Internet Access Antarctica Cruises

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#1
United States
9 Posts
Joined Sep 2014
Dear Antarctica cruisers,

A friend and I have been wanting to do an Antarctica cruise for a while, but I have some concerns about internet access. I could perhaps plan the cruise to be between Christmas and New Year's, so things are quieter at work. However, due to the nature of my work, I am required to be available to respond within 24 hours throughout the entire year (I need to write about ten emails a day during quiet periods, and access some pages on our system).

I can travel and reduce my work load for vacation, but I will still need to be online a minimum of once every 24 hours. Most of my work can be done offline and then submitted after connecting. None of it will require a large amount of data. As long as Outlook works and I can load relatively low-bandwidth web pages, I'm fine, as long as I do some prep beforehand.

The cruise we're thinking about doing would be National Geographic Orion Dec 26, 2016 - Jan 8, 2017, but we're very open to looking at other cruises. I hear Quark is great?

So my question is:
- What was internet access like on your ship?
- Was it reliably available at least once a day, even if it's out for a few hours?
- What was the bandwidth like?
- Were you able to use a VPN?
- Were there stops along your route where there was WiFi available?
- Is there a particular route that would give me more days in an area with more reliable WiFi (like adding the Falklands)? I'm looking for a 14 day trip.

Thank you in advance for any advice you might have! I'd love to do the cruise, but I'm quite anxious about being able to manage it with my job.
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Past Cruises:

Majesty (70,000 Tons of Metal) - Jan 2013
Majesty (70,000 Tons of Metal) - Jan 2014
Freedom (7 night W. Caribbean) - Oct 2014
Adventure (7 night E. Caribbean) - May 2015

Zuiderdam (11 night Panama Canal) - March 2017

Future Cruises:
Norwegian Sun (15 night Panama Canal to Valparaiso) - Dec 2017
Antarctica?
Alaska?
#2
France
786 Posts
Joined Jan 2011
I've been on MS Fram twice. Internet access was not good. It doesn't work all the time, and when it does it is reaaally slow. OK for a few text messages, but not much more. It's best to assume it will be very flimsy. And honestly, I just couldn't find time for it.
If you have such a demanding job that you need this kind of internet access and time to take off of the Antarctica experience to handle work, it may not be the right destination for you at the moment.
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My travelblog : http://voyageterremer.blogspot.com Hurtigruten, Antarctica, Svalbard, Norway (and other places...).
#3
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
688 Posts
Joined Feb 2006
I am interested in this discussion also and would like to see some further responses if more people can post their personal experience with the internet.

While I don't consider my job demanding, and it allows me to take frequent vacations for lengthy periods, I do need to check in via email approximately once per day. I work for myself, and I do have people that can be relied upon while I am out of town for most issues, but there is the occasional question/issue that requires a response from me. When traveling, I usually spend anywhere from 10-30 minutes, once per day, checking and responding to email. Is this realistic to plan to be able to do? If not, I can work out a Plan B, but prefer not to unless necessary.

Many thanks for your time.
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Diamond Princess, Southeast Asia & Japan, Jan., 2020; Norwegian Dawn, Southern Caribbean, Feb., 2019; Ponant LeSoleal, Beyond The Polar Circle, Antarctica, Falklands, S Georgia, Jan., 2018; Viking Tialfi, Rhine Getaway, Nov., 2017; Norwegian Spirit, Western Mediterranean, Nov., 2017; Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas, 11 day Baltic, Aug., 2017; Norwegian Epic, Spain, Morocco, Canary Islands, March, 2016; Viking Pride, Paris & Heart of Normandy, Sept., 2015; Semiramis II, Nile River Egypt, May, 2015; Oceania Riviera, Turkey & Greek Isles, Oct., 2014; Celebrity Summit, S. Caribbean, Jan., 2014; Carnival Elation, W. Caribbean, Jan., 2012; Carnival Pride, E. Caribbean, Aug., 2010; Golden Princess, Alaska Inside Passage, May, 2010; Carnival Fantasy, W. Caribbean, July, 2009; Uniworld River Countess, Germany & Austria Christmas Markets, Dec., 2007; Holland America Statendam, Australia & New Zealand, Oct., 2006; Norwegian Dream, W. Caribbean, Dec., 2005; RCCL Rhapsody of the Seas, W.Caribbean, Oct., 2003; Imagine French Barge, Burgundy Region, May, 2003; De Tijdgeest Dutch Barge, Netherlands & Belgium, May, 2002; Renaissance R3, Tahitian Islands, March, 2001; Dawn Princess, S. Caribbean, Nov., 1999; Star Princess, S. Caribbean, Nov., 1994; And lots of land based adventures to more than 75 countries on all 7 continents! Happy to answer any questions or share photos, home(at)terryandmike(dot)com.
#4
Summer/Minnesota Winter/Yucatan
409 Posts
Joined Mar 2011
We were on the Fram in March 2016. Internet was not available to passengers from 8 AM to 2 PM. The heaviest use was from 5 PM to 11 PM. During high use times, it could take minutes just to log on. I would use the internet from 6 AM to 8 AM and at best speeds were between 20 and 60 kbs, which is old dial up modem speed. It is almost impossible to upload load large files and down loading takes forever. Since it was a satellite connection, it was subject to weather conditions. Be prepared for slow, unreliable internet. I told my correspondents that I would not be available for the 18 days I was on the Fram.
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John
#5
United States
9 Posts
Joined Sep 2014
@SarniaLo Yeah, it's definitely not an ideal situation, but I may be in this situation for a number of years to come. The nice thing is that I can travel a lot, as long as I'm reachable.

@Terry&Mike I would probably need to work for one or two hours a day, but if I had internet access for five minutes, and then again for five minutes two hours later, I could do most of the work online. Assuming I could get, say, ten emails submitted and twenty or so low-data web pages to load.

VPN is not a requirement, but would be helpful for data security reasons. On Royal Caribbean, wifi's been great, but they don't seem to allow VPNs, annoyingly.

@WisRiver I think I'd be fine without any attachments, so that would be okay, but yeah, sounds far from ideal. Right now I'm looking at Quark, NatGeo, and the Vavilov, for late Dec-early Jan.
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Past Cruises:

Majesty (70,000 Tons of Metal) - Jan 2013
Majesty (70,000 Tons of Metal) - Jan 2014
Freedom (7 night W. Caribbean) - Oct 2014
Adventure (7 night E. Caribbean) - May 2015

Zuiderdam (11 night Panama Canal) - March 2017

Future Cruises:
Norwegian Sun (15 night Panama Canal to Valparaiso) - Dec 2017
Antarctica?
Alaska?
#6
France
786 Posts
Joined Jan 2011
Originally posted by 70KToM
Assuming I could get, say, ten emails submitted and twenty or so low-data web pages to load.
This is a big assumption, and I don't think any company can guarantee that. It may work one day but not the other.
Also, I'm not sure where you can fit one or two hours a day of work in the schedule of an Antarctica cruise (on sea days, maybe) without missing out on the experience you paid hefty money for. But everyone has its own priorities
But I don't think you can be guaranteed a working internet connexion that would suit your needs every day without issue. Just doing what you want to do could take a very long time, more than five minutes (it can be slow. Think 56K modem slow).
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My travelblog : http://voyageterremer.blogspot.com Hurtigruten, Antarctica, Svalbard, Norway (and other places...).
#7
UK
1,590 Posts
Joined Jan 2009
We have used it on Fram but, as others have observed, it was slooow. We found it best to use it when the rest of the ship was occupied with either eating or sleeping. That said, our emails were prepared off line and downloading was restricted to only those we deemed important.

Anyone thinking of doing anything which requires decent bandwidth is going to be disappointed, as well as being very unpopular with others when they discover who is taking all of the resources!
#8
London
5 Posts
Joined Mar 2013
I’ve been on MS Expedition and Poseidon Sea Spirit so can speak to those. On both they offered two types on internet, one where you pay for a certain number of megabytes of data transfer and have completely unlimited access to the net via their wifi connection – I have no idea whether VPNs work here as I never tried. These are slow and will totally drop out for large periods due to weather conditions, being inside a deep fjord or surrounded by high mountains. When it does work I don’t think I can express just how slow it will be, think ten minutes to load up the mobile version of gmail slow. The pages can die halfway through loading and so you need to refresh – it’s amazing just how fast you can burn through your mb in cycles like this. (If the ship you’re on offers a time based package rather than an MB based package it’s going to be even more expensive as you can sit there watching time tick away while nothing at all happens). On both ships the advice from the expedition team selling the package was do not buy this, it’s not worth it. However, if money is no object and you’re determined then it should work for you, but you’re going to limit the actual experience by spending a lot of time at a computer rather than watching the world and the wildlife. If you do go this route then look at ways you can limit background app usage by bandwidth blocking software so only your browser is connecting and you’re not accidentally downloading a windows update somewhere in there.

The other option is to sign up to the ship’s text based email accounts which gives you a ship email something like [email protected] and you can then email freely from there – you have no access to the wider internet so need to know the email addresses of everyone you’ll want to mail. On Expedition this was unlimited, send and receive as many text emails as you like, on Sea Spirit we were limited to 200kb of email a day. Yes, KB. Anything over the 200kb was charged at $2/kb. That makes sending an email with an image attachment more expensive than the cruise itself! Now for my needs this was perfect, I had no need for the internet and I just sent an email every couple of days to husband with updates on what we’d been doing and the occasional question when I wanted them to look something up on Wikipedia and let me know the answer! (And on my latest trip in Feb I solved the Wikipedia issue by downloading an offline version to my phone). To my knowledge this system uses a totally different technology and satellite, hence the reduced bandwidth, and we had no outages at all, it appeared to work consistently throughout the trip no matter conditions. Worth noting that it does take a day or two to set up and you can’t give people your contact details in advance, although I’m sure this could be expedited if you explained your situation, but I didn’t get access until most of the way across the Drake, two days after embarkation.
#9
ExPerth, Now Melb Aus
754 Posts
Joined Feb 2010
Evie is correct that the shipbased email account is the "most" reliable solution however most do not permit attachments or email forwards due to size limits.

I have seen people get hit with $1000 bills because they have left their laptop trying to open a webpage for "a while". Ouch.

Easiest solution is to give yourself a real break and tell your client base you are really truly not available for 2 weeks.

As my boss likes to say "Will anyone actually die ?" - if the answer is no - then go for it. Of course if you are giving surgical instructions over the net and someone at the other end will in fact die - then you need to be realistic about your holiday destination choices. A drive by on a cruise ship may have "slightly" better internet availability.

Also agree with Evie that you could spend an awful lot of time in your cabin staring at the magic green download line that never moves and missing the incredible scenery and creatures you have paid good money to experience. And that would be a big shame for you.
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Antarctica
Kapitan Khlebnikov Nov 2010 (West Antarctica, Weddell Sea, Riser Laarsen Coast, Sth Sandwhich & Sth Georgia Islands)
Kapitan Khlebnikov Dec 2011 (Final voyage - East Antarctica & Heard Island)
Sea Adventurer: Feb 2014 (East side of Antarctica Peninsular, South Georgia Is, Falkland Is).

Ortelius: Feb 2014 Bluff NZ, Ross Sea, West Antarctica, Peninsula, Peter 1st Island, Ushuaia
Other regions: too many to list so just the highlights:
P&O Oriana 1984 (Indian Ocean) and 1986 (Pacific Ocean), Superstar Virgo 2003 (Indian Ocean),
Radiance of the Seas: Nov 2014 Bravo Theatre Opera cruise - Noumea.

#11
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
688 Posts
Joined Feb 2006
Thank you to those who posted, lots of good information. I will make a Plan B so that if it is too slow/non-existent then I won't be disappointed, but will hope to be pleasantly surprised. Sounds like it could be all over the board.

I am sailing on Ponant Le Soleil, so maybe someone here or on another thread will weigh in from that ship in regards to this topic. I'll keep my eyes open.
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Diamond Princess, Southeast Asia & Japan, Jan., 2020; Norwegian Dawn, Southern Caribbean, Feb., 2019; Ponant LeSoleal, Beyond The Polar Circle, Antarctica, Falklands, S Georgia, Jan., 2018; Viking Tialfi, Rhine Getaway, Nov., 2017; Norwegian Spirit, Western Mediterranean, Nov., 2017; Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas, 11 day Baltic, Aug., 2017; Norwegian Epic, Spain, Morocco, Canary Islands, March, 2016; Viking Pride, Paris & Heart of Normandy, Sept., 2015; Semiramis II, Nile River Egypt, May, 2015; Oceania Riviera, Turkey & Greek Isles, Oct., 2014; Celebrity Summit, S. Caribbean, Jan., 2014; Carnival Elation, W. Caribbean, Jan., 2012; Carnival Pride, E. Caribbean, Aug., 2010; Golden Princess, Alaska Inside Passage, May, 2010; Carnival Fantasy, W. Caribbean, July, 2009; Uniworld River Countess, Germany & Austria Christmas Markets, Dec., 2007; Holland America Statendam, Australia & New Zealand, Oct., 2006; Norwegian Dream, W. Caribbean, Dec., 2005; RCCL Rhapsody of the Seas, W.Caribbean, Oct., 2003; Imagine French Barge, Burgundy Region, May, 2003; De Tijdgeest Dutch Barge, Netherlands & Belgium, May, 2002; Renaissance R3, Tahitian Islands, March, 2001; Dawn Princess, S. Caribbean, Nov., 1999; Star Princess, S. Caribbean, Nov., 1994; And lots of land based adventures to more than 75 countries on all 7 continents! Happy to answer any questions or share photos, home(at)terryandmike(dot)com.
#12
New Zealand
841 Posts
Joined Aug 2008
You would think that all ships would need a good internet connection so they can send the daily running of the ships information back to head office and vice versa. I think that at times there would be large files
I wonder if the ship was one set of internet for them and another for the passengers?
#13
UK
1,590 Posts
Joined Jan 2009
They only have what is available by satellite, and satellites in the polar regions are low down on the horizon so not ideally placed for access.

With bandwidth at a premium I would not be surprised to discover that ship's traffic, which would be mainly data as opposed to images and similarly large files, is prioritised over passenger traffic.

One is essential, the other is desirable!
#14
New Zealand
841 Posts
Joined Aug 2008
We were told we would have internet troubles on a Norway cruise which went around North Cape into Murmansk, Archangel etc but once again nobody that I talked to on the ship had any trouble even though it was cloudy and raining at times on this cruise unlike the days we had at Antarctica where we had good weather for the whole 21 days
#15
ExPerth, Now Melb Aus
754 Posts
Joined Feb 2010
Originally posted by digitl
They only have what is available by satellite, and satellites in the polar regions are low down on the horizon so not ideally placed for access.

With bandwidth at a premium I would not be surprised to discover that ship's traffic, which would be mainly data as opposed to images and similarly large files, is prioritised over passenger traffic.

One is essential, the other is desirable!
Well said re essential vs desirable. The captain needing current satellite images of the ice maps and ongoing weather data is far higher priority than passengers desires to check emails.

I know when we have been down at 78 degrees south we went days in a row where the Captain couldnt access current ice data - certainly no internet for pax. Not that it bothered me - I was busy outside enjoying natures show.
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Antarctica
Kapitan Khlebnikov Nov 2010 (West Antarctica, Weddell Sea, Riser Laarsen Coast, Sth Sandwhich & Sth Georgia Islands)
Kapitan Khlebnikov Dec 2011 (Final voyage - East Antarctica & Heard Island)
Sea Adventurer: Feb 2014 (East side of Antarctica Peninsular, South Georgia Is, Falkland Is).

Ortelius: Feb 2014 Bluff NZ, Ross Sea, West Antarctica, Peninsula, Peter 1st Island, Ushuaia
Other regions: too many to list so just the highlights:
P&O Oriana 1984 (Indian Ocean) and 1986 (Pacific Ocean), Superstar Virgo 2003 (Indian Ocean),
Radiance of the Seas: Nov 2014 Bravo Theatre Opera cruise - Noumea.

#16
UK
1,590 Posts
Joined Jan 2009
Ice maps had slipped my mind, and they shouldn't have done. We had problems finding our way through ice off Greenland when the Captain couldn't get the maps. He had access to the satellite but the Norwegian Met Office didn't work weekends!

Thinking about access in the North v the South, it may be easier in the North as there are quite a few centres of population there which would require access compared with the vast uninhabited equivalent latitudes down south. Just a thought.
#17
150 Posts
Joined Sep 2015
I was on the Nat Geo Explorer this past February, and had the best internet that I have ever had on a cruise ship- could not believe how good it was considering where we were. I brought my own laptop, but they have six public computers for use. I mainly used email to check in with family and downloaded/sent pictures. I bought a package but can't remember how much it was. I do remember thinking that out of the 30+ others cruises I have been on, the price and speed of the internet was better than most ships.
#18
150 Posts
Joined Sep 2015
Originally posted by beezer248
I was on the Nat Geo Explorer this past February, and had the best internet that I have ever had on a cruise ship- could not believe how good it was considering where we were. I brought my own laptop, but they have six public computers for use. I mainly used email to check in with family and downloaded/sent pictures. I bought a package but can't remember how much it was. I do remember thinking that out of the 30+ others cruises I have been on, the price and speed of the internet was better than most ships.
Forgot to mention that I was on an Antarctica sailing.
#19
Eagle, ID
561 Posts
Joined May 2015
I just got home from NG Explorer on the High Arctic sailing. There was no Internet access at all the day we were at 80* North. There was also no access when we were in the fjords, but that wasn't an issue because I was so busy. We pulled out of the fjords around dinner time to get to the next area. Aside from the one 24 hour period with no satellite lock, I was able to get online every night to keep up with emails and reports.

I cannot speak to using a VPN.

I was able to get a cell and data signal only twice on the trip, even though there are settlements around.

Being up at night is no problem when the sun never sets, so this was not an issue for me. (Although i'm exhausted now!) I hope this was helpful, even though I was on the opposite side of the world.
#20
USA
987 Posts
Joined Jan 2013
Just returned from south of the Antarctic Circle on Fram. On arrival we purchased the 11-day (14-day voyage) Premium internet package for $120. Speed and responsiveness 24/7 was the best ever at sea and akin to at home broadband cable.