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Ship to Shore Partnership Helps

Where there's a bajillion of something, there's a market to be tapped. There is, everyone would agree, a bajillion cell phones, and AT&T has combined with Royal Caribbean to tap into that market at sea.

Everybody who cruises knows how expensive communication is when you're on a ship. Poor Internet connections at 75 cents a minute can be the norm. For phone calls from a ship once it reaches international waters, it feels like somebody wants your first-born in return.

The tide is changing.

AT&T wants to convince its subscribers to spend more, and its non-subscribers into signing up. As a result, any AT&T subscriber can purchase a cell phone plan to use on Royal Caribbean ships for $30 a month. That entitles the user to 50 minutes of calling time from the ship. For $60 a month, you get 50 minutes of talk and 100 texts (or pictures or video). Double that to $120 to add 100MB of data.

Royal Caribbean wants happy passengers. Unhappy passengers can feel like they've been ripped off when phoning home from sea…and this goes for all cruise lines. Plus, there's remuneration for the cruise line when making a deal like this with a telephone company, so it's a profit center, maybe one that will encourage passengers who ordinarily would spend nothing on cels at sea.

But for the passenger, it's a reasonable expense, one that requires only a one-month minimum.

After all, on a one-week cruise many passengers spend $75 just for a week of soda.

Celebrity Infinity
11 nights
August 26, 2013
London (return): Paris, Guernsey, Cork, Waterford, DublinLiverpool, Glasgow
Inside: $1,019
Cost per day: $92


Internet Issue Bound To Change

Remember when…

Every time you checked into a hotel and asked about getting on the Internet, the hotel was happy to provide you with an ethernet cable to connect, for a price?

Remember when…

WiFi was available at airports, at a cost that bordered on the ridiculous?

Today, almost every hotel provides free WiFi, if not in the rooms then in the lobby. Today, the diminishing number of airports that charge to let you go online do so for what seems to be a more reasonable fee.

What about cruise ships?

Often vilified for charging an average around 75 cents a minute — cell phones are more (up to $6 a minute) — and that's almost always for slow and often interrupted connections, cruise lines are surely going to have to get with the program. For too long, they have justified what could be described as gouging their customers by pointing out the exorbitant infrastructure required to connect their moving objects with the satellites.

There's a story making the rounds this month about a service  that will result in phone calls from cruise ships for about $1 a minute. It's called Connect At Sea, from MTN, the company that provides most cruise ships with satellite transmission, and AT&T. The partnership is called Wireless Maritime Services.

A lot of tekkie talk is involved in the story. The bottom line is you'll have a better connection on your phone from a cruise ship, and it will cost about the same as roaming does on land. Anybody who uses Vonage (as we do) or some other VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) connection will be familiar with the quality.

Meanwhile, will realistic Internet prices be next?

The appetite for it is ravenous. Last week, our colleague Phil Reimer of Ports and Bows attended a press briefing about the first ocean ship for Viking River Cruises and when company owner Torstein Hagen said there would be no charge for Internet on his Viking Star, the applause was deafening.

It seems to be such a sore point with passengers that cruise lines would be better off to build their Internet profits into the price of a ticket. Unless, of course, their profits are even bigger than what we all imagine.

Holland America Zaandam
7 nights
June 16, 2013
Anchorage, Glacier Bay, Haines, Juneau, Ketchikan, Vancouver
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57

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