For many years, the internet onboard cruise ships has been either slow or very slow. To some, this was a blessing. To others, it has proven to be a serious issue, with some even deciding not to cruise precisely for this reason.
Princess Cruises made some inroads to faster internet onboard its MedallionClass ships, but Royal Caribbean might be taking it a few steps further. The company filed an FCC filing last week, looking to adopt SpaceX’s satellite internet system Starlink for its ships.
Superfast Internet Could Soon Be on Royal Caribbean Cruises
As late as 2007, when internet ashore had been a relatively normal thing, guests onboard cruise ships would be lucky if they could send an email from the vessel. Cruise companies have come a long way since then, with the service becoming increasingly available. However, the cost versus benefits leaves a lot to want.
For many, this has been a blessing in disguise. Disconnecting for a week or more is something for which many now pay good money. However, doing that on cruise ships could soon come to an end. At least for guests onboard Royal Caribbean Group ships.
Royal Caribbean Group mentioned a partnership with SpaceX Services, Inc in an FCC filing. It would mean that the cruise company intends to set up its vessels to connect to SpaceX’s satellites, making internet speeds of more than 100 Mbps a real possibility.
“Working with SpaceX Services, Inc., we believe we have identified a true next generation solution for our vessels that meets the rigorous technical and operational requirements commensurate with our growth plans,” the company said.
The problem that Royal Caribbean and SpaceX have now is that the US regulator has not granted permission to ships or planes to install the technology.
Internet Access Onboard Cruise Ships Outdated
That Royal Caribbean is exploring new options for the internet onboard doesn’t come as a surprise. For years, cruise companies have been behind on technological advances concerning internet connectivity.
This has become especially apparent in the last year or two. As more and more ships connected to the old satellite system, which operates in high orbit, connectivity and bandwidth went down for each user.
Add to this the increased need for safety systems to be connected, the use of cloud-based systems, and guests’ need to be connected; a faster connection is essential.
Royal Caribbean: “We continue to experience the same structural challenges and limitations in the satellite internet service provider industry that were present at the onset of the pandemic. The increase in marine vessel operations and the technology industry shift to cloud-based software solutions, has meant an increase in satellite internet service demand.”
“Yet the supply side of the satellite internet equation has suffered from attrition, bankruptcies, and consolidation. This challenging landscape has resulted in negative guest experiences onboard, with bandwidth constraints that have slowed our desired business advancements.”
Would Starlink be an Innovation Onboard?
Working with the technology that SpaceX/Starlink could bring to cruise ships could mean a massive advance in guest experience onboard. Currently, Princess Cruises operates some of the fastest internet connections onboard, with speeds of around 12Mbps; Starlink could surpass that speed tenfold.
With streaming websites, online activities and school, and work from anywhere becoming the norm for many, having superfast internet onboard would not just be a game-changer for Royal Caribbean. It would be a game-changer for the entire cruise industry.
“We believe our work with SpaceX, the first of its kind in the cruise industry will set the standard for other cruise operators and will mean a leap in terms of guest experience and business operations while at sea,” Royal Caribbean added.
While many will long for the good old days when the internet didn’t exist yet onboard, cruise companies will feel the need to evolve further. Not following Royal Caribbean’s example would be unthinkable for many, if not all, cruise companies.