Q: I plan on taking a 21-day transatlantic cruise crossing three continents. What do I need to use my laptop computer out in the ocean?
–Carol, Glendale, Ariz.
A: Most cruise ships are now outfitted with Wi-Fi, meaning that if you can connect wirelessly at home or at a coffee shop, you shouldn't find it too difficult to connect on board the ship. Each ship, though, has its own rules and setup, so you will have to contact your cruise line for the specifics of what's available.
The big catch is the price. Royal Caribbean, for example, charges either $0.55 per minute or $28 per hour. This could make a “working vacation” on a ship very expensive.
Instead, you could opt for an Internet café to cut costs. Crew members should be able to direct you to one fairly close to the port. After all, that's likely where they'll be going to email home. This way, instead of paying $28 per hour, you'll pay something closer to $4 or $5 per hour in much of the Caribbean. Even the most expensive Internet cafés are almost always going to be cheaper than on-board Internet, so if you're looking to save, head to an Internet café.
If your ship doesn’t offer WiFi, the key here is knowing what type of electrical outlets your ship has. Essentially all major American cruise lines have American-style outlets and power, making them little different in terms of power availability and usage than your average American hotel room. The European ones, not surprisingly, have European-style outlets and power. So, if it's a European ship, you'll probably need a plug adapter and a power converter.
Your cruise company should have this sort of information available on its Web site, so be sure to check that out for confirmation. But with very few exceptions, if it's an American cruise line, it will have American-style power outlets and WiFi service is likely available.