Starlink on cruise ships: Which lines have faster internet connections on board?

No matter how far your cruise roams, staying connected to the internet can be as important for some cruisers as oxygen and water. Whether you’re keen on live-streaming penguins from your balcony on an Antarctica cruise, catching up on your favorite TV series or hopping on a Zoom call in the middle of the Pacific, connectivity and high-speed access are now considered essentials when cruising.

In the past, cruise lines struggled to keep up with the demand for seamless connectivity at sea. In the middle of an ocean, ships had to rely on satellite systems that could be unreliable, prohibitively expensive and maddeningly slow. Satellite systems allotted only so much broadband for each ship, and every ship carried thousands of people, each with multiple devices.

A better solution was required. Enter Starlink, the world’s first and largest satellite constellation using a low Earth orbit to deliver broadband internet. Part of Elon Musk’s SpaceX program, Starlink now provides many cruise ships with bandwidth that can support streaming, online gaming, video calls and more worldwide. Starlink debuted in 2019 and has quickly revolutionized how hundreds of cruise ships provide internet access, boosting connectivity and capacity as ships roam the world.

How does Starlink work?

Compared to standard communications satellites, which orbit from 22,000 miles away, Starlink’s thousands of satellites orbit the atmosphere from about 340 miles above the Earth’s surface. With much closer proximity to Earth, Starlink’s data connections offer stronger and faster connections and provide the opportunity for more bandwidth on cruise ships.

The coverage of the Starlink satellites is extensive and growing, with more than 5,400 satellites currently in orbit and plans in future years to reach up to 42,000 satellites in orbit at once. Traditional satellite networks have a much more limited fleet and reach, especially in some of the ocean’s most remote areas. Starlink is the world’s largest satellite constellation, with near-complete coverage of all the world’s oceans and waterways.

The Starlink system is affixed to ships as a series of flat panels positioned on upper decks, replacing the now antiquated domes often placed near the ship’s funnel and radar masts.

How fast is Starlink internet access?

Starlink’s website estimates download speeds that range from 40 to over 200 Mbps and upload speeds that come in at 8 to more than 25 Mbps, with a latency of less than 99 milliseconds. These are wide-ranging estimates that don’t factor in cruise ship-based throttling, cruise ship capacity, global positioning and the costs and challenges of outfitting a cruise ship with bow-to-stern Wi-Fi connectivity.

The industrial-strength steel frames and fireproof materials used throughout the ship make a strong, consistent signal throughout a cruise ship an industry-wide challenge. There will be patches on a ship, regardless of which line you’re sailing, where you’ll find a weaker signal. Signals are often at their strongest in the main public gathering areas.

Similar to traditional satellites, severe weather can be a factor in Starlink connections while at sea. Intense storms can bring temporary service interruptions or reduced speeds, while heavy rain or snowfall can cause signal attenuation, which might cause a brief loss of connectivity.

Cruises with Starlink

Here’s a full rundown of all the major cruise lines sailing with the new Starlink technology. How much will the connectivity cost you? Check TPG’s guide to Wi-Fi access on cruise ships.

Azamara
Azamara’s fleet features Starlink Wi-Fi at an additional cost. There is one level of bandwidth available.

Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Cruise Line’s entire fleet features Starlink Wi-Fi at an additional cost. There are three levels of bandwidth available: Social Wi-Fi (with access only to popular social media and airline websites), Value Wi-Fi (for email, news, weather, banking and other basic websites) and Premium Wi-Fi (for streaming and high-bandwidth usage).

Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity Cruises’ entire fleet features Starlink Wi-Fi at an additional cost. There are two levels of bandwidth available: Basic Wi-Fi (for social media, email, web browsing and internet-based messaging) and Premium Wi-Fi (for streaming and high-bandwidth usage).

Cunard
Cunard’s entire fleet features Starlink Wi-Fi at an additional cost. There are two levels of bandwidth available: Essential (for social media, email, web browsing and internet-based messaging) and Premium (for streaming and high-bandwidth usage).

Disney Cruise Line
Disney Cruise Line does not currently use Starlink Wi-Fi.

Holland America
Holland America offers fleetwide Starlink Wi-Fi. There are three levels of bandwidth available: Surf (for social media, email, web browsing and internet-based messaging), Premium (for Wi-Fi audio and video calls) and Stream (for streaming and high-bandwidth usage).

Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic
Lindblad Expedition offers complimentary, basic Starlink Wi-Fi to all guests aboard their ships, with the exception of Delfin II. There are two levels of bandwidth available for purchase: Enhanced (for social media, email, web browsing and internet-based messaging) and Premium (for streaming and high-bandwidth usage).

MSC Cruises
MSC Cruises is currently rolling out Starlink throughout its fleet, with two-thirds of the line’s ships currently sailing with the upgraded service. The ships in the fleet that do not have the service include MSC Opera and MSC World Europa (both will receive Starlink in the coming weeks) and MSC Armonia, MSC Bellissima, MSC Musica, MSC Sinfonia and MSC Splendida (scheduled to receive Starlink before the summer 2024 season.)
There are two levels of bandwidth available for purchase: the Browse Internet Cruise Package (for social media, email, web browsing and internet-based messaging) and the Browse & Stream Cruise Package (for streaming and high-bandwidth usage).

Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line is currently rolling out Starlink throughout its fleet this year, with select ships presently sailing with the upgraded service. Currently, the ships with upgraded internet include Norwegian Viva, Norwegian Prima, Norwegian Encore, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Epic and Norwegian Pearl.
NCL offers two levels of bandwidth available for purchase: the Unlimited Wi-Fi Package and the Unlimited Premium Wi-Fi Package. As part of the line’s Free at Sea promotion, guests can receive a limited number of Wi-Fi minutes for free.

Oceania Cruises
Oceania Cruises is rolling out Starlink Wi-Fi on all its ships and will have its entire fleet outfitted with the service by the end of 2024. Oceania Cruises offers fleetwide basic complimentary internet with a premium option available for streaming.

Princess Cruises
Princess Cruises’ fleet features MedallionNet, the only Wi-Fi network in the cruise industry that combines multi-orbit satellites ā€” Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO), Mid-Earth Orbit (MEO) and Low Earth Orbit (LEO/Starlink) with 5G terrestrial networks to deliver a strong connection regardless of ship location. There is one level of bandwidth available.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Starlink Wi-Fi can currently be found on two Regent Seven Seas ships, Seven Seas Mariner and Seven Seas Grandeur. The entire Regent Seven Seas fleet will be equipped with Starlink Wi-Fi by the end of 2024. There are two levels of bandwidth available on Regent Seven Seas: A complimentary basic package for emails and news and an upgraded package for streaming services and high-bandwidth usage that’s available for a fee.

Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean’s entire fleet features Starlink Wi-Fi at an additional cost. There is one level of bandwidth available.

Seabourn
Seabourn offers fleetwide complimentary Starlink Wi-Fi. There is one level of bandwidth available.

Silversea Cruises
Silversea Cruises’ entire fleet features Starlink Wi-Fi. There are two levels of bandwidth available: Standard Internet (for social media, email, web browsing and internet-based messaging) and Premium Internet (for streaming and high-bandwidth usage). Your suite and ship class determine which option you receive at no extra charge. Upgrades in service are available for an additional fee.

Viking
Viking’s entire fleet features Starlink Wi-Fi at no additional cost. There is one level of bandwidth, though the line advises users that it can limit heavy-bandwidth usage to ensure all have equal access.

Virgin Voyages
Virgin Voyages’ entire fleet features Starlink Wi-Fi at no additional cost. The included plan allows for social media, email, web browsing and internet-based messaging. There is an upgraded Premium bandwidth option available for streaming and high-bandwidth usage for an additional fee.

In conclusion, the implementation of Starlink technology on cruise ships has revolutionized the way passengers stay connected while at sea. With faster speeds, wider coverage, and more reliable connectivity, cruisers can now enjoy a seamless online experience no matter where their voyage takes them. As more cruise lines adopt this cutting-edge technology, the days of slow, unreliable internet at sea may soon be a thing of the past. So, whether you’re checking emails, streaming movies, or video calling loved ones back home, Starlink has made staying connected on a cruise easier and more convenient than ever before.

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