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Internet Access Antarctica Cruises

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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.

Edited by 70KToM

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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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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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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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@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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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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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!

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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 guestbob@seaspirit.com 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.

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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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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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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?

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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!

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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

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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You have images of the aurora?

 

 

One of those posters CC warns us about...

 

Lots of images of auroras. None on this cruise - cloud cover. Do have a fantastic imagery of orange sunsets under the cloud layer and orcas eyeing seals on an ice flow for dinner. Post your email and I'll forward a copy.

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Like many cruises, depending on the itinerary, there may be spotty service at places. I had the unlimited internet package onboard Infinity and had service most times, although since our ship did not go the more isolated places that the Fram and other expedition ships go to, I would imagine the service would be less to nill in some of those channels and fjords. I've found cruise ship internet to be slow in general, and most people I've talked to say the same thing.

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We were on Seabourn Quest over the Christmas/New Years cruise to Antarctica where we spent about 5 days and also South Georgia Island for 3 days. We purchased 4 hours internet time for $40 and were very surprised to find we had internet access every day of our 24 day cruise. I would type up emails off line on our netbook then copy and paste once we'd signed into our email account. No problems at all and very fast. We were on mostly in the mid morning time. The last day of the cruise we had a slightly slower time during the afternoon while everyone was checking in for flights. We made sure to comment favorably on our survey about the internet speed and price. So now I guess that price will be going up...;)

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One of those posters CC warns us about...

 

 

No, just someone who believes accuracy is important. Auroras are not visible in Antarctica during the expedition ship season and anyone reading Cruise Critic should not be assured otherwise.

 

Pity about the cloud cover. I will leave it there.

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No, just someone who believes accuracy is important. Auroras are not visible in Antarctica during the expedition ship season and anyone reading Cruise Critic should not be assured otherwise.

 

Pity about the cloud cover. I will leave it there.

 

 

Yes, accuracy is important. You need to insure your posts are accurate. Navigation crew informed they have seen auroras during the expedition season. If you didn't see it doesn't mean it doesn't occur. Plus, few if anyone visits Antarctica to see auroras as the first objective.

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Yes, accuracy is important. You need to insure your posts are accurate.

 

True: *ensure*.

 

 

Navigation crew informed they have seen auroras during the expedition season.

 

 

That is not my experience on over 50 days in Antarctica, on trips spread throughout the season, and not what Captains and First Officers have told me. Note the plurals and the status.

 

I have confidence in them and in my observations.

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The aurora circle is extremely offset from the geographic pole. Traveling on the Australian side, you wouldn't even need especially high auroral activity to be able to see it far enough north that you still have reasonable darkness hours during the Antarctic cruise season.

 

On the Argentinian side, it's definitely unlikely, but if the activity is extremely high, it's still possible. It certainly got dark at night along the peninsula on my November sailing, and it's well within viewing range with a particularly high index.

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Also, I'm not sure that 50 days is an adequate sample for such an uncommon phenomenon. :) I've lived in Oslo for over 3500 days, and I've never seen the aurora here. It's been naked-eye visible dozens of times. I even know someone who has seen it here in August.

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The aurora circle is extremely offset from the geographic pole. Traveling on the Australian side, you wouldn't even need especially high auroral activity to be able to see it far enough north that you still have reasonable darkness hours during the Antarctic cruise season.

 

On the Argentinian side, it's definitely unlikely, but if the activity is extremely high, it's still possible. It certainly got dark at night along the peninsula on my November sailing, and it's well within viewing range with a particularly high index.

 

The forecast image at https://www.spaceweatherlive.com/en/...y/auroral-oval shows how far away the aurora doughnut is from the peninsula and the areas in which expedition ships sail.

 

The charts and animation at http://www.antarctica.gov.au/about-a...sunlight-hours demonstrate that it does not get dark at Casey (66S) until March. Prior to that the darkest it gets is twilight. We have never experienced real darkness on any of our trips throughout the season unless there has been heavy cloud cover.

 

No-one I have spoken to on any of our trips has seen even the slightest suggestion of an aurora.

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Also, I'm not sure that 50 days is an adequate sample for such an uncommon phenomenon. :) I've lived in Oslo for over 3500 days, and I've never seen the aurora here. It's been naked-eye visible dozens of times. I even know someone who has seen it here in August.

 

The 50+ days across the season offer a pretty good sample.

 

It's disappointing that you haven't seen the aurora from Oslo. Keep looking! We have seen it from here in the UK at 53N on more than one occasion. And quite strong lights too.

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Interesting posts of late about the auroras! I'm reading a rather fascinating book called "The Northern Lights" by Lucy Jago, who chronicles the ground magnetic field measurements and other extensive aurora research done by Norwegian explorer and physicist Kristian Birkeland at the Kaafjord and Haldde observatories near the northern end of Norway between 1899-1903. His theories of atmospheric electric currents elucidated the nature of the aurora borealis. (At least at one time he was pictured on 200 kroner notes).

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No one that I know who has worked 10 to 20 seasons has ever seen auroras on the Peninsular side.

 

Ross Sea side in summer on the other hand is a different story. I have had both friends and expedition members on 3 different ships in the past 30 days who have been posting outstanding photos of the auroras they all got to experience. And McMurdo and Davis stations have been posting ones from the past 2 weeks on their facebook and twitter pages. They have had some great displays.

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No one that I know who has worked 10 to 20 seasons has ever seen auroras on the Peninsular side.

 

Something I have been trying to get across for some time now. But to no avail...

 

Aurora australis can be seen year around. Depends on two things: darkness and sunspot activity. The moon's phase is a major determinant. This year we will be in Antarctica while the moon is waining from full to 3rd quarter - so unlikely we will see any "southern lights."

 

Their strength is linked to the sunspot cycle, not their visibility. That depends on how dark the sky is. In the austral summer, when we visit Antarctica, the sky is not dark enough to see the aurora.

 

They can be seen all year around. Period. Try Tasmania next time - the "lights" are famously visible all year. The duration of visibility all very much depends on the time of year. Visiting at or below 66 degrees and 33 minutes South in mid-February, the middle of the period when the Earth's tilt "moves" between Summer and Winter solstice, provides about 5 hours of total darkness on 21 February, a date included on both the 2017 and 2018 Hurtigruten excursions south of the Antarctic Circle.

 

The Tasmania link: https://www.australiantraveller.com/tas/seeing-the-southern-lights-the-where-the-when-the-what/

 

The "aurora-service" link depicts the aurora as closer to Tasmania at this moment, as well, and not visible from Antarctic Peninsula. Intensity of the solar wind is very low at the moment.

 

We will be there in mid-February and hope to get a look. Have sailed (US Navy) in Arctic waters and fully understand the dusk/total darkness issue.

 

The US Naval Observatory provides a link for both the duration of daylight and darkness based on latitude and longitude and generates an annual by-day table using your specific Lat/Long: http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/Dur_OneYear.php

 

 

(Note: my emboldings)

 

No-one visiting the peninsula during the season should imagine they will see aurora.

 

Sigh.

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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.

 

What would you do if you were ill and in the hospital and were not allowed to use the internet. What would you if even worse you were in some sort of a medically induced or real coma? Would your business die. Would your business fall apart?

 

If you are so indispensable that your business will not survive without your presence, you have a really bad management structure and a really bad succession plan.

 

Nobody is indispensible. Not even you.

 

DON

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What would you do if you were ill and in the hospital and were not allowed to use the internet. What would you if even worse you were in some sort of a medically induced or real coma? Would your business die. Would your business fall apart?

 

If you are so indispensable that your business will not survive without your presence, you have a really bad management structure and a really bad succession plan.

 

Nobody is indispensible. Not even you.

 

DON

Hi DON,

Since the original poster was considering a cruise with sailing dates that passed months ago, I'm afraid that your business management insight is likely falling on deaf ears.

Instead, perhaps you'd like to weigh in on the scientific and statistical likelihood of observing the aurora australis from the peninsula side of the continent?

:)

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