Setting sail on Norwegian Cruise Lines and wondering what you can expect from the Internet Wi-Fi aboard the ship? We recently sailed aboard the cruise line and have some first-hand knowledge of how well the service works while you’re setting sail.
A cruise used to be the one vacation where it was impossible to be reached. Sailing out in the middle of the ocean meant there was no phone service and you couldn’t easily access the Internet either.
Needless to say, times have changed. These days Internet access is offered on any major cruise ship. And while there is still some work to do, the speed and reliability of cruise Internet continues to improve.
That’s good because cruise passengers continue to demand — and expect — more from being online. While it wasn’t that long ago that hopping online to check your email was all that you needed, today many want round-the-clock access to do everything from check in on Facebook, post to Instagram, or stream movies or music.
So how does the Internet work on Norwegian? Here are all the details from our recent trip to give you an idea of what to expect.
Price of Norwegian Cruise Internet Service
We’ve covered the cost of Norwegian’s Internet service in detail here. Put simply, there are two ways you can pay for access. First, you can buy a “minute” package. These packages give you 100 or 250 minutes, allowing you to login and surf the net for a short period of time. If you only need occasional online access, this is your cheapest way to get online. (There are also pay-by-the-minute options).
The other option is an unlimited Internet package. Norwegian offers three different packages, depending on what sort of access you need:
Unlimited Social Media: As the name implies, if you just want simple social media access, then it will run $14.99 per day if you purchase on the ship. This rate applies to the package bought for the entire cruise — not just a single day. As with other cruise lines, you can get a discount if you book a package before you board.
Unlimited Wi-Fi: This plan provides full Internet access, outside of streaming. It also includes access to email providers, which is not the case with the Unlimited Social Media package. The cost runs $29.99 per day for one device.
Unlimited Premium Wi-Fi: Want to stream Netflix, Hulu or other services? Then you’ll need Norwegian’s highest-level package. It allows streaming movies and music and costs $34.99 per day.
As you can see, the prices for these unlimited services are pretty steep. The most expensive package would run $245 for a week-long cruise. That gives you access using only one device at a time.
There is a way to get free Internet while on the ship. If you select the free Internet perk as part of Norwegian’s “Free at Sea” offer, it includes the 250-minute package. While not unlimited, it’s more than four hours of online access, which should be plenty for most people over the course of a cruise.
Testing the Speed of Norwegian Cruise Line’s Internet
During our cruise, we sailed aboard the Norwegian Joy and were provided the “Unlimited Wi-Fi” Internet access by the cruise line. This is the mid-tier Internet service, which does not provide streaming service but does give you access to the rest of the web.
So how fast was the service?
We tested the connection several times using online speed tests. At most we had about 5 Mbps download speeds. Most tests were in the 3 Mbps range, while many times it simply didn’t connect to test.
In fact, we found that during the start of the cruise the connection would continually go in and out. Sometimes we could connect and surf the web just fine. Other times we didn’t have a connection at all. Talking to others on our cruise, they mentioned the same issue.
The good news is that as the cruise went on, the connection become more reliable and faster. While we didn’t test the speed later on, by the third day of the cruise the connection was always on and surfing — while slower than you’d find at home or work — was still plenty fast.
In fact, once the connection stabilized later in the cruise, it was actually not that much different than the wi-fi you’d find at home. Yes, you can tell there was some delay in page loading, but it was only slight.
To give you an idea, here’s a video showing the real-time speed of surfing a number of sites:
What You Can and Can’t Do With The Internet
During our cruise, we put the Internet through the paces to see what you can and can’t do during your trip.
Streaming Sites (YouTube & Netflix)
First, you should remember that we signed up for the mid-tier Unlimited Wi-Fi. This package specifically mentions that it doesn’t work with streaming.
In fact, when we tried to go to streaming sites like YouTube or Netflix, they were seemingly blocked; we couldn’t access them. If you want to watch a movie or a show, you’ll need to upgrade the Internet package. Strangely, in some apps or websites with videos embedded, those videos were able to play.
Want to stay in touch with people back home? The good news is that you can using popular programs like WhatsApp and iMessage for the iPhone. Here we were able to text just like normal. We did have some issues here and there sending photos, but we were able to do so.
Using WhatsApp we were even able to make phone calls through the app. The quality was perfect.
What we didn’t have a chance to test is Facetime using the iPhone. However, given the speed of the service and the upload speeds during our tests, it’s likely the service works but the images may be grainy with some interruptions.
The Rest of the Internet
How about just surfing the web? During our tests we had no issues with sites being blocked or otherwise unavailable. Granted, we didn’t try to view any objectionable content. It’s safe to assume, however, anything adult-oriented would be filtered out.
Instead, basic surfing of social media, email, and news websites worked well. Again, our connection speed and reliability wasn’t great at the start of the trip, but continued to improve as the trip went on.
One interesting thing to note is that sites that use your location — such as Google — would sometimes appear in foreign languages:
The vast majority of the time, however, this wasn’t an issue.
Overall Impressions of Using the Internet on Norwegian Cruise
During our cruise we had a chance to put a real-world test of the Internet service aboard the ship. In short, it worked ok overall. As we mentioned several times, the connection the first day was slow and unreliable, but it much improved as the trip went on.
Speeds are slower than you’ll get at home, but still usable. We were able to post articles to Cruzely from the middle of the ocean, even though we were miles from the nearest shore.
If you are using the Internet to work, we wouldn’t want to rely on it for heavy data usage or extremely time-sensitive projects. For instance if you have an important video conference call, there’s a good chance the service will work, but we’d worry about connection speed. But if you just want to get some work done here or there while on the ship — such as checking email while you’re away — it’s perfectly suitable.
Coverage around the ship was fantastic. We used both our phone and laptop to connect (you can connect one device at a time, but can switch devices). Service was available everywhere we tried, from the cabin to the restaurants to around the deck.
Bottom line, the Unlimited Wi-Fi on Norwegian Cruise Lines is decent, but there is room for improvement. Still, given that you’re on a cruise (where having fast Internet usually isn’t a top priority) and you are often miles from the nearest land, it’s a solid offering that will definitely get you by.
If you have more questions about using Norwegian’s Internet, let us know in the comments below.