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March 3, 2008 2:23 PM   Subscribe

What's it like to use the Internet on my laptop on a cruise ship?

I'm leaving Saturday on a Holland America cruise. This website talks about the wifi in parts of the ship for a fee, or some computer room with pc's on the Internet for a fee. Also rooms have "dial up" available. So a few questions...

I am bringing my laptop with, for copying my digital photos off the camera, itunes, etc.

I'd also like to check email -- I use gmail so that should be fine. If it costs too much I'll probably wait until we are at one of the ports.

On my my last vacation, I uploaded photos daily to flickr. Higher bandwidth than email or browsing the www... is that possible from the rooms on this "dial up"?

Is the dial up really DIAL UP? As in, do I need an ISP with a dial up account or is there something on the ship they let you use?

Another site says "direct dial to your Internet access provider through your laptop is very expensive possibly at $10 + per minute." - so maybe I should just upload to flickr at port?

So what's my real question? I guess I'd like to know details about your experiences using your laptop on a cruise ship - bonus points if it's Holland America!
posted by thilmony to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
I used the Internet on a cruise ship (not Holland America) in and around Norway and Iceland in the summer of 2007. I had some success but also experienced some frustrations.

There was a computer room near reception that was a bit like a fancier version of a university computer lab in the 1990s (which is the last time I was in one!). It had PCs in it, for which you got a login for a fee (the per-minute charge was not negligible, but I didn't think it was awful). There was also WiFi in parts of the ship - which worked with the same login as the PCs.

Everything depended on the strength of the ship's signal, which varied with location, weather, etc. Sometimes there was nothing at all, and sometimes the connection was pretty good. I don't recall ever having a connection as fast as my home broadband connection, though. I had much better luck with the ship's PCs than with the WiFi, probably because the WiFi just added another variable to the mix. I gave up on uploading to Flickr, though I managed to log into Flickr on the WiFi to show the relatives with whom I was traveling some of my photos. That being said, I managed fine with Gmail and my domain's webmail, and did managed to buy theatre tickets and read news online.

Had I not been with relatives, I probably would have taken my laptop to shore once or twice and tried to go online in a cafe. I was certainly tempted to do so.

One final note: in the evenings after leaving port, the computer room was REALLY crowded. I had much better luck at 1 or 2 a.m. (but then again, I don't sleep much).
posted by sueinnyc at 2:41 PM on March 3, 2008

I used the Internet in the Internet cafe on a Carnival ship in December.

They said it was high speed, but it was agonizingly slow. It was so slow that whenever I wanted to check email I would have a cocktail or two until the urge passed.

There was also wifi, but I never used it.

As for the cost, it wasn't teribly expensive. I bought a prepaid card and the cost per minute went down if you purchased a package with more minutes. However, because the Internet was so slow, I didn't use all my minutes and the money spent was kind of a waste.
posted by Sheppagus at 2:51 PM on March 3, 2008

We took the Queen Mary 2 to New York in 2005, and the ship had WiFi in many of the public areas. Not super speedy, perhaps 2MBs or so, reliable for pix and text (we posted stuff several times a day in our blog), but expensive!

They also had internet cafes with dedicated PCs, and you could use a dial up connection to the ships upstream link while in your room. Seemed ok at the time, but bloody dear compared to "usual" rates...of course not considering the miracle of using the internet while 1,000 plus miles out to sea.
posted by Mutant at 3:27 PM on March 3, 2008

Best answer: Upload in port. My wife and I did a cruise in January (Royal Caribbean), and the ship charged ~$0.50/minute for connect time. The Internet cafe we stopped at in Cozumel charged $2/hour.
posted by fings at 4:03 PM on March 3, 2008

I used the internet on a cruise ship last month- not Holland America. Basically, here's the situation: you will see some neat looking devices on the top deck- if your ship is anything like mine (which seems to be standard equipment) it has its own cell tower, radar, etc.

But you're bouncing through a number of things to get internet access. Plan for it to be not only quite expensive (0.35/min in my case, though you could buy unlimited for $100/cruise) but also rather slow as it moves.

Instead, why don't you take fings advice and upload in an internet cafe in port? Bring a usb drive so you can just slip it in your pocket for shore excursions- finding an internet cafe may turn into an adventure, too!
posted by arnicae at 5:41 PM on March 3, 2008

Yep, the wife and I did a cruise for the honeymoon, and my impression of the internet access was a) slow and b) expensive!

When I say expensive, I mean expensive.. I think we spent more on net access than we did on drinks (okay, maybe not, but close) and we would have used a total of 2 - 3 hours for the whole trip (they charge by the minute, or sell you a 15 minute prepaid card for some ridiculous price!)

I took my laptop as well, and it was good for wifi in the computer room, but I didn't have much luck on other parts of the ship.. Still worth taking the laptop though, because the computer room does get busy, and it's nice to be able to just find a seat and get on the net...
posted by ranglin at 6:44 PM on March 3, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone!
posted by thilmony at 3:22 PM on March 4, 2008

Late entry. I just got home from a Holland America cruise this Sunday. They have wifi hotspots all over the ship but I was able to get it in my room. If you can't get it in your room, they have an Internet cafe on the 3rd Floor that let's you connect to the internet.

I can verify that it's relatively slow. I wouldn't recommend downloading anything you don't have to have. Because it is expensive.

You can buy packages and they run $100 for 250 minutes (.25 cents a minute) or $55 for 100 minutes (.55 cents /minute). I believe that was what they were quoting.

The best plan is to download all the e-mail or things you need, disconnect review and the log-on to respond. Otherwise you forget how much you are surfing and such and wham, there goes your vacation money!

Have fun and if you are going to the Mexican Riveria - I can give you some pretty recent recommendations on Spa personnel and trips.
posted by free2bme at 4:17 PM on March 4, 2008

For anyone coming across this in a search, one additional suggestion: Only go online in the middle of the night, when most people are asleep or partying. The bandwidth is typically less than 512k for the ENTIRE ship.

And yes, I strongly agree with both seeking land-based internet (if it's a small port that doesn't have obvious internet cafes, ask an officer or crewmember, they will know because they try to avoid the ship's connection too), and bringing a laptop and only going online to synch your email.
posted by CruiseSavvy at 3:14 PM on March 26, 2008

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