Having an acceptable quality of WiFi onboard has long been a bugbear for passengers. After all, providing a successful internet experience for anything between 100 and several thousand guests is no mean feat. But what about crew members?
To find out, what the WiFi deal is like for them, Cruise Industry News spoke with crew aboard Norwegian Cruise Line, Viking Ocean Cruises, Silversea, Disney Cruise Line, AIDA and Marella.
Speaking on the grounds of anonymity, they shared what they pay for the internet (if anything) and what the speed is like.
Facebook Is Just ‘Book’
The majority of the crew members said that while the ship is sailing guestless, they have free WiFi.
“Since the start of the pandemic, WiFi has been free for all crew members. The last thing that I have heard was that when we restart operations with guests onboard, things will change to how it was before but with a slight change,“ said a crew member onboard a Disney ship.
He explained that pre-pandemic, crew had to pay $20 for 500 megabytes (MB) of data, with Whatsapp messages being free.
“It seems now that the price will stay the same (when guests embark), but we will get some free internet every month. But I don’t know the details still,” he added.
Crew members with Norwegian, Silversea and Marella also said that their WiFi was free until the arrival of guests.
“It’s very slow and most of the time doesn’t work. But it’s free,” said a crew member who is currently onboard a Silversea ship.
An employee with AIDA said that only social media use was free, and the speed of that was not good.
“Sometimes it is broken completely,” he added.
The Silversea crew member said that he wasn’t sure if the internet would remain free when the ship starts sailing commercially. Pre-coronavirus, crew got given 60 MB of free internet every day which, in his case, only lasted for about 30 minutes spent on social media. To buy an internet package, he said, the cost was between $8 for 150 MB and $40 for 1,000 MB.
“But, to be honest, it’s so slow and so expensive I barely buy it – very expensive. And you still don’t get fast internet,” he added, explaining that the internet speed is not even enough to load a Facebook page properly.
”Facebook is just the book because you can’t see the face. It takes ages to download,” the crew member said.
Out of the employees of all the cruise lines Cruise Industry News spoke with, only a crew member from Viking Ocean Cruises said that their internet was completely free.
“We do get the same (deal) as the passengers, meaning ‘everything’ (is included). However, the internet varies where you are. Also, video streaming may take some time. In the COVID situation, the company brought better packages, which allowed us to stream without problems,” he said. “I’m very happy with the speed. I’ve not had any problems with it. Only in quite remote sea areas. But that’s understandable.”
Like Selling Sand on Beach
Those crew members for whom WiFi was not already free said that they wished the internet was faster and cheaper.
A crew member with Disney said that the internet could be better but it’s “absolutely acceptable.” The crew member onboard a Norwegian ship said that the speed was good enough, but video calls tended to get static at certain times.
One employee was able to compare his current onboard WiFi speed with the experience onboard other cruise lines he worked for, saying that Cunard had “amazing packages” that gave 24/7 connectivity for a month for $28.
On Crystal Cruises, he said, he didn’t need to pay for the internet at all.
“Just connect to the WiFi from the ship, and that’s it. Additionally, every iPhone could get all notifications and messages for free, but if you want to answer, then you have to connect!” the crew member said.
To keep the crew sane while sailing without shore leaves, parties and other activities, the crew member said that cruise lines needed to provide better internet deals.
“We must have free internet at least to stay in touch with family and for a little bit of entertainment. Hopefully, with this post-COVID time, all companies all over the world change the rules and give us free Wi-Fi because selling internet onboard is like selling sand on the beach,” he said.