Internet at sea is finally a real thing

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ARTICLE – Internet access when on a cruise used to be crazy-stupid expensive and not really work.  I remember the first time I tried internet access on a cruise and the only thing more frustrating than the cost was waiting for web pages to load. Thankfully, that is beginning to change as cruise lines roll out actually usable internet on their cruise ships.

I know – you’re thinking, “Why use the internet on a cruise? You’re on vacation! Unplug!”  For many, that might be true, but we’re retired, so we’re always on vacation.  We don’t vacation – we travel.

Many of our friends that don’t have the same opportunity and like to travel vicariously through us, so we enjoy posting photos as we go.  In addition, we like to be able to stay in touch with our kids and my wife’s 90-year-old father.  That’s where usable high-speed internet at sea is a real benefit.

Sure, we can find hotspots in ports, but with all the chatter about nefarious, bogus hotspots, it seems a little risky, especially in tourist-heavy spots outside the US. Plus, on a cruise with multiple, consecutive sea days, you would be out of touch for days.

Never has this been more important to us that last week.  You see, we had a 56-day adventure planned.  We were taking a 10-day cruise from Auckland, New Zealand to Sydney, Australia.  Immediately following that was a 12-day cruise on the same ship back to Auckland with a totally different itinerary.  We planned to stay in Auckland for 11 days and then take a 21-day transpacific cruise to Los Angeles to get back to the US and then fly home to Florida.

Even though we were enjoying the cruise, midway through the first cruise, everything went south.

Our transpacific cruise canceled first.  Then New Zealand closed its ports, followed by Australia, effectively killing the second cruise.  Luckily, our first cruise was allowed to continue its itinerary and complete it in Sydney.  Suddenly, we were going to be 9,300 miles from home with no action plan to get home.

Hurray for high-speed internet at sea.  While at sea, we were able to send email and cancel our hotel in Auckland and keep the kids and my wife’s dad up to date.  More importantly, with voice over internet protocol (VOIP) calling, we could use our Samsung Galaxy S9+ phones and make usable, intelligible phone calls. I was really impressed with the call quality. It was seriously as good as US land-based telephone service.  We were able to contact the cruise line’s flight provider who did a great job rebooking us out of Sydney.

After talking with our kids and my wife’s father on the phone, everyone at home was relieved, knowing our situation and plan. We were able to relax and enjoy.

One benefit from the situation was that we got to cruise into Sydney Harbour at sunset, so there was that.

The bottom line is that in a crazy situation like this, high-speed internet at sea allowed us to complete the first cruise with minimal stress, making a bad situation a bit more pleasant.

For the record, we were on the Celebrity Solstice, and Celebrity’s Xcelerate Wi-Fi made a bad situation much, much better.

Is it still a bit on the pricey side?  Yes, but if you’re a savvy shopper, many times, you can get it bundled with a cruise as we did.  Still, even with the price, I will always consider it from now on.  Let’s hope all the other cruise lines get internet service on the same level as Celebrity’s Xcelerate Wi-Fi.

Glad to be home, and for the record, we were tested and are Covid19-free.

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