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Starlink Internet could be coming to Royal Caribbean


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11 hours ago, Moby Dick said:

Just looked at their availability map and it doesn't make sense to me.  I guess it does if the intent is for the rural areas to get it first.  But, there are a lot of major metropolitan areas that don't have service, yet.  I would think that at start-up they would concentrate where the masses and money is to help pay for the expansion.  But, my name isn't Musk.  

It probably has something to do with the current constellation size, how many subscribers each satellite can handle, and the links between satellites and the ground. By keeping subscriptions limited to rural areas, Starlink reduces the amount of users per satellite, so service quality stays higher per subscriber, and basically gets their customers to test their network over a larger area.

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Boarding Mariner yesterday we were treated to a SpaceX launch putting another 53 Starlink satellites into orbit.  The launch was at 10:20am just 10 minutes before my assigned check in time so I watched the launch from the terminal 5 parking garage in Port Canaveral.

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Today I was walking around Mariner and visited the deck 13 mini golf area.  I noticed there are now a set of four poles outside the glass in an area close to where the Starlink antennas were placed on Freedom for the Starlink test on that ship.

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I don't know for certain these will be used for Starlink antennas but there is that potential.  Only time will tell what these will be used for.

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  • 1 month later...

Starlink Maritime Coverage Map

https://api.starlink.com/public-files/maritime-coverage-map.pdf

maritime-coverage-map.pdf

Putting this here as a snapshot in time so we can come back in Q4 2022 and Q1 2023 to see how progress has been made.

At the moment each Starlink satellite requires a connection to a ground station to relay the internet to a ship.  Starlink satellites do not have satellite-to-satellite communication enabled right now.  This limits the maritime reach to the light blue areas close to land displayed in the maritime coverage map right now mid-2022.

For a Starlink satellite that is moving across the middle of an ocean there is no land station within reach.  If a ship that was Starlink enabled was away from land (beyond the light blue areas in the map) there would be no internet available even when Starlink satellites were overhead because those Starlink satellites can't connect back to land right now.

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To overcome this coverage limitation the plan is to enable Starlink satellites to communicate to other Starlink satellites in the near future.  By relaying signals through other Starlink satellites, isolated satellites away from land will become "connected" back to land. 

Satellite-to-satellite communication will use lasers.  Once that feature has been enabled Starlink satellites will form a mesh or spider web like infrastructure that will dramatically change the nature of Starlink internet connectivity.

This is where Starlink becomes controversial. 

Since Starlink satellites are in low earth orbit they are relatively close to earth compared to most other satellites that have been used for satellite internet to date.    The lower orbit requires many more Starlink satellites to cover broad areas such as all of the United States or any other large area like all of Europe or Australia or any land mass.  There are currently over 3,000 Starlink satellites flying through the skies at present but that number is expected to grow to 15,000 over the next few years and ultimately to 30,000.  That large number will be required to support the ever growing number of Starlink internet users.

Starlink satellites reflect light in space so they become visible to astronomers who study the night sky from land.  In the night images that earth based astronomers use to study space those images are polluted with Starlink satellites flying through the images as they are captured.  This effect is occurring now with just 3,000 Starlink satellites.  

To minimize this disturbance newer Starlink satellites have been fitted with light shields that minimize reflecting any light in space so they interfere less with astronomers.  The problem for satellite-to-satellite communication is that these light shields block the lasers used for satellite-to-satellite networking. 

Once Starlink lowers the light shields in Q4 2022 coverage for maritime users will greatly expand while astronomers will encounter thousands more Starlink satellites polluting their images.  With the number of Starlink satellites more than quadrupling soon the impact to astronomers will become even more significant soon.

In our race to be internet connected we will forever lose our views of the night skies as we have known them.  

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13 hours ago, Cruisingmama said:

Long story short, any news on Starlink launching on RCCL fleetwide - and is it still used on the Freedom? Inquiring minds want to know 🙃

Starlink doesn't work once you sail far from land so it isn't capable of supporting cruise ships in the middle of oceans right now. 

The Freedom trial worked because current Starlink marine coverage goes a couple hundred miles from land which just happens to include CocoCay and Nassau right now.  For any other itineraries beyond short Florida cruises Starlink isn't a viable ship technology today.  

Starlink is projecting that marine coverage will expand in Q1 of 2023.  If they achieve that goal then can cruise lines consider it as an option and then they can look at their contracts with existing providers to begin planning a migration over the next few years.

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3 hours ago, twangster said:

Starlink doesn't work once you sail far from land so it isn't capable of supporting cruise ships in the middle of oceans right now. 

The Freedom trial worked because current Starlink marine coverage goes a couple hundred miles from land which just happens to include CocoCay and Nassau right now.  For any other itineraries beyond short Florida cruises Starlink isn't a viable ship technology today.  

Starlink is projecting that marine coverage will expand in Q1 of 2023.  If they achieve that goal then can cruise lines consider it as an option and then they can look at their contracts with existing providers to begin planning a migration over the next few years.

interesting. Thanks. What about Northeast to Bahamas itinerary. Are the ships that far out for it not to be viable? 

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48 minutes ago, Cruisingmama said:

interesting. Thanks. What about Northeast to Bahamas itinerary. Are the ships that far out for it not to be viable? 

It might have coverage some of the time.  To put it bluntly Starlink isn't ready yet, particularly for the marine service.  They are building it with subscribers signed up and paying for it but Starlink isn't fully operational yet.  They are selling service like it is and there are many customer complaints about the service.  People who in rural areas have few other options so they are forced to live with the service limitations.  It can suck some days but it's better than the alternatives in rural areas so people put up with it.  

Estimates are they need well over 10,000 satellites to do this properly.  Right now they have around 3,000 in the sky.  Ultimately they plan to have over 30,000 satellites in the sky.

It's one thing for a consumer in rural America to put up with the variable service experienced today, good at times, terrible at times, but a cruise line or any commercial user needs it good all of the time.  

By the middle of next year there will be hundreds more satellites in the sky.  By that time they will hopefully enable features to increase coverage, lower latency and overcome some of the service issues experienced today.  We won't know if they'll meet their projected dates until we get there.

So for the moment it's too early for cruise lines to jump on it.    

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In the realm of Starlink news, yesterday T-Mobile and Starlink announced a partnership that could be a game changer for travelers including cruisers.

https://www.theverge.com/2022/8/25/23320722/spacex-starlink-t-mobile-satellite-internet-mobile-messaging

Skip to the 8:25 minute mark:

It will only be 2-4 Mbps so not exactly high speed.  Ironically that's right around what Voom Surf and Stream delivers today.

It won't be global at first so it doesn't impact cruise ships everywhere on earth, at least not at first.  It also won't do more than SMS and MMS at first when it goes into beta in 2023.  Think 2024 and beyond.  

If it comes to fruition it has the potential to be a game changer for basic connectivity.

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"Deployment of the Starlink technology across the fleet will begin immediately, leveraging the insights obtained from the trial onboard Freedom of the Seas, which has received a tremendous amount of positive feedback from guests and crew. The installation is slated to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2023."

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They can start with the ships that do short Florida itineraries.  Early 2023 that will include all of the Freedom class for example.  There is coverage for these ships now.  Then as Starlinks expands maritime coverage they can enable it on more ships. 

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7 hours ago, DunwoodyDad said:

Do we think this is replacing Surf/Stream?  Or is it a new service and price point?

That may depend on the contracts they have versus the coverage available from Starlink.

If existing contracts are heavily biased towards usage based charges versus base monthly charges they may be able to leave them in place during the transition knowing they can fallback to them.

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4 hours ago, twangster said:

The only remaining question I have is... how much will Royal charge? 

We know their costs will go down substantially but will they pass those saving on to guests or use it an opportunity to increase charges?

The best we can hope for is an improved service at the same price, there's no way Royal will reduce the price (hoping I'll be proved wrong), wouldn't be surprised to see the price increase.

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My main concern is not the price of the new Starlink program, but how it will impact the overall cruising experience for those who wish to be as disconnected from society and if you drink enough, reality. I cruise partially to escape from the bustle and constant monitoring from work and social media, and I will not be happy if this ends up with tons of people chatting all day on their phones with their loved ones on the Lido Deck about the details of their upcoming colonoscopy.

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34 minutes ago, Gadget Hackwrench said:

My main concern is not the price of the new Starlink program, but how it will impact the overall cruising experience for those who wish to be as disconnected from society and if you drink enough, reality. I cruise partially to escape from the bustle and constant monitoring from work and social media, and I will not be happy if this ends up with tons of people chatting all day on their phones with their loved ones on the Lido Deck about the details of their upcoming colonoscopy.

People are doing that now.  Phones are even more prevalent now that Royal has been trying to push the Royal app.  

Would you know if someone in the dining room is texting or reading the dining room menu on their phone?  Why is that any of your concern?  

Phones are here now and Royal is doing everything in their power to enable that.  If that's not appealing you may need to consider a different cruise line.  

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3 hours ago, twangster said:

People are doing that now.  Phones are even more prevalent now that Royal has been trying to push the Royal app.  

Would you know if someone in the dining room is texting or reading the dining room menu on their phone?  Why is that any of your concern?  

Phones are here now and Royal is doing everything in their power to enable that.  If that's not appealing you may need to consider a different cruise line.  

Agreed - and wasn't there just a thread yesterday about the Cruise Compass going digital too? Additionally, allthough the restaurants onboard still do offer paper menus, they also offer QR code - some restaurants here at home only have online menus unless you specifically ask. So sorry if it upsets you but I always have my phone with me. I use it for the app, I use it for photos, I use it to check on my elderly parents back home. I will not use it to discuss "my upcoming colonoscopy" in public however.

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Swapping Starlink for O3B/Speedcast isn't going to open cruising to a whole new group of people who would never cruise before.  

No one is saying..."OMG, they have Starlink, now we can cruise!" .

They are simply swapping one provider for another.  BTW - their existing provider works great!  ...On other cruise lines. 

It's not their provider that makes the internet suck on Royal ships, it is Royal that makes their internet suck.  The jury is still out if they will also make Starlink suck like they do O3b/Speedcast.  

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9 hours ago, Darrens said:

I was wondering if there was a list anywhere that had all of the Starlink installation dates for all of the Royal Caribbean Cruise lines ships.

That's not typically something Royal does specially when anything is done outside of dry docks.  

It will probably be a community driven data collection, meaning us.  

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The Royal app has become pretty useful which means I keep my phone with me.   We always get the internet packages so we can continue connectivity with the family.  I'm very curious to experience Star Link service first hand.  My previous experience with other other home satellite internet providers  was not impressive due to signal loss when there was precipitation.  Granted the ships can move out of the weather, so that should make things better.

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1 hour ago, cruisellama said:

The Royal app has become pretty useful which means I keep my phone with me.   We always get the internet packages so we can continue connectivity with the family.  I'm very curious to experience Star Link service first hand.  My previous experience with other other home satellite internet providers  was not impressive due to signal loss when there was precipitation.  Granted the ships can move out of the weather, so that should make things better.

If you already get the internet packages then you're used to satellite internet

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2 hours ago, smokeybandit said:

If you already get the internet packages then you're used to satellite internet

Yes, but SL satellites are in a lower orbit than legacy systems so wondering if its performance is noticably better.    I have noticed diminished performance with existing systems in heavy rain.  Curious if the lower orbit with  larger constellation overcomes the precipitation issue.   Of course, can only tell if we encounter heavy precipitation while using that system.  Will be a "qualitative" observation only.

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51 minutes ago, cruisellama said:

Yes, but SL satellites are in a lower orbit than legacy systems so wondering if its performance is noticably better.    I have noticed diminished performance with existing systems in heavy rain.  Curious if the lower orbit with  larger constellation overcomes the precipitation issue.   Of course, can only tell if we encounter heavy precipitation while using that system.  Will be a "qualitative" observation only.

Starlink users on land report rain outages.  While Starlink is lower at around 550km above the earth, that's still a long way for faint signals to travel and rain fade as it is called still impacts LEO constellations like Starlink.   

Initially and the reason they are starting on Indy is because that ship is within Starlink's current maritime coverage map.  The problem with the current approach is that an earth or ground station in Florida will need to downlink the signal. Even if the ship is under sunny skies if the Florida ground station has a thunderstorm moving through that can also create an outage.   

Also keep in mind the satellites are moving pretty fast.  A storm on the horizon will impact signals when the storm is in between the satellite and the ship.  It doesn't take a storm sitting on top of the ship to cause an outage.  Once more satellites are launched this can be mitigated by having multiple satellites to choose from.  Right now there aren't very many overhead a given cell on the earth's surface at the same.  

Starlink is in its infancy.  It has launched around 1/4 of the satellites it needs to do this properly.  It won't be perfect on day one.  Like a fine wine it will improve with age.  

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53 minutes ago, twangster said:

Starlink users on land report rain outages.  While Starlink is lower at around 550km above the earth, that's still a long way for faint signals to travel and rain fade as it is called still impacts LEO constellations like Starlink.   

Initially and the reason they are starting on Indy is because that ship is within Starlink's current maritime coverage map.  The problem with the current approach is that an earth or ground station in Florida will need to downlink the signal. Even if the ship is under sunny skies if the Florida ground station has a thunderstorm moving through that can also create an outage.   

Also keep in mind the satellites are moving pretty fast.  A storm on the horizon will impact signals when the storm is in between the satellite and the ship.  It doesn't take a storm sitting on top of the ship to cause an outage.  Once more satellites are launched this can be mitigated by having multiple satellites to choose from.  Right now there aren't very many overhead a given cell on the earth's surface at the same.  

Starlink is in its infancy.  It has launched around 1/4 of the satellites it needs to do this properly.  It won't be perfect on day one.  Like a fine wine it will improve with age.  

That's the kind of insight I was looking for.   I have some neighbors claiming SL can beat the weather (which I have problems believing; given the operating band.)

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To give you an idea of the satellites and how they are moving check out https://starlink.sx/ on a laptop or desktop.  It's too intensive for mobile devices or so it claims.  

This site isn't official but an individual effort.  You can overlay weather radar and by right mouse clicking set your location as if you were a Starlink subscriber and it will show you the satellites that would be involved with providing service as an simulation of real time.

In this example I chose the Berry islands very close to CocoCay as my "home" location.  It is near the bottom circled in the image below.  It shows the satellites that can been used from that location and the satellite's gateway back on land that the satellite would relay your internet to at that moment in time as it moves through the sky. 

The solid green line shows the one satellite I would be using at this moment in time and the dashed yellow line from that satellite shows the ground station that satellite is using to relay my signal to the internet.  The other "candidate" satellites that I could potentially use are shown as dashed green lines from my home location. 

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You'll quickly get an understanding how dynamic and complex Starlink is.  Since the satellites are moving pretty fast the still picture doesn't do it justice.

It also provides a chart of the satellites in your area, if they are in service and usable.  This is dynamic so this moment in time screenshot doesn't make a lot of sense unless you understand all of the dynamics involved.   Green is good.  Red is bad.  Yellow is on the bubble depending on the trajectory relative to your location.  

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Bottom line - Starlink is shared network with users near each other likely sharing bandwidth from one satellite overhead in a moment of time.   As more satellites are added obviously there will be more choices for each users home Starlink router to choose from and more bandwidth for users near each other.

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On 6/12/2022 at 5:29 AM, brycemo said:

Hardware is of little concern on the scale of a cruise ship - this is the company that just spend 1.2 Billion on their latest ship. Starlink likely will have cheaper ongoing costs, and without doubt would have a lower cost-per-usage considering the incredible (relative) download speeds Starlink is capable of. I would like to think the price would come down, but even if not, the value for money would be unparalleled by other cruise lines.

I really doubt RC will reduce the cost of internet access.  My opinion is they will raise the cost for access to "Super Voom!"

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Hi…new to the boards here.  I wondered if this Starlink thing is a done deal or if it’s still in a test phase.  Is it definitely happening?  I see there being a higher teir similar to Voom Surfing and Voom Surf and Stream.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being a higher tier, at least for a while to see if people are going to be pay for it.  

I was recently on Enchantment and I had no problems with texting, checking emails.  It wasn’t too slow at all. Much faster than in the past.  I’m sailing Allure next year and I have heard the Oasis class ships are faster.  I can’t see myself being sold on buying a higher, third tier if it comes out.

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Starlink is currently being installed on Independence OTS, I was out having a smoke last week in INDY, a RC employee was also there puffing away wearing a technology shirt, it happened to be the Project Manager for the Starlink installation on INDY.  Next in line is Allure OTS, I believe.

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9 hours ago, Coda_Sarah said:

Hi…new to the boards here.  I wondered if this Starlink thing is a done deal or if it’s still in a test phase.  Is it definitely happening?  I see there being a higher teir similar to Voom Surfing and Voom Surf and Stream.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being a higher tier, at least for a while to see if people are going to be pay for it.  

I was recently on Enchantment and I had no problems with texting, checking emails.  It wasn’t too slow at all. Much faster than in the past.  I’m sailing Allure next year and I have heard the Oasis class ships are faster.  I can’t see myself being sold on buying a higher, third tier if it comes out.

Welcome to the message boards.

Royal and Elon Musk have both made public statements that it is happening.  Actual contracts are never made public.

https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/2022/08/30/royal-caribbean-announces-it-will-add-elon-musks-starlink-internet-its-ships

They started adding new phased array antennas on Indy last week.  This is the type of antenna that Starlink uses.  While they don't have Starlink stickers identifying them it's a pretty safe assumption they are for Starlink.

https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/2022/09/02/spacexs-starlink-could-be-added-first-independence-of-the-seas

Enchantment was upgraded to O3b many years ago.  That is the newer satellite technology that Oasis and Quantum class use.  Enchantment is the only older ship that was updated to use O3b.  

Starlink currently has limited maritime coverage.  Indy currently services the short FL cruise segment staying within the Bahamas and coverage currently available with Starlink maritime service.  

Once Starlink expands the maritime coverage more ships will be able to use it in 2023.  

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