I am offered a position as a ship's doctor at Cunard and P&O cruises. I have a two year old daughter living in California and having contact by means of Skype is VERY important to me. . Today I was told that internet by HR is scanty and unreliable and Skype with video impossible at any cruise ship. However, a friend who worked at Princess Cruise said it really isn't that bad. I could skype almost daily with his friends and family. So how is it at Cunard and P&O cruises?
If it is really bad, I probably will have to depend on the wifi in the ports. Unfortunately the times for me to Skype with my daughter are fixed - I could move it a day if necessary though. It is always between 7 and 8 pm California time during the week. The weekend times might be more flexible, but currently it is at 9 am on Sunday. On your typical cruise how often do you think I will be able to get off board to quickly Skype in the ports at these times (during the week that would be between 4-5 am Amsterdam-Cape Town time). 0, 1, 2, or 3 times a week?
I like to know, becasuse being cut of completely from my daughter would be a deal breaker!
For the ones that reply: thanks for giving me some insight!!
I had a thought, if you know the itinerary check to see if it's stable. Most ships visit the same few ports over and over every week. Maybe you can get a cell phone that works in all or most of the ports there(you may just need a new sim card). Then anytime your within a couple miles of shore you could call. If you manage to get a plan with internet, you can download the Skype app and video chat that way. You use the cell network instead of relying on ship internet.
There also are phone cards and sim cards sold onboard expressly for use by crew members - these are on the satellite system, either Oceanphone or Harris/Caprock, which are the two companies out there providing service.
Most crew are off at night, and that's when the satellite/internet/phone usage can get pretty intense.
Look into getting a mifi or internet access point you can use in your cabin. Assuming as a doctor, you'll probably have an outside cabin and a porthole, which means a real phone signal will be available. You'll have to do a bit of research to find what works best on the runs that you'll be doing. I have a Virginmobile "broadband to go" hotspot for US ports and a Mifi 2532 for use in Europe. I get pay-as-you-go broadband sim cards in the countries I'm in the most and then switch them out as needed.
Thank you so much Sz and aerospace for your helpful answers. I could check out when is the best time to go on the Internet use the ship's wifi and I do not mind getting up at 4 am. The use of 3G is really an eye opener for me. Believe it or not, but I do not have a smartphone so a Mifi would be a very interesting option. I have been looking around and would you recommend to use of a 3G antennna/amplifier/repeater (I have no idea what the difference is, since they all seem to amplify the 3G signal and are used in areas with a weak signal)?
@ sz: I was looking into Mifis and saw two interesting options: the Global Surfer III+ (see http://www.zero2sixty.ch/email-weath...ea-using-3G-4g) (advantage: strong signal at sea) and Mifi 2372 (unlocked AT&T Novatel, $70 at amazon, and it claims you can use it worldwide because it covers all the frequencies) - what do you think?
At sea, you won't be able to use a mifi. The signal will be whatever the ship carrier is (usually $3 or $4 per minute - my line uses ATT) OR the ship satellite.
A smartphone with 3g/4g (like an iPhone with Facetime and Skype installed) is another good option
I remember researching the 2372 and I'm pretty sure it only works on North American HSPA networks. If you're going Cunard/P&O?, I'm assuming you'll see more European ports? If you think you're going to be on ships for a while, you might want to look at 4G/LTE as it's faster . . . and I think many of the devices may be backwards compatible with 3g networks.
Google "mifi forums" and you can probably learn a bit more . . .
@sz: I think I am a bit lost now. A Smart phone uses the 3G/4G network and a Mifi is able to use 3G/4G (depending on the model with the same or better capture of the 3G/4G signal), right? So, if I am careful not to select the ship's signal but the actual 3G/4G signal I can use a Mifi with 3G and 4G networks, is it not? If I would add to the Mifi a 3G /4G antenna plus amplifier I should be, theoretically at least, even have a far better 3G/4G signal then with a normal cell phone. Or have I not understood it correctly?
On the zero2sixty site the writer says: "While 4G is the latest buzzword and the speeds amazing (up to 100 megabits), the reality is 4G is rolling out slowly in most places and it will be a number of years before it is availabe in enough places to make me want to get a 4G Wireless Modem Router. In the meantime, Iíve had great success using the Global Surfer III+ from Option for the past year. In Spain, for instance, I picked up a data-only SIM card (no phone number with it and canít be used for phone calls) for about Ä20. With Ä30 of credit added to it I had 1 gigabyte data limit. This worked for over a month and to recharge you just get online and to keep it going (make sure you leave enough time left to recharge!). The speeds were excellent and I got coverage both in the marina and cruising a few miles offshore.
Similar to the way you have to setup the Bullet M2 WiFi booster (covered in Email, weather and gribs at sea using WiFi of this series) you have to communicate with the Global Surfer III+ via your web browser. Just like choosing a nearby WiFi hotspot you need to select the mobile phone company (i.e. Vodafone, Orange, etc.). Once you connect, you are good to use your browser or email like you do at home."
You don't have the option of choosing a land signal or the ship signal. When a ship is in port, the ship will turn off the 'ship' cell tower. As soon as the ship is out of land range, the ship cell service it turned on.
And again - you need to look at your specific itinerary and countries to make the best choice. I like mifi devices as I can have my laptop/phone and ipad all connected at the same time/same connection. A lot of crew prefer smartphones for Skype/facetime as they tend to be a faster connection wherever (whether their sim card or local wifi)
@sz: thank you for all your answers. I did not know you could not just stay with the 3G signal from the mainland (as long as there is a signal) - thanks for the insight. Also, interesting to hear that a Mifi is slower than a cell phone. I wonder if that is also dependent on the model Mifi. Amongst the crew members is there a preference for certain cell phones - are certain models more popular because the connection is faster?
It's not that mifi's are slower, it's just that phones require less data transmitted than laptops and tablets, so streaming apps will go faster with less of a data requirement. Apple's Facetime is faster then Skype
Unlocked iPhones are GOLD on ships. If you get one, you can easily resell it onboard in case you quit ships, and most likely for more than you paid for it.
Something else to add to the mix . . . I'm right now in Grand Cayman - my tablet is on the restaurant wifi, but my iPhone is on the Boingo network - if you've traveled, that's the same network you see in airports. I pay either $5 or $10 a month for a 2GB/month subscription and most any port the mainstream cruiselines visit there will be a hotspot
If your daughter's old enough to type - look into gmail and their email chat client. Most likely you'll have Internet (though probably limited) on your office computer, and can at least chat there. BTW - ships will 'throttle' or limit anything that streams or is considered 'social networking', like Facebook or LinkedIn as crew will sit there for HOURS and hog bandwidth that could be used by paying guests.
I am learning here! You use a Mifi. After reading your last message I was thinking of buying an unlocked iPhone and use that as a wifi-hotspot - I could do that and there would be no need for an additional Mifi, right?
Unfortunately, I will have to wait before I can chat with my daughter; she just turned two. I currently work most of the time in South Africa, and I love the google talkatone app to keep in touch with friends - it enables me to call and text with any US number for free and chat on gmail.