An internet detox may seem nice in theory, but these days it’s hard to disconnect even when you're on vacation. Cruise lines have made major strides in the past couple of years to meet passenger demand for internet access while are at sea. Many cruise ships now have Wi-Fi that is both fast and affordable, so you don’t have to worry about missing email, catching up on the news, or checking social media.
Large mainstream lines such as Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Lines, and Celebrity Cruises have invested millions of dollars to upgrade their systems and make staying connected at sea even easier for passengers. But even with all of the recent changes, you shouldn’t expect to see the same speeds as at home or in the office. With so many people sharing a signal, internet can be slow, especially at peak times like right before dinner, when everyone is back in their cabins to freshen up.
Most lines require that you purchase an internet package, with different levels of access available at different price levels (Disney Cruise Line is an exception, and charges passengers based on how much data they use). You’ll need to think about how much you actually want to be online while you are at sea (instead of, say, lounging by the pool), and what you want to do while you’re at it. Access to social media and basic websites is the least expensive option (around $5 to $10 a day). If you want to stream Netflix or Skype with your family back home, Carnival, Celebrity, and Royal Caribbean all offer packages that allow you to access high bandwidth sites for around $12 to $15 a day.
Many luxury lines, such as Regent Seven Seas and Seabourn, have complimentary Wi-Fi included in the fare. Viking Ocean also includes complimentary Wi-Fi for all passengers, as does Viking River Cruises. In fact, almost all major river lines — including AmaWaterways, Avalon, CroisiEurope, Emerald, Scenic, and Uniworld — offer complimentary internet access, but not on all itineraries. While ships in Europe might have good connectivity, if you are cruising in a more far-flung destination, like, say, the Amazon or the Mekong, you might not have internet at all. Aqua Expeditions has no internet access on Aria Amazon, for example, and there is no Wi-Fi on Viking River Cruises in China (though there are desktop computers that passengers can use for no extra charge).
If you are planning a trip with an expedition line, keep in mind that the connectivity can vary depending on the ship you choose. Lindblad’s ships only have Wi-Fi available in common areas at a rate of 40 to 75 cents a minute, and only National Geographic Endeavour and National Geographic Explorer have Wi-Fi in the staterooms. Un-Cruise Adventures only offers Wi-Fi on one ship — La Pinta, based in the Galápagos Islands. Though it is complimentary, it is very basic and only available in common areas (i.e., you won’t be surfing the web in your stateroom). Hurtigruten has Wi-Fi on all ships except MS Lofoten, but on some ships the service is complimentary while others have a per-day charge. And don't fear that you'll be completely disconnected from home: if your ship doesn’t have Wi-Fi, there is most likely a lounge or library with a computer where you can get online.