Living With Technology: Cruising online for a good deal on a cruise

When people talk about Web surfing, they usually mean using a Web browser to look for new, shopping and other activities. But there’s no term for “cruising online.”

However, I recently had the pleasure of going on a Norwegian Cruise Line ( trip and was expecting to be without Internet connectivity until reaching the various ports of call and then trying to find stores with free Wi-Fi.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that on the ship we traveled, the Norwegian Gem, onboard Wi-Fi was available — for a fee.

While we’re talking of fees, the fees range from a pay-as-you-go of about $1 per minute to $29.95 per day for unlimited Wi-Fi. Given that many of my family had Internet needs, we opted for the unlimited plan.

The service worked pretty much as one would expect, connecting to a Wi-Fi hotspot on the ship, logging in, then being online. This worked for laptops, tablets, mobile phones and any other device we tried.

The only caveat was that only one device could use the account at a given time. We didn’t feel the need to have more than one account.

How this works is that each ship has a dish that sends and receives signals to a satellite in the sky. The disk tracks the stationary satellite as the ships moves on the seas and bobs up and down. I was pleased with how well this worked.

The company providing the service is MTN Communications, recently acquired by Emerging Markets Communications ( of Miami, Florida. The service is resold by the cruise line to passengers.

I measured the speed of the Internet service and, while it varied, it allowed easy use of typical email and Web services.

The service did offer an interesting app called SpeedNet that claimed to speed up the service. From reading the literature, what SpeedNet does is look on a local server on the ship for common data, such as Netflix movies as well as popular Web sites and delivers them without having to download the files every time.

This “caching” does two things: First, it makes the user experience better (faster), and: Second, it saves using up the limited satellite bandwidth available.

While having this service was useful for typical day-to-day communications, it proved even more valuable than we thought.

My daughter is a freshman at Penn State University. This year, Penn State football did very well, ending up going to the Rose Bowl.

The Rose Bowl was held on Jan. 2, one of the days we were on the cruise. Typically cruise ships include satellite feeds of many sports events. As Disney owns ESPN — and has a competing cruise line — the ESPN feed of the Rose Bowl was not available on a big screen.

Instead, we used our on-board Wi-Fi and our subscription to ESPN through Cablevision to watch the Rose Bowl on a laptop computer and iPad.

Unfortunately, Penn State lost to USC in the final seconds, but it made for a very good game and something we would not have been able to see without this Wi-Fi service.

We all commented that the capability to watch live TV on our computer while hundreds of miles at sea is nothing short of magic.

Mark Mathias is a 35+ year information technology executive, a resident of Westport, Connecticut. His columns can be read on the Internet at He can be contacted at livingwith