Some people tune out the world when they get on a cruise. They leave their phone in a drawer or don’t even bring it on the ship so they can escape from everything.
That’s not practical for everyone and while a cruise ship can be a magical place, being on one does not fully free everyone from their responsibilities on land. Because of that many people on a cruise vacation opt to buy an internet package so they can use their phones to stay in touch with people on land, send photos to social media, and do all the things the modern person does with their smartphone.
Ship internet, however, leaves a lot to be desired. Royal Caribbean (RCL) – Get Royal Caribbean Group Report brands its Voom service as the “fastest internet at sea.” That may be true, but it’s a bit like saying “this is the best middle school cafeteria pizza.”
Onboard internet on Royal Caribbean ships comes in two packages Voom Surf, which sells for around $18 per day (it varies by ship and by voyage), which is meant for basic email checking and text messaging and Voom Surf & Stream, which costs around $24 per day and is promoted as follows:
Purchase the VOOM Surf and Stream Voyage Package – 1 Device and enjoy 24-hour access to emails, internet, and messaging apps. Stream your favorite shows, music, and movies directly to your device. And share the adventure in real time on social media and video calls. All with the freedom to be as connected — or as disconnected — as you like.
That’s a very generous view of how the package works. It’s generally good enough for emails and messaging apps, but streaming is very slow and not always possible (speeds can vary by ship, by your location on the ship, and by how many passengers are using the internet at any given time).
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Freedom of the Seas Tests Faster Internet
Earlier this month, Royal Caribbean sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asking for permission to bring Starlink to its ships. The cruise line’s Group Vice President of Operational Excellence, John Maya, sent a letter to the federal agency to ask it to “expeditiously” approve a plan to use Starlink on Royal Caribbean ships.
The FCC has not publicly commented on that request.
Now, it appears that Royal Caribbean has moved forward with a test of the Elon Musk-owned satellite internet company on Freedom of the Seas, which sails 3 and 4-day itineraries out of Miami.
Brandon from The Weekend Cruiser shared an update from onboard the ship to his YouTube channel, reported Matt Hochberg of the Royal Caribbean blog.
“This weekend I’m on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas where we’ve had the installation of Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite system onboard,” Brandon said in the video.
Brandon showed off the installed Starlink satellite receivers (which are in a public part of the ship) pointing out that they can pivot to always be pointed in the right direction. It’s expected that speeds would improve six-fold if Starlink becomes available on ships.
FCC approval is required to implement Starlink because the technology can currently not legally be used on a moving vessel.
“This I am dubbing as the savior to internet at sea,” Brandon added.