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If you like to stay connected on your cruise the majority of cruise ships today offer Internet access. The good news is this is a satellite link available from anywhere out to sea, the bad news is:
1. Minutes are not cheap, and
2. Response time can be frustratingly slow
3. Logins can be tricky when using your own Laptop, iPad or cell phone
4. Signal strength in your cabin can vary high to low.
I have found on my cruises that Internet access runs about 50 - 65 cents a minute. Most ships I have been on offer pre-paid plans for anywhere from 25 to 500 minutes. So... the more minutes you buy, the less you pay per minute.
On our recent trip to Alaska, we were cruising for 12 days, my husband and I shared a laptop and iPad so we purchased the biggest plan of 500 minutes for $150, which is about 33 cents per minute. We used every minute of the plan by our last evening onboard.
Six Tips to Save Money and Minutes
1. You should have your device configured to log in and download your e-mail automatically. Unfortunately, while many Windows Outlook-based computers offer “Outlook Express” to download your e-mail, Windows 7 uses the “Windows Live” program - which does not download messages to your computer. You have to remain connected to the Internet to read all your e-mail. If this is your access, then try configuring Thunderbird, from Mozilla, the makers of the Firefox browser for your cruise. It is free and easy to setup and test prior to your cruise.
2. Most ships allow you to use your own laptop and/or tablet; in our case an iPad. You can use both devices on the same plan – BUT only one device can be logged on at a time. The expensive alternative is two plans.
3. If you have not used your laptop in a while -- log into the Internet a few days before you board the cruise ship. You will get lots of messages to upgrade your software and schedule overdue virus scans. Do these actions just before you leave. Also do some housekeeping -- erase old emails from past trips and update contact lists for new email addresses and phone numbers. Make a hardcopy of contacts as back-up.
4. On the ship, the best trick is to download your newest e-mails in a few minutes and then disconnect. While off-line you can answer all your e-mails, and then reconnect to send all your replies in one batch. Keep Facebook and web surfing to a minimum.
5. If you do not bring your own laptop, you can use the ship’s Internet Cafe and access your e-mail through Webmail such as Yahoo, Gmail or Hotmail. Just remember to bring your user names and passwords and have a hardcopy of all of your favorite contacts email addresses handy.
6. If you are having trouble logging on from your cabin, just take your laptop /iPad to the ships Internet Cafe. Usually they have a knowledgeable person to help you set-up properly and /or help you with a problem.