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Extra fees at sea: Carnival to expand high-speed Wi-Fi service

Carnival Splendor

Carnival Corp., the parent of Carnival Cruises, is expanding its high-speed Wi-Fi offerings on its ships. Above, the Carnival ship Splendor is anchored offshore in Los Cabos, Baja California, Mexico, in 2012.

(Paul J. Richards / AFP/Getty Images)

If you can’t be without high-speed Internet access, even when you are on a cruise, the world’s largest cruise company has good news for you -- but it could come at a cost.

Carnival Corp., which operates 100 ships on 10 cruise lines, announced plans Tuesday to expand its high-speed, satellite-based Internet to 40% of its ships by the end of the year, up from about 33% of its fleet. Slower Internet access is already available on all Carnival ships.

The Miami-based cruise company also announced new pricing packages, with lower prices for cruise guests who only want to access popular social media sites and higher prices for those who need faster speeds for video chatting or music streaming.

One of the appeals of cruise ships has been their all-inclusive pricing, but in recent years fees have been added for meals at alternative restaurants, for specialty coffee, spa treatments and babysitting services, among other extras.

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Hospitality industry experts say on-board Wi-Fi fees have become part of a larger trend of added charges for extra amenities, similar to the fees paid by passengers on airlines and guests at hotels.

Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor in chief of Cruisecritic.com, an industry website, said many new ships are big enough to offer more amenities. 

“The fees are growing because the choices are growing,” she said.

On Carnival Cruises, guests can pay $5 per day for access to several social media sites, such as Facebook and Instagram, but not access to the entire Internet.

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For $16 per day, cruise guests get access to the Internet with speeds that are not fast enough for video chatting or music streaming.

The premium package charges $25 per day to get access to the Internet at three times the speed of the other packages.

Like airlines and hotels, the cruise industry is not in agreement on whether to charge for wireless Internet.

For example, Viking Cruises, the Woodland Hills company known for river cruises, launched its ocean cruise business this spring with one ship offering complimentary Wi-Fi for all guests.

Royal Caribbean Cruises has two-tier Wi-Fi pricing, a slower speed for $15 per day and a faster service for $20 per day. Some of Royal Caribbean’s older ships offer Wi-Fi only in select locations while newer ships provide a wireless connection throughout the ship.

“Providing Internet is crucial because it is so pervasive today, especially for the millennial generation,” Brown said.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.


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