The most “inclusive” cruise line will now also include free Internet access
|The satellite globe on top of Regent Seven Seas Navigator|
Regent Seven Seas is already the most “inclusive” cruise line in the industry – the cruise fare includes airfare, shore excursions (of up to $220 in value), gratuities and all beverages onboard. Now Regent is also planning to include free Internet access via “Wi-Fi” during its cruises.
Unlimited Web access is a boon for people who need to work during their vacation, and also nice for parents who want to read their kids’ Facebook posts while they are away. All cruise lines already offer Internet access, but they charge as much as 75-cents per minute.
Most Regent guests are upper income; executives, business owners or government officials who can only take extended vacations if they have good access to the Internet. These people could always pay for their Internet time, but free Internet allows people to stay connected and have online dialogues they probably would not have if paying by the minute.
Viking Cruises Changes Web Policy
Another cruise line, Viking Cruises, has been providing free Internet access aboard its riverboats for years now (like most riverboat companies). But riverboats have the advantage of staying in contact with the land-based cell-phone networks that now cover most of the civilized world. But a cruise ship at sea must use satellite services, which are far more expensive for the cost of equipment and still only provide narrow bandwidth (the amount of data that can be transmitted per minute).
So, when Viking Cruises announced its first ocean-going cruise ship, set to debut in 2015, the line said it would also give its guests free Internet access – because that is what Viking River guests expect. But things have changed – The Viking Cruise web site now says the ship will only give free Internet access when it is in port.
Apparently, Viking plans to charge for Internet access when the ship is sailing – but it will be free while the ship is in port – which, by the way, will be every day but one of each cruise (only one day at sea is planned on Viking Ocean cruises). Viking also offers free beverages with meals and one free shore tour to all guests in each port of call. In other words, this brand new cruise line will be almost as inclusive as Regent.
Who Had the Idea First?
Did the original Viking River announcement of free Internet access on its cruise ship raise the bar for luxury cruise lines? Regent had already been considering it, as I heard on a previous cruise on Oceania (a cruise line owned by the same parent company as Regent) where CEO Frank Del Rio told us several people had suggested the idea to him lately. I am sure Del Rio was involved in Regent has taking this step.
Regent has provided Internet access at a reasonable price for many years already, and a few years ago installed some of the best shipboard equipment available for maximizing bandwidth on satellite networks. Now Regent plans to invest even more to upgrade the available bandwidth and to make sure the Wi-Fi signal reaches every part of each ship in its fleet, so people can use the service in their staterooms any time of the day or night, for example, and to ensure there is enough bandwidth to handle all of the people who will be using it now.
However – just like free drinks included in the cruise fare, the idea is not to drink as much as possible, it is to enjoy the benefit of availability, so one does not feel deprived or encumbered when needing the Internet – or a drink.
So, I say “Bravo!” to Regent Seven Seas for being the first ocean-going cruise line to offer free Internet access, but I also credit Viking River for getting the ball rolling, even if they did amend their original intent. Internet access is a necessity to many, many people and I personally believe this will make Regent, already enjoying some of it highest popularity ever, even more popular as a cruise line.