The cruise industry has always prided itself on being able to transport passengers away from the stresses of everyday life and into a world of comfort and leisure. Historically, communication with the outside world has not ranked highly on most passengers’ wish-lists. But the advent of viable mobile phone technology and wireless internet access onboard cruise liners means this is changing.

Many cruise lines are now introducing cellphone services for the convenience of passengers wanting to stay in touch with home or the office. WiFi is also being provided for the convenience of those passengers with laptop computers wishing to use the internet for work, play or to check emails.

Many cruise lines have had computer rooms onboard for a number of years, but the introduction of WiFi adds convenience and brings a new dimension to cruising. Now, a busy executive can easily stay in touch with work while his or her family enjoy all the benefits of a top-class cruise holiday.

PASSENGER DIFFERENCES

“Crew, who are away from loved ones for far longer than most guests, have welcomed the opportunity to stay in touch with home.”

On the other hand, there are those for whom mobile technology is an unwelcome intrusion on the peace and tranquillity of the cruise environment. Inevitably there will be guests who would prefer not have to hear a mobile phone ringing during their whale-watching session off Cape Horn. All of which leaves cruise lines with a dilemma. On a ship with several hundred or even a few thousand paying guests, how can you please all of the people all of the time?

One idea to have emerged is to make public areas into ‘quiet zones’. Perhaps fortunately, the steel construction of a ship means that there are natural blank spots where reception is poor. Ships are now beginning to be designed with this in mind – both as a means to protect the passengers who really do want to escape it all, and to maximise service quality for those seeking to keep in touch with people back home.

Of course, the technical aspects of running a mobile phone and internet service on a ship are complex. Even on land, making cross-border telephone calls requires a complicated legal framework governing the charges made between the different service providers handling the call. Drift out of the reach of established telecoms networks and into international waters, and it is time to bring in the specialists. Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Satellite technology means that it is possible to ensure coverage across the globe, but the ship needs its own network to access it, and this is only used outside of ports where passengers’ own mobile services may have international roaming agreements with local networks.

STATE BENEFITS

“Satellite technology means it is possible to ensure coverage across the globe, but the ship needs its own network.”

Passengers are not the only beneficiaries, however. Crew, who are away from loved ones for far longer than most guests, have welcomed the opportunity to stay in touch with home relatively simply. Systems are designed so that users pay direct to the service provider, meaning that the technology does not radically affect the price of the cruise to consumers, while call costs are an ongoing living expense for staff rather than complicating wage structures.

By embracing state-of-the-art technology, cruise companies are able to provide useful services to passengers and crew. As long as they still consider the needs of passengers who are less keen on the presence of mobile technology, it seems a winning formula. So, now it really is possible to get away from it all without completely falling off the radar both at home and work.