.

If you’re browsing Facebook or CNN with videos auto-launching, this can be REALLY S.L.O.W.

All of this assumes clear skies and smooth sailing.  If you are traveling under heavy cloud cover, all of these performance statistics go DOWN.  You can lose connectivity altogether.  Keeping a satellite dish tracking accurately in rough seas is also dicey.  There can be a lot of lost data.


We never get shipboard Internet. We use our time away from port to unplug.

You can do this too.

Bring a book.

Bring your Kindle or tablet pre-loaded with reading material.  That’s what I do.

And I travel with my baby electric guitar so I can amuse myself on those long days at sea.

When we are in port, we pay for the day to have a phone / Internet connection from our cellular provider and can update friends and family on our status.  Otherwise we are blissfully unplugged.

Try it for yourself.

Name of author

Name: Wizard

Short Bio: The Computer Wizard (TCW). TCW was founded by Warren P. Harris in 1994 to service and repair computers in the San Francisco Bay Area. Relocating the business to Plano, Texas in 1999, TCW continued to flourish when an unfortunate loss of data for a wedding Mr. Harris photographed, caused him to research data recovery options. Realizing he would have to either pay someone to recover the photos or find out how to do it himself, the rest, as they say "is history". Approached by a friend who was a Private Investigator in 2006, Mr. Harris studied for his Investigator's license and began honing his skills in Computer Forensics. The company was renamed DFW Computer Integration in 2015.

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