Carnival Corp., responding to the growing use of social media by cruise passengers, is updating its onboard Internet service to provide as much as a 10-fold increase in speed.

The WiFi@Sea network will use satellites and antennas positioned on land along cruise routes, Miami-based Carnival, the world’s largest cruise operator, said in a statement. After an initial introduction in the Caribbean this year, the company will expand the service globally to its 101 ships by 2016.

Internet service at sea has an become important amenity for cruise passengers who want to stay in touch with friends and family members while on vacation. Ship operators see an opportunity to let passengers promote cruising via Twitter, and other sites.

“We believe it will also help us attract new cruisers, especially millennials who have made connectivity and social media an everyday part of their lives,” Ramon Millan, global chief information officer for Carnival, said in the statement.

Pricing for Carnival’s service will vary, depending upon which of the company’s nine brands passengers are sailing.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. said earlier this year it was using satellites to enhance connectivity on its newest ships. The company is also employing wireless luggage tracking for passengers and an app that lets guests book spa appointments, restaurant reservations and show tickets from a mobile device.

“These investments are costly, but they are critical to the long-term success of our company and they should provide very short paybacks,” Richard Fain, Royal Caribbean’s chairman and chief executive officer said on an Oct. 23 conference call.



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