It used to be that the cruise industry’s largest
brands competed over whose ship was the biggest. Now, in asign of what really matters to
attracting more customers, there’s a new emphasis on which line offers the best
Internet connection and speed.
As Royal Caribbean is creating a buzz with its touting of VOOM, Carnival Corp.
isstepping up its messaging
about the scope and quality of its Wi-Fi@Sea. The headline of their recent press release? “Carnival
Corp. Expands Industry’s Largest Wi-Fi Network.”
“We’re not just focusing on a few ships, waiting for a provider to bring on
more capacity,”said Reza
Rasoulian, Carnival Corp’s V.P. of Global Connectivity and Shipboard Tech Ops,
inan apparent shot across the
bow at RCCL’s capacity.
Rasoulian explained to Cruise Week: “The fundamental thing that we’ve
discovered is it’s reallyimportant
to give the connectivity experience to as many guests as possible.” Nearly 1/3
of Carnival Corp.’s 100 ships are already connected, and it plans to expand the
system tothe majority by the end
In the meantime, availability varies tremendously by brand. Carnival Cruise
Line, forexample, has high-speed
Wi-Fi deployed on 19 out of 24 ships. In contrast, Holland AmericaLine has only 1.
“We’ll make an announcement soon on Princess as we have a very significant
hardware infrastructure activity underway as we speak,” Rasoulian promises.
customers responding positively?
Rasoulian uses theWesterdamto illustrate, as last year it had no
Wi-fi@Sea and thisyear it did.
“There was a significant increase in guest satisfaction on theWesterdamin Alaskathis summer from the same voyages the
previous year,” he reports. “Usage is going up majorly. Historically the number
of users on atthe same time was
often under 100. After deploying these plans we’ve seen up to 1000 userson some ships at any given time. It
doesn’t mean everyone is browsing at the same time necessarily, but they’re
thing they have in common is a tiered system. Facebook and Twitter are
availableon the “value plan,”
which Rasoulian says meets the needs of many people. For others hepoints to a premium plan that provides
“3 times more performance, and you can doSkype
and have unrestricted access.”
This tiered system is in contrast to Voom, which gives all buyers the same
speeds and access.Whether this
is in part due to Carnival worrying about overtaxing its system is unclear, butRasoulian says the main purpose is to
get more people signing up, a by-product of whichis free promotion for the brand on
“For us that’s a benefit because we can price those packages more aggressively
to drivethe usage. What that’s
doing is creating organized sharing for the company, which we like.Now folks are able to share their
experiences pretty much real-time.”
Another cross-brand commonality is that guests will not be on the clock when
theyconnect to the Internet.
“We’re not constraining them on time - here’s 30 minutes of air time, 100
minutes of airtime,” says
Rasoulian. “In most cases that is not a great service, so we’ve taken the
time-based element out of the picture.”
the successful feedback, why hasn’t this been promoted earlier?
“The brands haven’t kicked into marketing yet because it’s so new,” he says,
“especiallyfor the Holland
America Group brands as we deploy more infrastructure. We were a bitcautious at the beginning because we
wanted to make sure we were onto something.”
Now that Carnival is kicking its WiFi marketing into gear, expect a war of
Caribbean. It’s already starting to happen: Royal is touting Voom as the“fastest” WiFi at sea, while Carnival
says its product has the “largest network.”
the companies expand their new systems fleet-wide, more subjective impressionsfrom pax will become available - the
true test of which company’s Wi-Fi program istruly