Free Wi-Fi On Cruise Ships for All? Not Yet, Panel Says

March 15, 2017
Cruise Connectivity Panel at SeaTrade 2017

(1 p.m. EDT) -- Free Wi-Fi for all cruise passengers is still a long way off, due to costs and technology, experts said.

That's the view from Reza Rasoulian, Carnival's head of Global Guest Connectivity. "Each of our brands have a slightly different approach," he said, speaking at a panel about onboard connectivity at Seatrade Cruise Global in Fort Lauderdale. "Princess and Seabourn, once you reach a certain loyalty level, you get free airtime.

"But to go to an absolutely different level I'd have to say: 'Hang in there!'"

Although hotels have increasingly made free Wi-Fi to guests, Rasoulian pointed out the upfront costs for cruise lines to install the same technology was significantly higher: "It's much more expensive, but everything is possible."

He added: "You also have to bear in mind the guest experience, I generally find when it's free is not as good because everyone is using it at the same time."

Panelist Tennyson LaJeunesse, owner of Redcell Technologies, urged lines to include passengers' onboard internet experience into customer feedback.

LaJeunesse also questioned whether the lines were catering for passenger needs: "Are we designing for capacity properly? The pool areas are a huge problem because the huge number of mobile devices are saturating the limited capacity."

Rasoulian said that's already happening and that passenger feedback had been the main driver for the improvements in onboard connectivity: "It's very important, and we to hear from our guests. A lot of that feedback led to our Wi-Fi at Sea Program, and we have had a phenomenal guest experience via that program."

--By Adam Coulter, Managing Editor UK