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At Sea: Staying Connected in Today’s 24/7 World

There are all kinds of reasons to stay "connected" these days, and just because you’re port-hopping or relaxing at sea shouldn’t stop you from communicating with the outside world. In today’s competitive business climate, it’s a rare thing for workers to take vacation and not check e-mail or voice-mail. And if you are traveling with teenagers, you know how important cell phone and Internet access can be: text messaging and access to social networking sites are not something the younger set will live without just because they’re at sea.

Cruise lines have gotten aboard the technology bandwagon, and Internet and Wi-Fi service at sea are common features. Many ships feature Internet centers with large, flat-screen monitors and high-speed access in addition to Wi-Fi hotspots in certain public areas or even from the comfort of your stateroom, if you bring your own laptop. The advent of digital satellite feeds in cabins allows you to take advantage of interactive television systems to make dinner reservations, book spa treatments or review your onboard account.

The ships' cyber cafes often have multiple workstations and are open 24/7. Sometimes the teen lounges will also offer Internet access.

Typically, cruise passengers have several options for how they want to pay for Internet. You can pay by the minute, but if you know you will be logging-on multiple times throughout the trip, it may be more cost effective to purchase Internet minutes in advance. If you buy one of these packages, the per-minute price will be less expensive than paying as you go. Like most anything else you purchase onboard, the charges are simply added to your onboard account, which is settled up at the end of the voyage. 

The newest frontier in at-sea technology is the use of cell phones and PDA service. "Because cell phones have become so deeply entrenched in today’s hi-tech world, many cruise lines believe travelers should have the option of choosing just how ‘connected’ they’d like to be with the outside world while on vacation," said Terry L. Dale, president and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

While cell phone service at sea is becoming more prevalent, beware of the costs: prices for cell phone calls range from about $1.99 to $4.99 per minute based on different roaming zones across the world, compared with ship-to-shore satellite phone calls via stateroom phones, which can run from $5 to $25 per minute. The availability of cell phone service varies by ship.

Remember, the beauty of all this technology is that it’s there if you need it. If you truly are trying to get away from it all, you have the option to turn off those cell phones and forget those logons and passwords.