Visit our travel agent friends at MEI Travel

Royal Caribbean will not give away free Wi-Fi on its cruise ships, CEO says

09 Jul 2024
Calista Kiper

Why is the Wi-Fi on a cruise ship so expensive?

Royal Caribbean's VOOM WiFi comes at an extra cost, per device, per day.

When asked if the cruise line would ever give it away like land hotels, Michael Bayley, President and CEO of Royal Caribbean International explained why it's not the same thing.

Speaking during a Q&A during this year's President's Cruise on Oasis of the Seas, Mr. Bayley fielded questions from cruisers on a variety of topics.

President's Cruise 2024

In addition to celebrity performances, customized shore excursions, and exclusive parties, the President's Cruise also hosted a Q&A session. 

During the Q&A, Brad from Idaho asked why the WiFi on a Royal Caribbean cruise is so expensive.

"The standard seems to be worldwide—hotels, restaurants, everywhere you go has free WiFi. Is there any possibility of [Royal Caribbean] getting free WiFi in the future?"

Free WiFi won't happen because Royal Caribbean pays "a ton of money" for Internet coverage

Michael Bayley

Mr. Bayley was quick to answer that free WiFi isn't going to happen. 

"Are we going to give free WiFi? No."

However, there's a good reason as to why Royal Caribbean charges so much for Internet on its ships.

"We got to pay a ton, a ton, a ton of money for WiFi," Mr. Bayley said.

Starlink internet receivers on Freedom of the Seas

He took the cruiser's example of hotels and restaurants offering free Wi-Fi to explain why cruise ships aren't the same.

Any hotel or venue on land will be plugged into cable or phone line provided internet package that also services thousands or millions of consumers.

Wi-Fi on land relies on underground and undersea cables, which are faster and cheaper than satellites.

Countries like the United States invest lots of money into creating and maintaining the Internet infrastructure and have millions of customers to help support the cost.

Starlink receivers coming to Royal Caribbean

Given that large foundation and competition among providers, it makes sense that free WiFi is offered on land.

In contrast, "There is nothing for the oceans. We can't pull a cable with us." 

This means that ships in the ocean must rely on satellites that orbit Earth, a much slower and more expensive method of connection. 

Read more: Is Royal Caribbean WiFi worth it?

Essentially, Royal Caribbean has to enter into contracts with satellite tech companies, and this comes at a huge yearly cost.

"I sign the invoices when they come in [and] every time I see them I'm like, oh my God." Mr. Bayley said he cringes whenever he sees the yearly bill. 

He couldn't remember the exact amount the cruise line pays each year but reiterated that "it's huge."

Starlink satellites have slightly reduced costs

Starlink logo

Two years ago, Royal Caribbean began to contract with Elon Musk's SpaceX company to use Starlink satellites for Internet.

Starlink uses mid-level satellites to provide Internet coverage.

"Starlink is a much better technology," Michael Bayley said during the Q&A. "It gives you better coverage, it's much faster, and it is cheaper."

Michael Bayley

Starlink isn't a lot cheaper than other satellite networks, according to Mr. Bayley, but it is slightly cheaper, and certainly a lot faster.

The Starlink website currently lists a maritime business plan for larger vessels that starts at $1,000 a month. 

All Royal Caribbean cruise ships utilize Starlink internet service at this time.

Read more: I tried Elon Musk's Starlink internet on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship

Mr Bayley estimates another five or more years before Internet prices are reduced again, but cruisers cannot expect free Internet access onboard a Royal Caribbean ship.

How fast is the WiFi?

Voom desk

Given the cost of Internet onboard a Royal Caribbean ship, how well does it work?

The VOOM Internet is called the "faster Internet at sea," and is 6x faster than that on other cruise ships, according to Royal Caribbean's website.

However, factors like the number of guests online and the ship's location can influence the speed of the WiFi.

odyssey of the seas interior cabin TV and beds

Freedom, Oasis, Quantum, and Icon Class ships with newer satellite technology tend to have faster speeds.

However, Starlink will slow down if many users are in the same region.

In general, the older ships in the fleet use older technology, so while the Internet still works, it could take some time to load.

Even crew members have to pay for WiFi

Michael Bayley and Jason Liberty

Michael Bayley stressed that the Internet fee isn't an unfair price, but rather a "reasonable operating cost." 

Even Royal Caribbean crew members have to pay for WiFi, he said.

The cruise line does subsidize the prices, using different costs for crew members, but the crew is still required to pay.


"We do our best to make it as accessible as we possibly can," Mr. Bayley said.

Crew members are allowed cheaper prices and free periods of the Internet.

Much like guests get access to the Royal Caribbean app, crew members also get access to WhatsApp for free, so they can still stay in touch with family and friends.

Calista Kiper graduated from Wheaton College, IL, with a B.A. in English Writing. 

Growing up traveling around the world, she developed a passion for diversity and cross-cultural communication. From her first cruise on Wonder of the Seas, she has delighted in the intersection between travel, diversity, and writing in the cruising world.

Calista spends her free time reading, cooking, and researching the latest human-interest stories. 

Get our newsletter

Stay up-to-date with cruise news & advice

    We never share your information with third parties and will protect it in accordance with our Privacy Policy