Always buy a package
Never ever think “oh, I’ll just use a few minutes.” Those “Pay As You Go” minutes cost a scary $0.75 each without a package, and the frenzy for maximum usage in minimum time leaves you wide open to make stupid mistakes.
Cunard offers onboard internet plans at prices standard on cruises:
· $47.95 for 120 minutes
· $89.95 for 240 minutes
· $167.95 for 480 minutes
Choosing a package has the doubly positive effect of saving you money and cutting you off from overspending.
Treat an internet session like a sprinting run
Just as you’d warm up before a run, so too must you prepare accordingly for an internet session, in order to keep the online minutes (and your bill) low. Drafting emails, making a to-do list of sites to visit or online tasks to accomplish, and making decisions on which photos to instagram or Facebook are all ways of warming up.
Log on and send those emails, check off those tasks, and push those social media updates and you’ll be surprised how little connection time you really need, in a pinch.
For a cool-down, log off and make a list of what to check next time (example: comments on that Facebook photo album you just made) and perhaps an approximate time when it would be best. After breakfast and before dinner are our own favorite times to sit by a window and take care of online tasks.
Above: You're definitely going to want to log on to share sunset photos
Save up those onboard credits
Oftentimes cruise lines will offer a little extra incentive of onboard spending credit if you, for example, book during a sale or choose a certain stateroom level. Cunard is typically generous with credit if you book your next voyage while already on one. Onboard credit is a big deal, and you’ll want to squeeze as much of it out of your booking as possible. Credits usually average $200 - $400 per stateroom, and the assumption is that’s going to be drunk away at the ship’s many bars.
Here you have to make a choice: the internet or booze? Okay, you can have both, which is why we advocate looking for cruise specials with large onboard credit bonuses. Still, a $400 credit could get you approximately 24 hours of internet usage. Considering that’s all usable time, 24 hours of internet for a 7-day cruise means a healthy 3.5 hours online every day.
Choose a cruise with complimentary internet
With internet prices as high as they are, finding a cruise that offers connectivity for free may seem like a pipe dream. Mercifully, complimentary WiFi is slowly coming onboard cruise ships, and one of the first to pioneer this is Viking River Cruises, whose longships sail rivers around the world and yet somehow still manage to offer ship-wide WiFi free to all passengers. We’ve even used it ourselves and can vouch for its ease of connection and speed.
Another alternative is to book your cruise with an agent or deal promising free WiFi. Recently Onboard.com offered, in and amongst many featured deals, a complimentary onboard internet package if you booked a Royal Caribbean cruise through them. That deal has expired, but who's to say it'll never return?
Hopefully someday soon, more ships will understand that it’s only to their advantage to include free WiFi in the onboard amenities list.
Work your way up the loyalty chain
Just as high-tier members of an airline’s frequent flyer program receive upgrades and other little “thank yous” for their business, so too do frequent cruisers enjoy perks. For example, members of Cunard’s World Club are gifted more and more onboard internet time the higher they climb the loyalty ladder.
Those levels are calculated by sailing days or number of voyages, whichever is more in your favor, and the numbers are cumulative (as in they don't reset every year like airline programs). Taking two Cunard voyages is Gold level, which already includes 2 free hours of WiFi. The tier to aim for is Diamond (15 voyages or 150 nights), which rewards Cunard-happy cruisers with 8 free hours of onboard internet per voyage.
Have any cruise WiFi tips of your own to share? Please do!
Above: yes, a ship-wide WiFi signal typically stretches to your verandah
We sailed as guest of Cunard, but all photos and opinions here are completely our own.
[Photos: Cynthia Drescher]