Carnival Corporation — the parent company behind Carnival Cruise Line, Princess, AIDA, Holland America, and more — announced that it is bringing SpaceX’s Starlink connectivity to its ships in order to improve its wi-fi capabilities at sea.
The company says that the rollout began last month with Carnival Cruise Line and AIDA ships and that it plans to expand to other brands in the future. It’s not clear if all ships in those fleets have the service as of now, or if the process of installing it has only started.
Still, for those who enjoy being connected on a cruise, the announcement is welcome news.
“Rivaling on-land connectivity experiences, Starlink greatly advances Carnival Corporation’s focus on providing the best available Wi-Fi experience for its guests to stay connected while on vacation, including sharing photos and videos, streaming movies and live sporting events, and enjoying other content onboard with a reliable connection at even faster speeds,” a press release from the company said.
Starlink is known for providing Internet access via satellites in “Low Earth Orbit,” allowing the company to offer connectivity even in remote places such as in the middle of the ocean. According to Ookla speed tests, the service offered a median download speed of 53 Mbps as of late 2022. For comparison, most Internet service on cruise ships has been in the 3-10 Mbps range when Cruzely has tested it.
Addressing bandwidth and speeds of online access is a smart way to make the cruise experience more enjoyable for many people. While cruising has always been seen as a way to “disconnect,” the truth is that online access has gone from a want to a need for many passengers.
Our Experience With Starlink on a Cruise Ship
If Starlink sounds familiar, it may be because Royal Caribbean announced a similar agreement with the provider just a few months ago. In fact, we sailed on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas recently where Starlink was installed, giving us a chance to test out the new service firsthand.
So how was it?
During our cruise, we actually noticed no difference in connection speed. In fact, tests we conducted on the ship consistently saw speeds in the 3-4 Mbps range. Even by cruise ship standards, that’s on the slow end of the spectrum. And when in crowded areas of the ship like the theater, connections dropped.
In fact, arsTechnica reports that the median speed of Starlink service has dropped from 105 Mbps in 2021 to about half that today as more people use the service.
(Note: We sailed Carnival Celebration — the fleet’s newest ship — this month and were pleased with wi-fi speeds in the 10-12 Mbps range. However, we don’t know if it was equipped with Starlink or not.)
As this technology continues to evolve, it’s likely that the speeds offered will continue to increase. For example, the company was just approved to launch 7,500 new satellites to help boost its offerings.
For now, however, don’t be surprised if the introduction of Starlink doesn’t automatically translate to blazing speeds.