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June 22, 2009

For tech-savvy cruisers, it's easier than ever to stay connected

Phone connectivity, Internet access and Wi-Fi wireless capabilities now standard on most cruise ships


Today's tech-savvy cruisers may bring their toys with them to easily stay connected with the mainland on their next sea vacation. Much like the great food, accommodations, entertainment and leisure options on cruises, amenities such as personal cell phone connectivity, Wi-Fi hotspots and Internet Cafes are now standard fare. Some cruise lines even provide wireless Internet connections from bow to stern in all staterooms.

The following provides a snapshot of the state of mobile phone/wireless device connectivity and Internet access on several of the world's most popular cruise lines:

Azamara

An advanced roaming network provided by Cingular Wireless Maritime Service enables Azamara guests to make and receive calls even at sea, using one's own mobile phone. Charges are conveniently billed to the user via the home cellular network. Guests also can access the Web in the Internet Cafe, open 24 hours. Users pay 65 cents a minute, or they can purchase blocks of discounted time for as little as 38 cents per minute.

Carnival Cruise Line

Cell phone service is available on all Carnival ships. The service is activated at sea, enabling guests to make and receive cell calls, send and receive text messages, view emails and brose the Internet. International roaming rates apply, set and billed by one's home carrier. In addition to a 24-hour Internet Cafe on all ships, Carnival offers wireless Internet access. It is either limited to the cafe and select public areas, or available bow to stern, depending on the ship. The network also supports the latest Wi-Fi enabled i-Phones, Palm Pilots and Blackberry devices. Guests can access their own e-mail accounts via the Internet, or have the option of using a temporary e-mail address through Cruise E-mail.

Celebrity

Cingular Wireless Maritime Service also has an agreement with Celebrity, allowing use of one's own mobile phone and number to make calls at sea. Charges are conveniently billed to the guest's home network. Internet access is available 24/7 in the ship's Internet Cafe. Users pay 65 cents a minute, or they can purchase blocks of discounted time for as little as 38 cents per minute.

Crystal Cruises

Crystal has teamed with SeaMobile to provide its guests with the ability to make and receive calls via their mobile phones and other wireless devices. One can send text messages, too, if the guest already has such a service. Charges are billed by the home service provider. Guests on Crystal ships receive their own e-mail address printed on their cruise tickets and the line's private e-mail system sends/receives messages for a fee. They also can access their own e-mail via the Web in each ship's Internet Cafe, open 24/7.

Disney Cruise Line

Disney's Cellular at Sea service enables guests to make and receive calls and text messages on their mobile phones once their ships are about 12 miles out at sea. It works with most phone service carriers. Pricing varies by carrier and includes international roaming charges. Both the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder have Internet Cafes and laptop users have Wi-Fi access to the Web at ten convenient locations around each ship.

Holland America

SeaMobile has an agreement with Holland America to provide guests with the ability to use their own mobile phones and other wireless devices to make calls to and from fellow travelers and people on land. Text messaging also is available for phones with this capability. All SeaMobile network charges are billed on the regular carrier's invoice. The Explorations Cafe or Internet Cafe located on Holland Ships provide 24/7 access to the Internet. There also are wireless connection hotspots around the ships. For a fee, the cruise line can set up one's own cruise e-mail account.

Norwegian Cruise Line

NCL guests can use their personal cell phones onboard the cruise line's ships. In addition, all NCL ships feature 24/7 Internet Cafes, as well as Wi-Fi hot spots in most public areas and some staterooms. NCL offers several Internet minute package plans. All guests are provided special Cruise E-mail addresses.

Princess Cruises

An advanced cellular network onboard Princess ships allows guests to make and receive calls using mobile phones, provided a phone provider has a roaming agreement with Maritime Communications Partner. A phone must also be able to roam internationally. Charges are billed by the mobile phone provider. The cruise line offers Internet access on all of its ships via Internet Cafes and Wi-Fi networks.

Regent Seven Seas

Regent guests can use their mobile phones at sea in select areas of the ships thanks to an agreement with Wireless Maritime Services. Not only can they make and receive calls, but test messaging is available on compatible GSM devices. International roaming charges are billed through one's service provider. Computer centers with Internet access are centrally located on each Regent ship. Guests are charged a nominal fee for use of the terminals to surf the Web, as well as sending or receiving e-mails via the computers. Wi-Fi hot spots are found in select public areas. On select ships, computers can be connected to modem Internet service.

Royal Caribbean International

All Royal Caribbean ships provide mobile phone service for guests, with international roaming charges billed via your service provider. In addition to Internet Cafes, people may also use their personal laptops to connect with the Internet in their staterooms. All of the ships have Wi-Fi access hot spots in select public areas. The line's newer vessels s have Wi-Fi capability throughout the ships. There is a nominal fee for Internet access.

Yachts of Seabourn

The fleet of luxury ships features an onboard GSM mobile phone network that enables guests to send and receive calls on their own mobile phones, with applicable service charges. People can visit the computer centers on each vessel 24 hours a day to browse the Internet, or send and receive e-mails. Wi-Fi access also is available in most suites and public areas.

Silversea Cruises

Silversea guests can use their own mobile phones, laptop computer and other wireless devices to make and receive calls, connecting to voice and data services through their home carriers. Charges appear on one's regular wireless service billing statement. All ships have 24-hour Internet Cafes with Web access and e-mail capabilities. One must buy time; four packages are available. In addition to lounge hot spots, Silversea ships now have Wi-Fi access in all suites.

It should be noted that advanced satellite technology also has made direct ship-to-shore communications from staterooms (and vice versa) easier, but still somewhat expensive. It is not uncommon for such calls to cost $8-$10 per minute more if an inbound call originates outside of the United States. Charges are billed to the stateroom or a credit card, depending on the cruise line. These rates are subject to change without notice and the connection depends on satellite availability.

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