Connected cruising: Remote work options when you just can't stay away

It's always best to disconnect and recharge while on a vacation but sometimes you need to get a bit of work done. There are connectivity options on all major cruise lines with today's speeds fast enough to get you back into the sun in no time.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer
Image: Royal Caribbean

Our family enjoys cruising where you can enjoy elegant dinners each evening, spend a few days in foreign ports, relaxing by the pool, and get away for a week or more. However, sometimes I need to get work done and on today's modern ships there are multiple connectivity options for both work and play.

This spring I was on a cruise vacation to the southern Caribbean on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas and with five family members we purchased a two device Voom plan to stay in touch. I also used it a couple of times to check in on important work issues that I just couldn't leave behind.

Major cruise lines today offer connectivity options through satellite internet systems. My personal experience has only been with Royal Caribbean, but other cruise lines offer similar service options.

  • Royal Caribbean: Royal's Voom service is offered in two flavors; surf option for $12.99/day and surf+stream option for $17.99/day. Additional devices are priced at $11.99/day for the second device and for four devices the price drops to $9.99/day for each device. These are prices for the entire voyage, but you will also likely be offered special deals as you set up your online cruise account prior to departure. You can also buy a day pass for $19.99.
  • Carnival: There are three tiers offered by Carnival, including social for just $6.80/day, value for $10.20/day, and premium for $14.45/day for advanced purchase. On the ships, these prices are $8, $12, and $17, respectively. Value offers the same services as social, just at faster speeds. In order to use Skype, you need the premium plan. None support streaming media, but some ships are Netflix-enabled.
  • Norwegian: The social media unlimited plan is $12.50/day (advanced purchase) or $14.99 (on-board) per device per day. No email or web browsing is supported with the social media plan. Two unlimited Wi-Fi plans are offered at $25.50/day and $29.50/day (advanced purchase). The premium package supports streaming media and VPN access to help you get secure work done.
  • Princess: Select Princess ships offer MedallionNet with many ships being added in 2019. Service plans start at $9.99/day with a 10 percent discount if purchased in advance.

Royal Caribbean's higher priced tier is needed for video chat and streaming movies, shows, and music. I did not purchase or test this option since I was trying to stay as disconnected as possible.

On our last cruise I discovered ways to use multiple devices with a single device package purchase. Most of these connected services are sold on a per device basis, but there are ways to switch devices too.

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If you are traveling on Royal Caribbean with Voom, you are given an access code specific for one device to log into the service. Put your device into airplane mode, turn on Wi-Fi, then enter the access code to launch the internet. If you want to switch from a phone to a computer or to another phone, then simply visit logoff.com and the activated device will be disconnected. Enter the access code on your other device and off you go.

Our family of five was able to use the two device plan with two groups splitting up for different activities. We used Facebook Messenger to stay in touch and coordinate meet-ups throughout the day. These modern cruise ships are so large that it is tough to just wander around and bump into each other randomly so having some method for staying in touch is valuable.

We were also able to use T-Mobile's Wi-Fi Calling service with Royal's internet plan, but some cruise lines limit this on the least expensive plans. Apple's iMessage also worked on iPhones through the Royal internet plan, but again this may be limited on some plans so check out the fine print.

While in port and wandering around the various countries, you may also want to stay connected with family and friends. We have been T-Mobile subscribers for nearly 20 years and are able to get connected in more than 150 countries around the world. On this particular cruise, we had service in each port. Data would often drop to 3G speeds, but was free. Calls were 25 cents a minute, but we just made our calls through Facebook Messenger. Check your carrier for international travel allowances.

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