Not that long ago, Internet on a cruise was largely a luxury. While someone might buy access to be able to work remotely from the ship or buy a few minutes to check email, broad access by many people on the ship wasn’t common.
What a difference a few years can make. Now, having wi-fi access is nearly a necessity. Not only does it give you a chance to check in back home and keep tabs on your email or the office while you’re away, but it also allows you to post those nice pictures of yourself having fun onto social media, watch movies in the cabin, listen to music, and even check-in for flights when heading home after the trip.
It’s no exaggeration that Internet access has gone from a luxury to a must-have.
The good news is that cruise lines — including Carnival — offer wi-fi access across their fleets. Whether you want to hook up to the Internet with your laptop or post to Facebook from your phone, you can get service anywhere on the ship on any device.
That said, wi-fi access is not free, nor is it as quick as you are used to back on land. It is still a challenge to get access while hundreds of miles in the middle of the water. So what can you expect? We recently put Carnival’s Internet access through the paces to give you all the details on what we experienced with the service.
What Wi-Fi Packages Are Available on Carnival?
Like other cruise lines, Carnival offers different tiers of service, all at different price points. Each tier offers different access, from just being able to login to social media, all the way to full web access at faster speeds. Here’s a run-down of what’s offered:
Social Plan: Gives access to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, WhatsApp, and Snapchat, along with airline websites. However, it doesn’t include most websites (including email), streaming, or wi-fi calling
Value Plan: Gives email access, what’s included in the social plan, as well as broad access to the rest of the web — all at faster speeds than the Social plan. However, Carnival says it still doesn’t support streaming, FaceTime, or wi-fi calling.
Premium Plan: Carnival’s highest tier of service, it offers everything in the other two tiers, with faster speeds. Some ships are Netflix enabled, allowing you to stream shows. However, the cruise line says it doesn’t support video or music streaming (see below for more details — including our experience — on streaming).
How Much Does Wi-Fi Access Cost on Carnival?
What you pay for access will depend on when you purchase and how long you want access. Typically, Internet access is sold for the length of the entire cruise. There is a 15% discount if you buy service before the cruise compared to the onboard price. As well, you can purchase a 24-hour pass for the Value and Premium plans when on the ship.
One thing to note is that prices listed on Carnival’s website were slightly lower than what we saw on the ship. For instance, the Social plan is listed as $8 per day if bought on the ship, but we saw a price of $10 per day.
For our cruise, we bought the Premium plan ahead of time and paid $101.15 for a 7-day cruise, or $14.45 per day:
How Do You Access the Internet Once on the Ship?
The sign-in process is fairly straightforward, but there were some hiccups here and there. Sometimes logging in took a few tries to gain access.
- Open up your wi-fi connection settings and connect to the ship’s service. In our case, it was named “Carnival Vista Wi-Fi” or something similar.
- Open up a browser and go to “CarnivalWiFi.com”
- Enter your folio number and birthdate, and click “Log In”
- Click “Confirm” on the next screen to enable access.
At this point you should be connected and can then surf the web as normal.
How Fast Is Carnival’s Wi-Fi Service?
As mentioned above, for our cruise we tested the fastest Premium plan of service. Doing a speed test, it returned a ping of 680 ms, a download speed of 9.09 Mbps, and an upload speed of 2.64 Mbps.
Those numbers likely mean little to most people. In layman’s terms, surfing the web seemed sluggish. There were times when the connection seemed faster than others, but you wouldn’t confuse the speed with broadband you have at home or the office. Sites would load, but took their time.
For instance, visiting YouTube took about 10 seconds before video thumbnails started to load. A visit to CNN.com brought up the text headlines relatively quickly, but images were delayed.
If you had to use the connection every day to surf, it would be too slow by modern standards. It definitely took some time to load images onto posts for Cruzely.com when we live-blogged the cruise. Using the wi-fi here and there to check the news or email, however, was just fine.
Do I Have to Buy Access For Every Device? Can I Share Access?
It’s likely you’re traveling with other people that want access to the Internet. In that case you have two options. First, you can buy more than one package, giving access to multiple devices at once. Or, you can simply share access on different devices.
Carnival allows you to login to the wi-fi from separate devices, but you can only use one device at a time. So one person could connect with the wi-fi on a laptop and when finished, another person could login to have access on their phone. If you don’t need access every moment of the day, it’s an easy way to save some money by sharing.
To transfer access between devices, you simply follow the login procedures as normal. It will notify you that the account is already in use and ask if you want to switch devices. Simply confirm the switch and you’re good to go on the second device.
Can I Stream Movies/TV on Carnival’s Wi-Fi?
Whether you can stream on your cruise may be hard to say. Here’s the issue — Carnival says that none of its plans support video or music streaming. However, some ships (Vista, Horizon, Sunrise) are Netflix-enabled so you can watch on those ships.
For our cruise, we sailed on the Carnival Vista with the Premium plan. During that trip, streaming seemed hit or miss. For instance, we were able to access and watch YouTube videos. We also streamed Amazon Prime videos multiple times with no issues. The picture was nice, and there was minimal buffering. When trying to stream Showtime, however, we encountered an error and weren’t able to watch.
Bottom line is that yes, you can stream in at least some cases. The better option, however, is to go ahead and download any shows you want to watch ahead of time. That way you don’t have to worry about wi-fi service at all.
Can I Make FaceTime Calls on the Wi-Fi?
Yes. On our trip we tested FaceTime calls from an iPhone while sailing on the Vista with the Premium plan. There were no issues connecting. The call quality itself was so-so. We were able to talk, but there were some times where the image was blurry or froze for a few seconds. Audio had no issues.
Bottom line: FaceTime was able to be used, even though Carnival says on its website that it’s not supported.
Can I Text Message Over Wi-Fi?
For most of us, we message a lot more than we actually make calls on our phone. In this case, during our tests we noticed that texting iPhone to iPhone seemed to work with no problems. We were able to send and receive messages when connected to wi-fi, including messages with pictures.
However, when messaging to an Android phone, our messages had trouble going through. In the end, we ended up just emailing the person we were trying to text as we couldn’t send the text.
In that case, messaging apps like WhatsApp might be a better option. We didn’t test any messaging apps on our cruise, but they are specifically mentioned by Carnival as being supported on its wi-fi service.
Do I Have to Buy Wi-Fi Access to Use Carnival’s HUB App?
If you’re about to sail, you’ve likely seen mention of downloading the HUB app to use on the ship. This app is extremely useful on the cruise, and you can use it to access everything from dinner menus to ship maps to tracking your onboard spending account.
The good news if that you don’t have to purchase wi-fi access to use the app. All the features can be used without buying an Internet plan.
Is Carnival’s Wi-Fi Worth It?
For our 7-day cruise, we paid just over $100 for the Premium plan — or about $15 a day. That’s a sharp price to pay for online access. So is it worth it?
In our eyes, it depends on what you need access for. If you simply want to stay connected, check email occasionally and text some friends, then paying that much seems too high to us (that’s where the cheaper Social and Value plans are nice). However, if you have work obligations or things going on back home that you simply can’t miss, then by all means, hop online.
One thing to note is that many ports of calls offer wi-fi service in some shape or form. There may be restaurants that offer wi-fi to customers or ports of call that offer access for a cheaper fee than what’s on the ship. You can also access the Internet with a day-pass so you don’t have to pay for access the entire week.