Gone are the days where having Internet service was considered a luxury. Today, it’s a necessity. And even if you want to disconnect while on a cruise (which is a good idea) there are still times where you’ll want access to hop online.
Whether it’s checking in for a flight, sending a quick email back home, or checking in with work while you are sitting on the balcony, there is no shortage of reasons you might need access.
And that’s to say nothing of the reasons you’d just want access — streaming a movie to keep the kids happy, or checking on Facebook to post photos and video of the fun that you’re having.
Unfortunately, while free wi-fi access has become almost universal on land, that’s not the case on cruise ships. To be fair, offering online access in the middle of the ocean seems like a daunting challenge. As the public becomes more dependent on Internet access, however, cruise lines have made real strides to offer online access to their guests.
One such example is Royal Caribbean’s VOOM Internet service. Billed as “the fastest Internet at sea”, it’s heavily promoted on the cruise line’s ships, with two packages — a cheaper “Surf” package made for general browsing and checking email, and a more expensive “Surf + Stream” that offers the ability to video chat, as well as stream movies and music.
To see if the VOOM Internet works as advertised, we recently put the service to the test during a recent cruise aboard Liberty of the Seas.
Price of Royal Caribbean’s VOOM Internet Service
First things first, if you are planning to get online during your cruise then expect to fork over some considerable money.
While we appreciate the complexities that are involved in accessing the Internet from the middle of the ocean aboard the ship, the price of the VOOM service is still eye-watering to us.
While rates may vary based on your specific cruise, our trip had several different prices. If you wanted the most basic service — dubbed “Surf” — then the cost for multi-day packages was $15.99 per day. The “Surf” package allows you to do basic web browsing and email, but nothing data intensive like streaming content.
If you upgraded to the “Surf+Stream” package, then you are given speeds that are supposed to let you stream things like music and video (such as Netflix or YouTube). The cost for the upgraded service was $19.99 per day if bought as part of a multi-day package.
(Note: These package rates are available when you buy the Internet for the duration of your cruise, with at least two days remaining on the trip.)
What if you just want to hop online for a single day or just for a few minutes to check email? On our cruise there were time blocks available for purchase, as well as a daily rate that was higher than the multi-day package rate. In our case, we paid $26.99 to access the “Surf+Stream” service for a single day, which was a slight discount to the $29.99 advertised because of our loyalty status on the cruise line.
It should be noted that these prices are only for one device. If you want to connect more than one device at a time, then you will have to pay more. You can switch between devices by signing in, but at the base price, only one device can access the Internet at any given time.
Also, for the biggest savings you can pre-purchase the VOOM “Surf + Stream” through the Royal Caribbean Cruise Planner at $15.99 per day, but keep in mind that means you will have to purchase Internet for every day of your trip.
Signing Up to Access the Internet
The sign-up process for Royal Caribbean’s VOOM service was extremely simple. First, passengers enable wi-fi on their device and then select “royal-wifi” from the list of available connections.
Once connected, you then open up a browser and follow the prompts to connect. You’ll need to create a username and password for the service. With this username and password you can sign in on any device to access your Internet plan after purchasing.
The different plans are laid out simply and you only have to choose the one that you want. After confirming, the system will take several seconds (it took us about 10-20 seconds) to finalize the purchase and then connect you to the wi-fi service.
You don’t have to enter any billing information as the cost of the service will charge to your onboard account.
Testing the Speed of Royal Caribbean’s VOOM Service
As mentioned above, we tested the “Surf+Stream” service. This is the faster of the two services, and VOOM is dubbed the “fastest Internet at sea.”
So how did it perform?
The service did allow us to stream content (more on this below), but the speed was significantly slower than we are used to from home Internet.
During the course of the day we performed several different speed tests, which tell you how fast your Internet connection is. These tests all returned results in the 3-5 Mbps range. For reference, many home broadband connections range between 20-50 Mbps (you can test your current connection speed here.)
In other words, there is a considerable slowdown that can be felt in browsing. Sites may take a few extra seconds to load. In our case, checking email was perfectly fine, but surfing many sites (especially multiple pages at once) caused slowdowns.
What about streaming?
We tested Netflix on the VOOM connection. According to Netflix, the absolute minimum required speed to access the service is 0.5 Mbps, with 3 Mbps recommended for standard definition streaming, and 5 Mbps recommended for HD streaming.
In our test, Netflix shows worked, but were the images were fuzzy. Loading took some time, especially if trying to click to different times within a show. Multiple times we simply had to restart the program after it froze when trying to click to a different point in the episode.
We had better success with YouTube videos, which at times showed up clear and crisp (but other times fuzzy) and were faster to load.
In other words, yes streaming will work on VOOM, but in our test it appeared to be the bare minimum required for consistent service. Surfing the web was just fine, but you will likely tell that the connection is slower than you are used to having.
More Questions and Answers About VOOM
Can I Use My Phone as a Hotspot to Connect Other Devices?
One of the big drawbacks of the service is that for a considerable price, you only get the ability to connect one device. So if you want to hook up with your laptop and your traveling partner wants to connect their phone, then you need to pay for two devices.
As a workaround, we tried to use our phone to connect to VOOM and then use the phone as a hotspot to connect other devices. This did not work.
Whenever we turned on the hotspot feature, our wi-fi service turned off automatically. We weren’t able to use the phone as a hotspot.
What Happens If I Sign In On Multiple Devices?
While connected to the Internet we tried login on another device. In our case, the second device took precedence. The second device was able to browse the web while the first device connected no longer had service.
Can I Use Voom to Message and Make Calls on my Phone via Wi-Fi?
Yes. While connected, we used WhatsApp to both message and make calls through the app. It worked flawlessly and the voice calls were crystal clear. Other messaging apps or wi-fi calling should work as well. In other words, if you purchase the Internet service, you are essentially paying for cell service as well.
While connected, VOOM says you should still your phone in airplane mode to avoid any potential roaming charges. While in airplane mode, you can’t send regular text messages or make calls through a cellular provider. You’ll need to have a messaging app to makes calls or send texts.
Have more questions about the specifics of using the VOOM service? Let us know in the comments below.