Carnival Cruise Lines Fixes a Key Pain Point for Passengers

The Carnival cruise line very quietly has made a major onboard improvement that customers will love.

Taking a cruise means leaving the real world behind. Once your ship sails away, you can put your phone away and simply be on vacation for the duration of your trip.

That’s certainly how some people approach their trips, but many simply can’t do that. You may want to use a cruise to escape reality, but work and family concerns don’t disappear simply because you are on vacation.

Some people can’t leave the world behind on a cruise and others simply don’t want to. For some passengers, keeping in touch with those left behind on land is essential, and others simply don’t want to disconnect.

If you want (or need) to stay connected to your land life while you are at sea, you have to buy an internet package. Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) – Get Carnival Corporation Report sells three internet plans on its namesake cruise line:

Social: $8.50 per person per day, which enables you to text and check social media,Value: $11.05 per person per day offers access to social media, email, and the web, but not streaming sites.Premium: $14.45 per person per day in theory gives passengers access to the full internet including streaming.

To say that internet-on-ship is a mixed experience is putting it nicely. Prices vary by each sailing, and performance varies a lot based on how many people onboard are using the internet as well as other factors. Even the top package can be nearly useless on sea days when a lot of people are trying to access it.

But now, the cruise line has taken some steps to improve the internet experience for passengers.

Image source: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Carnival Ups Its Internet Bandwidth

Carnival’s chief rival, Royal Caribbean  (RCL) – Get Royal Caribbean Group Report, has added Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink internet to one of its ships, Freedom of the Seas. That’s just a test for now, but it has transformed the internet experience on that ship from barely functional to something similar to working from a Starbucks (SBUX) – Get Starbucks Corporation Report.

Royal Caribbean has not said whether it plans to bring Starlink to more ships, but that move seems inevitable. 

Carnival has taken different steps to improve its internet, according to Vice President Luis Terife, Cruise Industry News reported.

“We have seen a significant increase in guest utilization, across the board, but especially with a higher emphasis on our premium plans,” he said. “We are adjusting to guest usage patterns by allowing a more balanced upload versus download experience.”

The cruise line has “improved its connectivity ecosystem by using bandwidth from multiple satellite providers to remain flexible, which is key to providing a consistent connected experience with ships moving between deployment regions,” Global Infrastructure Vice President John Harshaw explained.

“We have deployed significantly more WiFi access points across our fleet, so our guests and crew can connect seamlessly in many places onboard,” he said, adding that improvements also increased automation and redundancy within the connectivity ecosystem to reduce single points of failure.

That’s a lot of fancy words to say that Carnival has been making changes to improve the onboard internet experience.

Carnival Makes Other Internet Changes

The cruise line has also followed Royal Caribbean in giving crew members free access to Whatsapp  (META) – Get Meta Platforms Inc. Report so they can keep in touch with friends and family back home as well as with other crewmembers. 

People who work on board cruise ships, at least Carnival and Royal Caribbean ships. pay for internet access much as passengers do.

Since they have returned from their pandemic shutdowns, both Carnival and Royal Caribbean have pushed more onboard activities into their apps. Those include enabling passengers to make reservations, keep in touch with other passengers, and pull up menus with QR codes.

In turn, those activities have put added stress on already fragile internet networks onboard. Carnival has acknowledged the matter and continues to work on the problem.

“With near-term capacity being stretched in all ocean regions, all global (connectivity) providers are working diligently to build out larger and more scalable networks, and this will only improve the overall connectivity experience at sea,” Harshaw told Cruise Industry News.


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