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The best travel tech gadgets for a cruise ship vacation

In:
23 Sep 2022

What tech can you buy for your cruise vacation that will enhance your trip?

Couple using tablet in Europe

When I tried out Apple's AirTags on a recent Royal Caribbean cruise, it opened my eyes to how certain gadgets can make the experience better. Whether it's peace of mind like tracking luggage or just supplementing the fun you're having, there are plenty of gadgets and add-ons to assist.

Despite my overall geekiness, I'm the first person to be leery of bringing more tech for the sake of tech on a cruise. I try to keep the amount of bulk down, so if something is going to require additional baggage or more effort to bring onboard, it had better make a real difference.

Side of Royal Caribbean cruise ship

Please note that I linked to each item on Amazon which contains an affiliate link. This affiliate link costs you absolutely nothing extra, but I make a small commission if you purchase it.

With all of that in mind, here's my top picks for the best tech travel gadgets you should consider bringing on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Portable charger

Anker battery

For years I've brought a portable charger with me on a cruise to ensure my phone doesn't run out of power.

Because there's such a greater need for phones to be used on a cruise, battery drainage seems to occur more quickly than ever before. Even compared to at home, I find myself using my phone more often.

Part of the reason is Royal Caribbean's shift to making its app far more critical than pre-2020. The other aspect is simply enjoying being online while lounging at the pool, or staying in contact with friends and family.

Portable charger

With my oldest daughter reaching the age where she has the opportunity for limited "free roaming" during the day, staying in contact with her via text message also takes a hit on my phone's battery usage.

I've always been a fan of Anker's product line for its svelte design, reasonable prices, and durable quality. 

The Anker PowerCore 20 External Battery Pack provides enough power to charge an iPhone multiple times before it needs a charge.

Noise-cancelling headphones

Noise cancelling headphones

Before I ever got noise-cancelling headphones, I foolishly thought there wasn't that big of a difference compared to regular headphones. I especially did not think it mattered to have them on a cruise ship.

I was very wrong.

Not only are noise-cancelling headphones useful outside of an airplane, they make a tremendous difference in being able to enjoy "me time" onboard a ship.

Allure of the Seas

I really love putting them on when I'm on the pool deck so I can enjoy the breeze and sun while laying out in a lounger, without all the conversations, music, and noise you'd have to put up with around you.

Then of course there's the benefit these headphones have while travelling to and from your cruise. I just cannot imagine not having them these days.

For years, I've used and recommended the Sony WH-1000XM4 wireless noise-cancelling headphones for over-the-ear comfort and unbeatable noise cancellation.

I know a lot of other people that prefer the Apple AirPods Pro because they offer noise cancelling without the heft and size.

E-reader

Woman reading her kindle

When my wife told me she needed an e-reader in addition to her iPad, I didn't understand why until I saw the difference when we were on the pool deck.

If you're a reader, Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite is the best option to bring on a cruise so that you can read outdoors when the sun is shining overhead.

Outlet extender

I cannot imagine going on a cruise today without an outlet extender.

Even if you cruise solo, the lack of outlets in a cabin is quite annoying. I recently tried the appropriately named "Cruise ship power strip" by Cruise On and was quite happy with how well it worked.

Read moreI tried the best inside cruise ship cabin hacks to see how well they worked

It takes up one outlet space and offers 3 new outlets along with 2 USB plugs.

European travel adaptor

A few readers recommended getting an European Travel Plug Adapter instead or as well, since your cabin has those outlets too.

AirTags or Bluetooth tracker

AirTag

Another item I've converted over to using are AirTags in my luggage.

The AirTag is a small, button-shaped tracking device that can be tracked using Bluetooth right alongside Apple devices in the Find My app.

single AirTag will cost $29 and a 4-pack costs $99. If you have an Android phone, the Tile Pro costs $92.99.

AirTag directions

While AirTags aren't GPS trackers that provide precise location information, they work well-enough to have an idea where your luggage happens to be, especially if you're playing the "is my luggage on the cruise ship yet" game.

Just like noise-cancelling headphones, AirTags will benefit you beyond just the cruise.  Peace of mind that comes with being able to have an idea where your luggage is located is worth it.

Starlink added to first cruise ship since Royal Caribbean signed deal with SpaceX

In:
19 Sep 2022

It appears Starlink is up and running on at least one Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

Independence of the Seas as seen from tender

Royal Caribbean has not announced a roll out plan since posting the news that it has signed a deal with SpaceX to provide Starlink internet on all of its ships, but cruise fans have started noticing changes.

Over the last couple of weeks, teams across different Royal Caribbean cruise ships have been deployed to install Starlink.

It looks as though Independence of the Seas may be the first ship to get the proverbial switch turned on.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader Jeff Robinson noticed on the weekend sailing of Independence of the Seas that concluded on Monday the speed tests showed Starlink active.

Independence of the Seas is currently sailing 3- and 4-night short cruises to the Bahamas.

The plan is for every single cruise ship in the Royal Caribbean Group to get Starlink added by the end of the first quarter of 2023.

Other cruise guests have confirmed Starlink is being added on Enchantment, Liberty, and Allure of the Seas. Other ships could also be in the process of getting Starlink as well.

Speed tests from Independence of the Seas

With Starlink apparently active on Independence of the Seas, I was curious to see how well it performed.

I asked Mr. Robinson to conduct a couple of speed tests just to get some raw numbers. Keep in mind these tests were conducted on a cloudy day, which could impact speed results.

 

The most important number here is not actually the upload or download speed, but rather the latency.

The ping is the reaction time of your connection–how fast you get a response after you've sent out a request. Pre-Starlink, ping was usually quite bad, with times measured in the hundreds of milliseconds. A fast ping means a more responsive connection

The sub-100 ping is fantastic.  My cell phone test at home had a ping of 65 milliseconds, which is very close to the Starlink speed.

Allure of the Seas next?

As stated, Royal Caribbean has not released any kind of roll out schedule, so we're left to figure it out on our own when each ship might get Starlink.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader Michael Fenstermaker shared a report from onboard Allure of the Seas on Sunday, claiming the team there is nearly complete with their work.

"The Starlink team nearing completion of the antenna installation on the Allure of the Seas," Mr. Fenstermaker said in a tweet.

What you can do with Starlink

Starlink logo

The promise of better internet means better performance for everything you do online while on the ship.

Royal Caribbean says the new service will improve and enable more high-bandwidth activities like video streaming as well as activities like video calls.

Starlink is an interconnected internet network of thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit that SpaceX envisions will deliver high-speed internet anywhere on the planet. The company has launched about 2,700 satellites to date.

How much will wifi with Starlink cost?

ebook reader

Royal Caribbean has not announced any price changes yet to its wifi packages.

For the Independence of the Seas cruise, the internet package costs for guests were the same as before.

The cruise line has not confirmed or denied any updates are coming to wifi pricing.

When asked, a Royal Caribbean spokesperson said, "We plan to share details with guests, crew and travelers soon."

Spotted: Starlink being installed across multiple Royal Caribbean cruise ships

In:
13 Sep 2022

Royal Caribbean has not divulged when its new Starlink internet service will become available, but it's clear work is underway on a number of ships to install Starlink.

Starlink receivers coming to Royal Caribbean

Ever since Royal Caribbean announced it would switch its ship-based internet service to SpaceX's Starlink service last month, cruise fans have been eager to know when the service might begin.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reached out to Royal Caribbean for a schedule of when each ship would get the new service along with a start date for service, but the cruise line did not provide any such schedule.

A Royal Caribbean spokesperson did not provide a timeline other than saying, "the Starlink technology rollout will start immediately across all Royal Caribbean International ships."

Starlink logo

Royal Caribbean Group promised to get Starlink to ships across all three Royal Caribbean Group brands by the end of the first quarter of 2023.

In the meantime, cruise ship passengers are seeing Starlink installation crews around many ships laying the foundation for the new service to start up.

We reported at the beginning of September seeing Starlink added to Independence of the Seas, although the service has not yet become operational as of the writing of this article.

 

 

According to readers, more ships are getting work done with teams onboard.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader Michael Fenstermaker shared a photo from Allure of the Seas this week.

"There is a team of contractors aboard the Allure of the Seas planning the routing for the installation of cables to support the Starlink antennas," he said in his report.

Wayne Henderson is sailing on Enchantment of the Seas and also spotted a crew onboard.

"I'm currently on Enchantment in Halifax and they are installing the receivers on the forward section," Mr. Henderson said via email.

Over on Liberty of the Seas, Karen Fraser shared photos of the crew installing satellite receivers on that ship.

When will Starlink become available?

The short answer is no one really knows yet outside of Royal Caribbean when Starlink will become available on cruise ships, but the rumor mill has plenty of thoughts.

"They are already installed on the aft section and I was told it'll be operational in about 3 to 4 weeks," is what Mr. Henderson heard on Enchantment of the Seas.

Another reader, Jeff Robinson, is on Independence of the Seas and heard it will be a few more weeks, "Voom is on its last month of contract and when the month is over, Starlink."

Why Starlink on cruise ships matters

ebook reader

If having interenet access on a cruise vacation doesn't get you excited, you might be in the minority.

Just like anywhere on land, having reliable and fast internet access has become a way of life and not just for those looking to do some work while at sea.

Society has become more reliant than ever on having internet access, and on a cruise ship, the internet is the way to stay in contact with the outside world.

Social meda stock photo

Whether texting or calling family, checking on the latest updates on social media, or tracking sports, casual internet use is a major need for a lot of travelers.

And then there's the contingent of vacationers who do have a need to keep up with work while on vacation, or prefer to work remotely from somewhere else.

Up until now, Royal Caribbean's internet service had been hit or miss, depending on the ship you sailed on and the region of the world you visited. All but the newest ships had mediocre to poor internet speeds, and even the new ship internet access was generally slower than internet access on land.

What can guests expect?

Starlink internet receivers on Freedom of the Seas

Royal Caribbean did not divulge technical details about the Starlink service onboard, such as what kind of speeds guests can expect or how much bandwidth each ship will receive. 

They did say passengers should expect to use streaming services and make video calls once deployed.

Another big question is price.

Starlink on Royal Caribbean

No pricing has been shared for Starlink, and it remains unknown what price changes, if any, will occur as a result of the switch to Starlink.

When Royal Caribbean tested Starlink on Freedom of the Seas earlier this summer, they did not alter the prices during the trial period.

Read moreI tried Elon Musk's Starlink internet on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship

Many readers seem to think prices will go up as a result of the upgrade, but the company has not commented on pricing.

SpaceX's Starlink could be added first to Independence of the Seas

In:
02 Sep 2022

While Royal Caribbean has not confirmed any roll out schedule for its new Starlink internet deal, there's at least one ship that appears to be getting it installed already.

Royal Caribbean announced this week a new partnership with SpaceX's Starlink service that will bring high speed internet access to all Royal Caribbean cruise ships.

A Royal Caribbean spokesperson did not provide a timeline other than, "the Starlink technology rollout will start immediately across all Royal Caribbean International ships."

In the original press release, the company planned to get Starlink to ships across all three Royal Caribbean Group brands by the end of the first quarter of 2023.

Independence first?

Cruisers aboard Independence of the Seas have noticed work being done at the aft of the ship that seem to be new antennas.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader Paul "Land Genie" Crow shared photos from the area near the back of the ship where the new antennas are going.

If true, the antennas are located above the Flowrider surf simulator viewing area.

There's no word yet when the new service will be turned on, but Mr. Crow reports hearing from crew members that the installers boarded the ship in Nassau earlier in the cruise and have been working ever since.

Celebrity Beyond

Celebrity Beyond

If you're cruising with Celebrity, then the Celebrity Beyond could be first for them.

The Verge reports Celebrity Beyond would be ready to launch Starlink on September 5th.

Why Starlink on cruise ships matters

ebook reader

If having interenet access on a cruise vacation doesn't get you excited, you might be in the minority.

Just like anywhere on land, having reliable and fast internet access has become a way of life and not just for those looking to do some work while at sea.

Society has become more reliant than ever on having internet access, and on a cruise ship, the internet is the way to stay in contact with the outside world.

Social meda stock photo

Whether texting or calling family, checking on the latest updates on social media, or tracking sports, casual internet use is a major need for a lot of travelers.

And then there's the contingent of vacationers who do have a need to keep up with work while on vacation, or prefer to work remotely from somewhere else.

Up until now, Royal Caribbean's internet service had been hit or miss, depending on the ship you sailed on and the region of the world you visited. All but the newest ships had mediocre to poor internet speeds, and even the new ship internet access was generally slower than internet access on land.

What can guests expect?

Starlink internet receivers on Freedom of the Seas

Royal Caribbean did not divulge technical details about the Starlink service onboard, such as what kind of speeds guests can expect or how much bandwidth each ship will receive. 

They did say passengers should expect to use streaming services and make video calls once deployed.

Another big question is price.

Starlink on Royal Caribbean

No pricing has been shared for Starlink, and it remains unknown what price changes, if any, will occur as a result of the switch to Starlink.

When Royal Caribbean tested Starlink on Freedom of the Seas earlier this summer, they did not alter the prices during the trial period.

Read moreI tried Elon Musk's Starlink internet on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship

Many readers seem to think prices will go up as a result of the upgrade, but the company has not commented on pricing.

I tried AirTags to track my luggage on a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
30 Aug 2022

The eternal question all travelers have is, "Where's my luggage" and that's true on cruise ships as much as airports.

AirTag on luggage in hallway

While I've always had good luck with my luggage being delivered to my stateroom in a timely manner, you can never be too careful when it comes to ensuring your luggage doesn't get lost.

When you go on a cruise ship, Royal Caribbean will deliver your luggage to your cabin.  Guests drop off their luggage with porters outside of the cruise terminal, and then that luggage gets taken onboard the ship and eventually makes it to in front of your door.

In my experience, the issue of when will my luggage get delivered rather than it getting lost is a game of cat and mouse we play trying to see if it's arrived yet.

Luggage drop off at PortMiami

Recently, a number of RoyalCaribbeanBlog readers have started using AirTags to track their bags and I thought I would give it a try to see how well it works.

As an iPhone user, I wanted to know if AirTags would be a simple and effective way to monitor my luggage location during the embarkation process.

What are AirTags?

Pair of AirTags

AirTags are the name of an Apple product that you can attach to almost any item so that you can track it using Bluetooth technology.

The AirTag is a small, button-shaped tracking device with a glossy white front and measures in at 1.26 inches in diameter, and it has a height of 0.31 inches, or 8mm. It weighs 0.39 ounces (11 grams).

Once activated, AirTags can be tracked using Bluetooth right alongside Apple devices in the Find My app.

AirTag

A single AirTag will cost $29 and a 4-pack costs $99. [Note, these links contain an affiliate link. I earn from qualifying purchases that costs you nothing extra]

If you have an Android phone, you can't set up AirTags, but you can use the Tracker Detect app to track an AirTag with Android. 

There are alternative products for Android devices that work very similarly, such as Tile Pro. A 4-pack costs $92.99.

How do AirTags work?

AirTag directions

A major misconception about AirTags are they are not GPS trackers.

AirTags have no means to communicate directly to the internet because they don't have GPS chips in them.  They rely on an iPhone being a host to communicate their position.  

An iPhone near an AirTag will detect the AirTag and report it's discovery to iCloud if that iPhone passing by has an internet connection. 

Connecting an AirTag

This is done without consent or awareness of the passing iPhone - it's baked into the iPhone OS.  iCloud uses the position or GPS fix of the iPhone that detected the AirTag to record the location of the AirTag. 

If the iPhone has a poor GPS fix iCloud doesn't note that, it assumes the iPhone GPS fix is right.

Trying out AirTags in my cruise luggage

Close up of AirTag

On my Mariner of the Seas cruise, I placed a single AirTag in my one piece of luggage I checked with the porters.

Prior to the cruise, I connected my AirTag to my phone. You'll need to do this to pair the devices together prior to using the accessory.

The great thing about air tags is how easy it is to use them. Once they're paired, there's nothing else to do other than put the AirTags in the the place you want it and then track it via the app.

The Apple AirTag battery lasts about a year and when you remove them from their plastic wrapper, they become instantly active.  Then when you place it near your phone, it pops up on your screen to pair and connect.

Since it's dependent on anyone's iPhone being nearby, sometimes the location is hit or miss as to how accurate it would be. Occasionally my luggage appeared to be in the ocean or close-by.

Later, I checked the app again and the AirTag was reported once again to be "with me". I went out of my cabin and looked down the hallway and there was my luggage.

Thoughts on AirTags

Luggage under bed

While not the exact tracking option some may think it is, AirTags worked just fine for what I needed.

Given that the luggage never goes that far away from you while onboard, it's good peace of mind to have them just in case they were to be misplaced.

Unlike air travel, where you may end up taking off and across the country while your bags are somewhere else, it's far less likely your luggage stays behind.  But there's been enough times where one bag doesn't get delivered that it would save some sanity.

AirTag

The key is to understand that it's not like having a tracker that is akin to a movie where you have a red dot you can see in real-time.

As I mentioned earlier in the article, if you don't have an Apple device, then Tile Pro could be a suitable alternative but you'll be out of luck with AirTags.

Does Elon Musk's Starlink internet make this the best cruise ship to work remotely right now?

In:
14 Jul 2022

When you think of working remotely, a cruise ship may not be the first setting that pops into your head. However, with the latest technology updates on certain ships, maybe it should be.

Freedom of the Seas sailing away from Miami

The FCC recently approved the use of Space X’s Starlink service on cruise ships. A few weeks ago, we cruised on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas to put Starlink to the test.

In our review, we noticed that the Wi-Fi speeds were better than any other at-sea internet we’ve used before, making it the best option we’ve used to stay connected while cruising.

It's not clear if Royal Caribbean will continue to offer Starlink, or if/when it will be added to other ships. For as long as they do offer it however, it opens the door for remote workers to efficiently work from a cruise ship.

Freedom of the Seas offers 3 and 4 night cruises to the Bahamas, leaving from Miami, and offers plenty of space for those needing to get some work done. These shorter weekend cruises are the perfect way to try out a cruise for the first time, or a new ship. It also provides a great opportunity to try working remotely from a new location.

For our sailing, our option to purchase internet was the same as the Voom packages, offering Surf & Stream, and Surf packages.

We recommend purchasing the Surf & Stream internet package if you’ll be using any video conferencing while working. If you only need to check your email or use a chat system, like Slack or Google Chat, the Surf option should work well. 

When looking for somewhere quiet to take meetings or focus, the best place we found to work was the Library / Card Room. This smaller room often goes unnoticed by other cruisers, meaning you’ll often find yourself a quiet room with few other people.

Some of our other favorite spots to work from were the Star Lounge, Viking Crown Lounge, and the outside seating areas on Decks 4 & 12. While most of these spaces don’t have activities during the day, we recommend checking the cruise planner prior to settling in to be sure you won’t have any surprise disruptions while you work. 

With the addition of Starlink, most of the ship had strong connectivity, and was much more reliable than we had ever experienced before.

Our interior stateroom did have some buffering when logging onto a video call (primarily due to our cabin being further from a wifi hub), but we were able to load, stream and surf without issue. 

One of the biggest frustrations on other ships we've experiences is trying to use the internet while sailing between ports of call. With the other at-sea internet offerings, it would take minutes for a single web page to load, and we didn't even consider trying to stream any videos.

Starlink gave us the ability to bypass these struggles, and ensure that we were connected regardless of where the ship was located.

With the ability of being able to work and connect seamlessly during the day, enjoy all of the activities in the evening, and wake up somewhere new every morning, Freedom of the Seas may just be the best place to work remotely now. 

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

In:
28 Jun 2022

I went on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas to put the SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet to the test. 

Starlink towers on Freedom of the Seas

Royal Caribbean's Wi-Fi speeds have been hit or miss, depending on the ship. Even ships with the higher speeds (typically new ships), it was still slower than our internet at home.

For those of us that don't completely disconnect on cruises, it is often frustrating to get websites and videos to load, and even connect with friends and family at home. I considered it a cost of cruising, as being on a ship in the middle of the sea doesn't give you many options.

That is, until now.  

Earlier this month, Royal Caribbean Group filed with the Federal Communications Commission, disclosing a partnership with SpaceX Services, Inc. While certain airline carriers, including Hawaiian Airlines, have worked out deals to offer Starlink to their passengers, Royal Caribbean is the first cruise liner to file the request. At the time of filing, Starlink was not approved for use on moving vehicles, and the filing called on the FCC to speed up the process.

Around the same time of the filing, passengers started noticing that the Freedom of the Seas was outfitted with Starlink satellite dishes, and quietly testing the service for those onboard.

Hoping that Starlink would still be actively testing, I booked a weekend cruise on Freedom to try it for myself. 

My goal was to test the Wi-Fi speeds on board, while sailing and at Perfect Day at CocoCay. There was no indication that Starlink would still be offered by the time I got onboard, as it can be pulled down at any time during its testing. It also isn't clear if or when other ships will get this service. 

For this sailing, we purchased both the Voom Surf and Voom Surf & Stream internet packages to test. Royal Caribbean’s Voom service is boasted as the fastest internet at sea, being 6x faster than other internet at sea.

On embarkation day, we headed to the Royal Promenade on deck 5 to start the testing process. Using two laptops, my husband John tested the Surf & Stream while I tested the Surf speed.

Once we started the speed test, it showed that we were connected to SpaceX Starlink, meaning that the Starlink trial onboard Freedom was still active.

It was instantly clear that this internet service was above and beyond what Voom typically offered.

The Surf package showed a download speed of 9.01 Mbps and upload speed of 20.34 Mbps. The Surf & Stream gave a download speed of 77.03 Mbps and upload speed of 15.72 Mbps.

On both devices, we tried watching YouTube videos and Netflix shows to see how they would work. Both packages allowed us to instantly start watching the videos, with no lag or buffering time. 

Shortly after these tests, John moved to the Star Lounge to take a Zoom call using the Surf & Stream service. The zoom call connected easily, and there was no buffering or freezing for his video and audio.

Later that afternoon, he moved to our stateroom to take another Zoom call, but realized that the service in our interior stateroom (7121) was taking longer to connect, and buffering his video. He ended up moving back down to deck 5 to finish the call.

Being in an interior stateroom, between plenty of metal walls, we weren’t surprised that the quality wasn’t as clear as it is in the open areas that have minimal Wi-Fi signal interference.

After he wrapped up his calls, the ship began to sail away, while we waited to see how the service held up once we were farther from port.

That evening, about 3 hours after we set sail, we tried the tests again, from inside our stateroom. This time Surf gave us a download speed of 2.85 Mbps and upload speeds of 3.74 and Surf & Stream gave us a download speed of 19.9 Mbps and upload speed of 5.42 Mbps.

While the Surf & Stream speeds were higher, we found that we were both able to stream shows on either package, with just a slight loading time for the Surf package.

The next morning we docked in Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal’s private island in the Bahamas. We were excited to test the speeds while on the island, which includes wifi access if you purchased a package on the ship.

To our surprise, the service remained strong even on the south side of the island, with Surf showing download speeds of 19.93 Mbps and upload speeds of 8.19 Mbps, while Surf & Stream showed download speeds of 52.50 Mbps and upload speeds of 10.10 Mbps.

Later that day while sailing between CocoCay and Nassau, we tried using Facetime on each package to see how the video and audio quality would be. We were happy to see that both were crystal clear on each end.

On other cruises while using Royal’s Voom service, the video would cut in and out, become blurry, and the audio would lag, making it a frustrating experience for everyone involved.

On the last day of our cruise, we decided to take our test up a notch and live stream on the Royal Caribbean Blog TikTok account for both the International Belly Flop competition and the Battle of the Sexes game show. Both events were able to stream without interruptions or buffering. 

Overall, Starlink has blown my cruising Wi-Fi expectations out of the water.

While we did notice that the service slowed in our interior room, we were still able to stream shows and use the internet much faster than the typical Voom packages we’ve experienced in the past.

We were particularly impressed with the Surf package, which to our surprise allowed us to stream almost as well as the Surf & Stream package. That may or may not remain a feature if Starlink gets approved for general use on cruise ships.

While many people continue to work remotely, if adopted permanently Starlink will be a great solution for working from a cruise, or just stay connected while out at sea. 

The only downside to the Starlink service on Royal Caribbean that we found will be having to adjust our Wi-Fi expectations when sailing on other ships without Starlink.

Royal Caribbean updates: Starlink wifi, Icon fuel & more

In:
16 Jun 2022

Each week we get another batch of cruise news to share covering what's happening in the world of Royal Caribbean cruises.

Freedom of the Seas aerial at Nassau

In an effort to cover it all for you, this week's update is a look around a few tidbits and updates you should know about.

Starlink installed on Freedom of the Seas?

SpaceX satellite

Last week, Royal Caribbean sent a letter to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asking for permission to use Elon Musk's Starlink internet service on their cruise ships.

It appears one cruise ship may have Starlink installed as a test.

Brandon from The Weekend Cruiser shared an update from onboard the ship with a look at an array of satellite receivers installed onboard Freedom of the Seas.

The antennas are installed at the front of the ship by the mini-golf course, with six on each side of the ship for a total of 12 receivers.

Before you can expect to get super-fast wifi on a Royal Caribbean ship, the FCC needs to approve the technology because right now Starlink isn't allowed on moving vehicles.

Royal Caribbean finds company to provide LNG for Icon of the Seas

Eagle LNG

For those of you keeping score at home, Royal Caribbean has signed a deal with Eagle LNG Partners LLC to provide liquefied natural gas (LNG) bunkering for Icon of the Seas.

Icon of the Seas will be the first Royal Caribbean cruise ship to run on LNG.

The LNG supply will be sourced from Eagle LNG’s liquefaction facilities in Jacksonville, Florida. 

Eagle LNG’s facilities are designed for loading bunker vessels and LNG carriers for the Caribbean while maintaining economies of scale using modular liquefaction technology. The facilities will be capable of blending in renewable feedstocks to help customers achieve their carbon reduction goals.

Celebrity raises minimum age for unvaccinated guests

Something to keep an eye on is a change for sister-company Celebrity Cruises and their vaccination policy.

For all Celebrity Cruises Europe sailings, guests 17 years of age and younger will no longer be required to be vaccinated in order to sail.

Also, unvaccinated guests sailing in Europe now have the option to either bring a negative pre-arrival test taken within 1 day of sailing or get tested at the terminal.

Royal Caribbean has not made any similar change to their European cruise protocols.

Royal Caribbean wants to add Elon Musk's Starlink high-speed internet to its cruise ships

In:
10 Jun 2022

There could be a new generation of high-speed internet coming to Royal Caribbean's cruise ships.

Wonder of the Seas side view

Based on regulatory filings, it appears Royal Caribbean is engaged with SpaceX’s satellite internet system Starlink to provide internet service for its ships.

A new filing with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Friday details a plan to bring the new type of internet to cruise ships.

The letter was sent to the FCC by Royal Caribbean Group Vice President of Operational Excellence, John Maya, to ask the agency to "expeditiously" approve a new plan to use Starlink on Royal Caribbean ships.

SpaceX satellite

Starlink is a satellite internet constellation operated by SpaceX, providing satellite Internet access coverage.

"We write today to respectfully request that you act expeditiously and look favorably upon the pending application filed by SpaceX Services, Inc. and referenced above."

Mr. Maya points to increased cloud-based services drawing a need for even faster internet accessibility onboard. He points to attrition, bankruptcies, and consolidation in the satellite internet business as not keeping up with demand.

"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.

"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."

If you are ready for Starlink to be added to a cruise ship soon, there's a legal issue that is preventing it, which is why Royal Caribbean is appealing to the FCC.

SpaceX has yet to receive approval to operate its Starlink service on moving vehicles, including planes and naval ships.

Up until now, Royal Caribbean's Voom internet service has relied on internet from other providers, including O3b MEO. The O3b internet had made it on Royal Caribbean's newer ships, but did not get added to older ships in the fleet. Moreover, it has anecdotally not performed nearly as well more recently, especially when compared to other cruise lines, such as Princess Cruises.

As an example, this article was written onboard Serenade of the Seas, which clocked a download speed of 590Kbps and an upload speed of 360Kbps, with latency of 832ms.

Serenade of the Seas internet speed test

Starlink is capable of download speeds of 50-250Mbps for residential consumers.

Which Royal Caribbean ships are powered by LNG?

In:
19 May 2022

The cruise industry is always innovating its ships to make cruising not only more fun and exciting, but safer for guests and better for the environment.

LNG tanks

Back in 2016, Royal Caribbean announced it would be building a new class of ships powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG). This class of ships is the Icon Class, which will debut next year with the first ship in the class, Icon of the Seas.

As environmental impact is one of the biggest complaints given to the cruise industry, the transition from diesel fuel to liquefied natural gas will be a great step toward a more environmentally-friendly and sustainable future for Royal Caribbean.

What is liquefied natural gas (LNG)?

Liquefied natural gas, or LNG, is the cleanest fossil fuel that can be used by cruise ships today. LNG is a natural gas that has been liquefied at around -260 ° fahrenheit, producing a volume of around 600 times smaller than in a gaseous state, which makes the gas much easier to store and transport.

When ships are powered by LNG fuel, a ship’s carbon emissions can be reduced by around 30%. Additionally, sulfur emissions will be reduced by nearly 100% and nitrogen oxide emissions by around 85%.

Outside of producing fewer emissions, ships powered by LNG will have less wear and tear on the engine, resulting in fewer repairs and lower maintenance costs. LNG fuel is also cheaper than low-sulfur fuel, allowing Royal Caribbean to decrease fuel costs with LNG-powered cruise ships.

LNG will be utilized in conjunction with many of Royal Caribbean’s other energy-reducing technologies, such as air lubrication, which sends microscopic bubbles along the ship’s hull to reduce friction as it moves through the ocean, and advantaged waste heat recovery systems which turn waste heat into extra energy.

Royal Caribbean has stated that the “use of such technologies, including LNG, will result in further reduced emissions overall, virtually zero sulfur dioxides and particulates, and a significant reduction in the production of nitrogen oxides.”

Which Royal Caribbean cruise ships are powered by LNG?

Icon of the Seas keel-laying ceremony

While there are no Royal Caribbean cruise ships sailing today that are powered by LNG, four ships are in construction or on order that will have LNG power.

The first ship to be powered by LNG is Icon of the Seas, the first ship in Royal Caribbean’s new Icon Class. While not many details are known about the layout, amenities, itineraries, and activities that will be found on Icon of the Seas, what we do know is that the ship will be the first Royal Caribbean ship to be powered by liquefied natural gas.

One of the first additions to the construction of Icon of the Seas was the ship’s LNG fuel tank, measuring 307 tons and 90 feet long, which Royal Caribbean has stated is the largest in the cruise industry.

Icon of the Seas will be launched in Fall 2023, when she will sail from England prior to being homeported in Miami, Florida. It was recently announced that Icon of the Seas will be the largest ship in Royal Caribbean’s fleet.

The next Royal Caribbean ship to be powered by LNG will be Utopia of the Seas, the sixth ship in Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class. She will be the first of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class cruise ships to be powered by liquefied natural gas, and will debut in Spring 2024.

In addition to Icon of the Seas and Utopia of the Seas are plans for two other ships powered by LNG, which will be the second and third ships in the Icon Class. These two ships are estimated for completion in the second quarter of 2025 and the second quarter 2026, but are not yet named.

Outside of Royal Caribbean, LNG is a common trend in the construction of new cruise ships throughout the industry, with new cruise ships such as the Disney Wish, Carnival Mardi Gras, Norwegian Prima, and MSC World Europa all powered by LNG.

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