At-Sea Connectivity & the Cruise App: You and 3,000 New Friends?

March 14, 2013

(2 p.m. EDT) -- Passengers have every opportunity to meet virtually before their cruises and then share reviews and pictures online after. But what about while they're onboard?

Like it or not, advocates of the sharing culture want the opportunity.

The numerous challenges surrounding poor at-sea connectivity need to be solved first, though, said Lisa Kauffman, vice-president of marketing at Celebrity Cruises. Speaking at Cruise Shipping Miami at the Social Media Forum, Kauffman said: "The Holy Grail is if we can figure out onboard connectivity."

At the moment, [passengers] are sharing [their online experiences] as soon as they get off the ship, even if they are not loving it onboard."

However, things are changing, Kaffman said. Celebrity sister line Royal Caribbean has established a partnership with satellite provider O3B (referring to the "Other 3 Billion" people in the world who don't have the Internet), which has launched a midorbital-atmosphere satellite positioned above the Caribbean. Royal is testing the technology on Oasis of the Seas and announced Tuesday it will also be testing it on Allure of the Seas. If it proves successful, the line will eventually roll it out to the rest of the fleet.

As the satellite is midlevel and effectively "tracks" the ships, it should significantly speed up connectivity.

There's another approach being discussed: Passengers could soon be using an application connected to their ship's intranet to share experiences with 3,000 new at-sea friends (if not the outside world).

The app would allow cruisers to create onboard communities, meet up and offer advice about onboard activities and shore excursions.

Some lines have already dabbled with the approach. In 2009, Carnival introduced the "Fun Hub" concept on Carnival Dream. It was intended to be a ship-specific social network -- but we've heard little about the project in the past few years. Princess says it's introducing an intranet feature on Royal Princess, due out in June, but details are scant at this point. We've reached out to Princess for more info.

Your turn: Would you join a ship-specific social network while at sea?

--by Adam Coulter, U.K. Editor