All of the cruise ships owned by the 10 brands of Carnival Corporation, including Carnival, Cunard, Princess, P&O, Holland America and others, are being outfitted with state-of-the-art satellite communications system which is expected to drastically improve the ability of passengers to stay connected at sea.
Installation of the system WiFi@Sea, which increases Internet bandwidth and Wi-fi capability, has already taken place on thirty ships across the fleets of the corporation, including Holland America, AIDA and Carnival. All vessels will receive the new system through 2016, and 40% will feature it by the end of 2015, according to a statement by the company.
In addition, the lines will add flat-rate Internet packages focusing more on how cruise passengers use Wi-fi instead of calculating their time online. While each of the lines has some leeway in their offers and prices, all of the ships will feature Internet packages charging a flat rate for using the social media, said Reza Rasoulian, Carnival Corp. vice president global connectivity & shipboard technology operations.
He added that people didn't want to be restricted to time and the goal of the corporation was to give guests exactly what they wanted. Several ships had trialed the plans. HAL's Westerdam, for example, offers three Internet packages: Social, limiting usage to 8 social media sites; Enhanced, allowing broader Internet usage; and Premiere, allowing for the use of videoconferencing apps like Skype and music streaming.
In an interview Rasoulian said that guest surveys were unanimous, and they had many positive comments as more folks were getting connected, and there was more awareness of their ability to access the Internet more affordably. Making sure that guests were able to use the same applications at sea that they did on land, was a major factor in improving their satisfaction. Rasoulian said that it was frustrating to passengers when the corporation blocked that content.
Rasoulian noted that technological improvements went beyond just increasing bandwidth. The corporation had built a complex system across over 31 satellite networks that each cruise ship would be able to access, depending on its location.
Besides guest satisfaction, Carnival Corp. hoped that good accessibility to social media would be "a natural marketing tool" and it was delightful to give people the ability to share. The company also hoped that this removed a barrier for potential vacationers who might be concerned about the ability to stay connected onboard.