Cruise Line Implements Starlink, but It Won’t Be Free

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Lindblad Expeditions has announced the phased implementation of SpaceX’s Starlink broadband internet across its entire fleet by year’s end. The cruise line is also set to unveil three new tiered internet packages that will ensure that guests, regardless of their digital needs, can stay connected while cruising to remote corners of the globe. 

Access to the higher speeds will be restricted to a paid internet package, while the basic free package will provide access to low-bandwidth connections.

The decision highlights the broader trend within the cruise industry of improving onboard internet services, even in the most challenging of maritime environments.

Providing Connectivity in Remote Locations

The implementation of Starlink, SpaceX’s high-speed, low-latency broadband internet, signifies a significant enhancement in Lindblad Expeditions‘ onboard services. The cruise line, known for its voyages to off-the-beaten-path destinations, aims to allow passengers to remain connected with family, friends, and colleagues during their travels.

“Our goal has always been to help connect our guests with the off-the-beaten-path destinations around the world, and now, with Starlink, we can help them stay connected with their family, friends, and colleagues back home,” said Noah Brodsky, Chief Commercial Officer, Lindblad Expeditions. 

“Starlink will enable up to 10 times faster download speeds over our existing service and enhanced streaming capabilities with full coverage throughout some of our most remote itineraries, like Antarctica, the Canadian Arctic, Svalbard, and Alaska.”

Lindblad Vessel
Photo Credit: Arild Lilleboe / Shutterstock

Besides being good news for guests sailing onboard the Lindblad ships in all corners of our planet, the increased internet speeds are good news for Lindblad’s scientific work, as naturalists, conservationists, expedition leaders, and researchers will be able to work with improved data transmission capabilities.

”This enhanced connectivity will also enable even more meaningful research and conservation work for our naturalists, expedition leaders, and the researchers in our Visiting Scientist Program,” Brodsky stated.

Currently, the high-speed internet service is available on the National Geographic Venture, National Geographic Quest, National Geographic Sea Bird, National Geographic Sea Lion, National Geographic Explorer, National Geographic Endurance, and National Geographic Resolution. Other ships will be outfitted by the end of the year.

With the Starlink rollout, Lindblad Expeditions plans to unveil three new tiered internet packages. The “Basic” tier will allow guests to send messages and have restricted access to social media, while the “Enhanced” tier supports general web browsing and video calls. 

For guests requiring unrestricted digital access, the “Premium” tier provides unlimited web, social media, and streaming access.

Starlink’s low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite technology has emerged as a game-changer for providing internet capabilities at sea. This is particularly beneficial for cruise lines like Lindblad Expeditions operating in remote areas where traditional internet connectivity has often been subpar or non-existent.

Promising peak download speeds of up to 350 Mbps, with expected speeds ranging between 50-200 Mbps, it provides a connectivity experience comparable to land-based broadband services. The upload speeds vary between 10-40 Mbps, which can even accommodate high-resolution live streaming.

Royal Caribbean Starlink
Photo Courtesy: Royal Caribbean / Celebrity Cruises

Moreover, Starlink is celebrated for its reduced latency, with an average latency of around 99ms. Latency refers to the delay between when information is sent from a device and when another device receives it. A lower latency provides smoother video calls and more responsive online interactions. 

The enhancements seen with Starlink will be a massive change for guests aboard equipped ships, whether they want to share real-time high-quality videos and images of their travels, keep in touch with loved ones, or even attend virtual meetings on holiday.

However, cruise lines can limit the level of access guests have, such as being done by Lindblad. While the connection will be there, it could mean significantly lower speeds than advertised by Starlink. It is one aspect that several people have commented about while sailing onboard ships equipped with Starlink.

Lindblad Expeditions is one of many cruise lines that have adopted Starlink. SeaDream Yacht Club, Hurtigruten, American Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, and Windstar Cruises, among others – have all announced a move to the new internet service. 

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