Carnival Corporation has announced an exciting development – faster onboard wifi. In a unique approach that Carnival calls a “hybrid wireless network at sea,” the company will use a combination of satellites, long-range wi-fi, and port connectivity to delivery internet speeds 10 times faster than what is currently available to its guests. According to the company,

“Carnival Corporation’s backbone connectivity network, known as WiFi@Sea™, will integrate a unique combination of strategically located land-based antennas installed along cruise routes, Wi-Fi from a port connection and advanced satellites, forming an innovative network that is a first in the cruise industry on this scale. The “smart hybrid” network is designed to provide passengers and crew with faster and more stable internet access throughout their voyage – a feature becoming increasingly important to travelers of all ages looking to stay connected and share their experiences through social media. The network will seamlessly switch back and forth between connection types based on which option will provide the best user experience at that time. Much like a cell phone changing from one data connection to another while moving across a coverage area, the toggle between networks will be transparent for travelers and managed behind the scenes by a high-tech system.”

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The new internet services will launch later this year in North America, with cruises to the Caribbean. The company plans to expand the service with cruises to Alaska in 2015, followed by the Mediterranean, Baltic, Western European and Asia regions in 2015 and 2016. The new wi-fi network will eventually roll out to all Carnival Corporation ships across 9 brands including AIDA Cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa Cruises, Cunard, Holland America Line, P&O Cruises UK, P&O Cruises Australia, Princess Cruises and Seabourn.

MJ’s Take

One question I had was pricing, so I reached out to Carnival. Their PR crew responded that “each brand will determine how pricing is packaged. So they it will most likely vary based on what they do now. It is important to note that we’re building out the WiFi@Sea network for several different brands and dozens of ships, so the network will benefit passengers on a variety of cruises in the Caribbean and eventually around the world. Each brand manages the overall onboard experience of its guests, so they will be communicating about packaging and pricing for this great connectivity.”

Overall, I think this is a smart move by Carnival. With all the attention Carnival’s biggest competitor, Royal Caribbean, is getting with the technology and wi-fi speeds on their latest ship, moving the dial forward on connectivity for all cruise lines will be a competitive factor going forward. Sure, many, myself included, wish to disconnect at sea, and you still can! No one is forcing you to use this service, but it’s nice to know it’s there when you need it. I find the idea of a “hybrid” network interesting as well. It’s a unique approach that should prove to be scalable as cruising patterns and technology change. I’m looking forward to trying the new Carnival wifi!!! What do you think about faster internet at sea?

Click here for a Wi-Fi_RouteMap graphic that describes the new system.

-MJ, November 4, 2014