Question: Do you expect or want FREE internet on cruise ships or airplanes? Is it a good idea even?

René’s Points for Better Travel has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. René’s Points for Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our advertising policy, visit visit this page.

Do you want free WiFi onboard?

About one year ago today I, for the first time ever, sailed transatlantic and did so in the Haven on the Norwegian Epic – it was one of the best vacations I have ever had. The Epic is an amazing ship and the Haven was worth every penny.

I also enjoyed the internet speed on-board, when I used it, and had a promo for 250 free minutes. I ended up running just a tiny bit short and had to buy 30 minutes more the last few days of the cruise. Now that I am Platinum with NCL (as well as my wife) we each get another 30 minutes free as well. Depending on the length of the sailing I book going forward I could get about half an hour a day of free Internet – more than enough to simply check on things.

Not too bad – but do I really want this?

But NCL is now, for the 2020 Epic crossing as you see at the top of the post, offering free unlimited internet as a perk of buying an ocean view or higher cabin. Interesting. Now it is not their top Internet package so the speed is a bit restricted. Notice the plans

This Unlimited Wi-fi package gives you access to unlimited web surfing, email access (no VPN), social media access, all apps.
• This package does not allow streaming.
• Price displayed is per day use.
• Total cruise rate will be calculated based on the number of cruise days.
• Cruises of 13 days and longer will have a lower rate. Log In to My NCL for more details.
• Can be used only on one device at a time.

This Unlimited Premium Wi-fi package gives you access to unlimited web surfing, email access (including VPN), social media access, all apps.
• The package also gives you streaming options via YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Audible, Hulu etc.
• Price displayed is per day use. Total cruise rate will be calculated based on the number of cruise days.
• Cruises of 13 days and longer will have a lower rate.
• Log in to My NCL for more details.
• Can be used only on one device at a time.
• Please note that some on demand content may not available. Live streaming channels are based on your subscription package and location

Now all the plans limit you to one device at a time and the simple workaround for that is Connectify on my laptop but that only works well in the cabin. On deck I am pretty much stuck with the one device.

But now on to my question. Is this a smart idea for either cruise lines or for that matter airlines as Delta has also suggested that, one day, internet would be free onboard. Now in the NCL case it throttled speeds so as to not totally overwhelm the limited capacity. My guess is if Delta rolls out something free it also will be limited in speed. But even so, more and more users online will impact performance – not good.

Beyond that I get that folks want/need/crave internet connection no matter where they are. In the air I get staying productive unless on vacation then I want to unplug for a bit. And when it comes to my time on ships I really WANT to have down time from being totally wired. I have to freely admit that if I had unlimited, either slow or fast, connectivity onboard I would have a hard time not checking things on my device.

I guess I am conflicted that NCL is offering this as part of the package to get folks onboard. What do you think? – René



  1. I have always thought of Free Wi-Fi as a Win-Winn for both parties.

    For the consumer, it is convenience and often peace of mind. Useful perhaps to stay in touch with family and friends. For the business traveler it is a means to keep up on urgent matters while away.

    For the business itself (especially with the increasing surge in social media activity) it augments their marketing globally. Posting pictures of your amazing vacation (whether by plane, sea, train, camel, etc…) can only encourage others to investigate (and perhaps replicate) one’s own adventures.

    This it would be a smart move by all businesses to offer free Wi-Fi as costs and accessibility have come down dramatically over the years. Bandwidth and throughput may be immediate issues, but over time technology will address those barriers.

    As with anything, temperance is advised. We all have those friends (or family) whom we plan a dinner out somewhere only to see many glued to their cellphone screens during what should be personal interaction time! So, enjoy your flight, your cruise, your trek across Morocco…but remember to ‘smell the roses’; take time to actually experience the moment and don’t forget your loved ones!

  2. I think on a transocean sailing I would definitely want unlimited internet included in the rate. There are a lot of consecutive days at sea on those sailings and it can get a bit dull after a while, so it might be nice to be able to stream a show rather than be at the mercy of the onboard entertainment. But for most other cruises where you are pretty much docking somewhere almost every day, I wouldn’t find it necessary as I could quickly check on things at port when waiting in line to get back on the ship.

  3. Delta kinda did this with GoGo and free messaging onboard. It would be nice to have full Wi-Fi, but you also have lots of free opportunities with CNB Crystal Visa Infinite and Amex Platinum Business for free Wi-Fi. But yes – would be great for more like JetBlue does.

  4. Back in the day, most hotels used to charge for internet, now only some ultra high-end do.

    I think airlines should copy the model most hotels use today. Free throttled internet, and paid high speed. That way someone who just wants to check emails or whatever can do so free, those that want to do more intensive data can pay for it.

    No thoughts on cruises. Never done one, don’t ever expect to. Ever.

  5. Plenty of folks can not disconnect completely, even on vacation. Connectivity and internet access is really no longer a luxury but more a staple of daily life.
    Technology allows much better than airlines or cruise lines give us. Sure, it’s an up sell for them but I see it as just more Nicole and diming the Consumer. If you want my loyalty AND my traveling dollars, get your hand out of my pocket for every little thing. Treat me as a valued customer and they’ll vastly improve the chances at my loyalty and future business.

  6. I would appreciate free internet on planes. I don’t work on planes much bit that changed some thanks to the gogo passes from last year’s Chicago Seminar outing. Thanks again Rene for that! On international flights especially in a premium cabin internet should be included. I’ve been on some airlines where limited internet is included in business and first (Singapore and Qatar if memory serves offhand).

    Giving all passengers internet could save airlines money by eliminating the on-board magazines and duty free catalogs and other printed material (except safety cards) and could provide more advertising revenue because people may be more likely to look at the online materials. Getting rid of the printed materials in seat back pockets also gives passengers a tad more knee room. That is important as pitch continues to shrink.

  7. Dear Rene,

    First, I want to thank you for your blog. I have learned a lot about Delta’s FF program from your blog. Now, I want to reciprocate the favor.

    Obviously, you have been embracing the whole idea of being a frequent floater. This happens to be right up my alley. I have been cruising on Royal Caribbean since late 2009. Like everybody else, RCCL has a loyalty program called Crown and Anchor (C&A) program, which from all I have read and learned from other frequent floaters, it is far more superior in the industry. The highest tier for the C&A program is called Pinnacle; and I have been a Pinnacle since 2016. Since this post is about Free Internet at Sea, I can tell you that when you are a Pinnacle Member, you get FREE Surf and Stream internet for the whole cruise even if you book the least expensive room; and this is a lifetime perk. Their internet program is called VOOM, which uses the OB2 low orbit satellite technology. I am currently on a Transatlantic cruise as I am writing this comment. With Surf and Steam, I can stream from YouTube, NYC Channel 7 Eyewitness News, my SlingBox,…etc. Oh, did I say I can also use WIFI calling from my T-Mobile Samsung S7 to make phone calls, text, and video chat all for free? And, we all know how much cruise line charges on voice telephone calls! Also, when I am on their Oasis and Quantum class ship, I did a speedtest, it is running at a blazing 50mbps. I bring my own set top box and a HDMI cable on board so I can steam movies and oversea TV program.

  8. It could be a nice thing!! We were in the Sea of Japan and needed to try to check on our daughter and her Sitter when a hurricane came to our area!! could not get thru by phone so all we had was internet which at the time was horrid!! another time we were in Ireland and left 3 children home with 2 grandmom’s and a Nanny but 911 struck and could not get thru via phone…the only way was I-net and luckily our 12 year old was on it!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *