Setting sail on Norwegian Cruise Lines and wondering what you can expect from the Internet wi-fi aboard the ship? We’ve sailed many times aboard the cruise line and have some first-hand knowledge of how well the service works while you’re at sea.
A cruise used to be the one vacation where it was impossible to be reached. Sailing out in the middle of the ocean meant there was no phone service and you couldn’t easily access the Internet either.
Needless to say, times have changed. These days Internet access is offered on any major cruise ship. And while there is still some work to do, the speed and reliability of cruise Internet continues to improve.
That’s good because cruise passengers continue to demand — and expect — more from being online. While it wasn’t that long ago that hopping online to check your email was all that you needed, today many want round-the-clock access to do everything from check in on Facebook, post to Instagram, or stream movies or music.
So how does the Internet work on Norwegian? Here are all the details to give you an idea of what to expect.
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What Wi-Fi Packages Are Available?
Want to just get online to check Facebook? Or maybe you want to be able to stream a movie in the cabin while you sail? No matter what sort of access level you need, NCL has a package for you.
In total, they offer three different “unlimited” packages, as well plans that offer time-limited access.
Unlimited Social Media: As the name implies, if you just want simple social media access, this is the plan for you. It gives access to social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more. This also includes messaging services. However, NCL says it explicitly that TikTok is excluded.
Unlimited Wi-Fi: This plan provides full Internet access, outside of streaming. It also includes access to email providers, which is not the case with the Unlimited Social Media package. TikTok is still not included, but the rest of the web is open for you to browse.
Unlimited Premium Wi-Fi: Want to stream Netflix, Hulu or other services? Then you’ll need Norwegian’s highest-level package. The service gives you the fastest speeds on the ship and you can watch YouTube, surf TikTok, and stream to your hearts content across various services.
100/250 Minute Package: If you don’t want to fork over the money for an unlimited package, then you can also buy a package of minutes. It’s not clear which level of service is provided with the minutes but it does not allow streaming. However, it does give you access for less than buying a package the entire cruise.
Pay As You Go: Just want to hop on occasionally to check email? Then you can also purchase Internet access by the minute.
Price of Norwegian Cruise Internet Service
If there’s one thing to know, it’s that to get online access on NCL, you’ll have to be prepared for a hefty price tag. You can save money by booking for a discount online ahead of time:
Unlimited Social Media: For social media access, NCL charges a price of $12.50 per day if booked online ahead of time and $14.99 per day if you wait until you are on the ship.
Unlimited Wi-Fi: To step up the plan and gain full web access, the cost runs $25.50 per day when bought ahead of time. On the ship, it costs $29.99 per day for one device.
Unlimited Premium Wi-Fi: If you want full access to the web, including streaming, then you’ll need Norwegian’s highest-level package. However, the cost is high. Prepare to pay $34.99 per day when you buy ahead of the cruise, or $39.99 per day once on the ship.
100/250 Minute Package: These packages are more economical, but not necessarily a better value. We found the 250-minute package for $105 online ahead of time, but actually a less expensive $99 on the ship, despite the NCL website showing a cost of $125 onboard. (Note: minute packages also have a $3.95 one-time activation fee.) The 100-minute package wasn’t shown online, but was $75 on the ship.
Pay As You Go: If you want to pay by the minute, there is a charge of $0.99 per minute on the ship.
As you can see, the prices for these unlimited services are pretty steep. The most expensive package would run $280 for a week-long cruise if bought on the ship. That gives you access using only one device at a time.
Is There a Way to Get Cheaper Internet?
Obviously the cost of access can be pricey — higher than what you find on other cruise lines. We’ve already mentioned that you can buy ahead of time for a discount. However, Norwegian also offers its “Free at Sea” promotion.
This promo is popular and offers a number of perks (such as a drink package, shore excursion credit, specialty dining) included with the cruise fare. One available perk is free wi-fi.
In this case, however, the free service is based on minutes and does not allow streaming. You’ll receive free minutes based on your trip length:
- 3-6 Day Cruise: 75 minutes included
- 7-11 Day Cruise: 150 minutes included
- 12+ Day Cruise: 300 minutes included
One thing to keep in mind is that the cost of the cruise fare with the “Free at Sea” offer is typically higher than the cost of the bare-bones fare with no extra perks added. You want to be sure that you aren’t paying more for the Internet with the promotional offer via a higher cruise fare than you would if you just bought it separately.
Do I Have to Buy Service for the Whole Cruise?
If you purchase a package before you sail, then you’ll see that your charged the daily amount for each day of the trip. So the $34.99 per day price tag for the highest-tier service comes out to nearly $245 if bought before.
However, we noticed that when we looked at the prices onboard through the NCL app, the total price went down the cost of each day of the cruise. So, for example, you could wait to buy the service until the third day of the cruise and pay for two fewer days than buying ahead of time.
How Fast Is Norwegian Cruise Line’s Internet?
During our cruise, we sailed aboard the Norwegian Joy and were provided the “Unlimited Wi-Fi” Internet access by the cruise line. This is the mid-tier Internet service, which does not provide streaming service but does give you access to the rest of the web.
So how fast was the service?
We tested the connection several times using online speed tests. At most we had about 5 Mbps download speeds. Most tests were in the 3 Mbps range, while many times it simply didn’t connect to test.
In fact, we found that during the start of the cruise the connection would continually go in and out. Sometimes we could connect and surf the web just fine. Other times we didn’t have a connection at all. Talking to others on our cruise, they mentioned the same issue.
The good news is that as the cruise went on, the connection become more reliable and faster. While we didn’t test the speed later on, by the third day of the cruise the connection was always on and surfing — while slower than you’d find at home or work — was still plenty fast.
In fact, once the connection stabilized later in the cruise, it was actually not that much different than the wi-fi you’d find at home. Yes, you can tell there was some delay in page loading, but it was only slight.
To give you an idea, here’s a video showing the real-time speed of surfing a number of sites:
Can I Stream Moves/TV With the NCL Internet?
Yes, but only if you sign up for the highest-tier “Unlimited Premium” package.
During our cruise, we put the Internet through the paces with the mid-tier wi-fi. When we tried to go to streaming sites like YouTube or Netflix, they were seemingly blocked; we couldn’t access them. If you want to watch a movie or a show, you’ll need to upgrade the Internet package. Strangely, in some apps or websites with videos embedded, those videos were able to play.
NCL makes clear that those with the premium level of service can access streaming services.
Can I Use Messaging Services Like WhatsApp or iMessage?
Want to stay in touch with people back home? The good news is that you can using popular programs like WhatsApp and iMessage for the iPhone. Here you will be able able to text just like normal. In our test, we did have some issues here and there sending photos, but we were able to do so.
Using WhatsApp we were even able to make phone calls through the app. The quality was perfect.
What we didn’t have a chance to test is Facetime using the iPhone. However, given the speed of the service and the upload speeds during our tests, it’s likely the service works, but the images may be grainy with some interruptions.
What About Surfing the Web?
How about just surfing the web? During our tests we had no issues with sites being blocked or otherwise unavailable. Granted, we didn’t try to view any objectionable content.
Instead, basic surfing of social media, email, and news websites worked well. Again, our connection speed and reliability wasn’t great at the start of the trip, but continued to improve as the trip went on.
One interesting thing to note is that sites that use your location — such as Google — would sometimes appear in foreign languages:
The vast majority of the time, however, this wasn’t an issue.
Can I Use a VPN With the Service?
Some people require the use of a VPN to connect to work back home, or just to maintain more privacy while surfing.
In that case, you should know that NCL does allow the use of VPNs, but is explicit in that it is only available with the highest-tier “Unlimited Premium” service.
Can I Work From the Ship With the Wi-Fi Service?
These days many of us like to be able to do some work, even while on vacation. It allows us to keep on top of things while relaxing, so that there isn’t a wall of work to get through when you return to the office.
So can you work using NCL’s Internet service? As with most other wi-fi on cruise ships, we think that depends on what sort of work you’re doing.
Our experience is that the service can be spotty at times, and perfectly capable at others. So if we had work that required crisp and clean Zoom calls or other high-bandwidth applications, then we’d be a bit leery as the speed isn’t as fast or reliable as you have back home.
However, doing tasks like emailing, working in Google Docs, submitting school assignments or uploading files should be no problem.
Is the Wi-Fi Worth It? Overall Impressions of Using the Internet on Norwegian Cruise
During our cruise we had a chance to put a real-world test of the Internet service aboard the ship. In short, it worked ok overall. As we mentioned several times, the connection the first day was slow and unreliable, but it much improved as the trip went on.
Speeds are slower than you’ll get at home, but still usable. We were able to post articles to Cruzely from the middle of the ocean, even though we were miles from the nearest shore.
If you are using the Internet to work, we wouldn’t want to rely on it for heavy data usage or extremely time-sensitive projects. For instance if you have an important video conference call, there’s a good chance the service will work, but we’d worry about connection speed. But if you just want to get some work done here or there while on the ship — such as checking email while you’re away — it’s perfectly suitable.
Coverage around the ship was fantastic. We used both our phone and laptop to connect (you can connect one device at a time, but can switch devices). Service was available everywhere we tried, from the cabin to the restaurants to around the deck.
The real issue, however, is price. Other cruise lines charge around $15-25 per day for their highest-tier service. Norwegian charges closer to $35-40. That’s a steep price to pay. Some people can get around the price tag with the Free at Sea promotion.
Bottom line: If you have a specific need for it — such as to keep up with work — then you’re likely to pay almost any price for the Internet. However, we think most people will think the cost is too high for the service on NCL. The connection itself is perfectly fine, but it’s hard to justify paying upwards of $40 per day just to be able to send a few emails or stream Netflix. We’d suggest most people that do connect would do well with the less expensive middle tier of service.
If you have more questions about using Norwegian’s Internet, let us know in the comments below.