Speedy broadband internet connectivity really does improve the experience on cruise ships. If cruise lines have any change of attracting millennials en masse, it starts with high-speed Wi-Fi.
When I stepped onboard the Anthem of the Seas in Bayonne, N.J., last week, I didn’t head to ship’s cabaret space, bumper car rink, robot bar, or mechanized observation deck.
The first thing I did was sit in my stateroom pull out my laptop to connect to the Wi-Fi. This ritual is normal for hotel stays but unusual on cruise ships, due to the lack of decent Internet services.
Royal Caribbean International markets its VOOM service as “the fastest internet at sea.” For the time being, it’s only available on the line’s newest Oasis- and Quantum-class vessels like its new Anthem of the Seas.
So when I opened an app on my phone to check the internet speed, I was surprised to find I could barely open a webpage. As it turned out, my stateroom on deck six seemed to be in something of a Wi-Fi dead spot.
Later I walked to the ship’s main atrium and was pleasantly surprised.
The ship had yet to leave port, and was showing impressive speed capable of video calling or streaming movies. But the true test would come the next day, when the ship was floating somewhere offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.
Surprisingly, the ship’s broadband Internet speeds were even more impressive away from shore.
In the afternoon I sat in the ship’s bustling Solarium area and streamed a few Netflix videos without any hitches or buffering. Then I used FaceTime to have a lengthy chat. I even uploaded the audio of an interview with Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley for transcription in a matter of minutes.
While impressive, the Internet speed onboard my preview sailing should be taken with a grain of salt. Anthem’s normal capacity is about 4,000 passengers; less than a quarter of that capacity was probably onboard during my sailing. The number of devices being used on the ship’s network was certainly less than a normal passenger could expect, so the network was way less congested.
Similarly, there could likely be some interruption and reduced service while the ship is moving, or leaving port. All things considered, the service is relatively cheap for cruisers; unlimited access is priced at $15 per day. Unheard of just a few short years ago.
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Photo credit: The North Star on Royal Caribbean International's Quantum-class vessels. Royal Caribbean International