|In 1995 I took my very first cruise. I did not enjoy that vacation one
little bit. Because, unlike today's ships, my cruise ship did not have
a cybercafe. As a total IRC addict, a week cut off from my network and
my friends was intolerable. I went through all the pangs of withdrawal
and the first thing I did upon arriving home was rush to my computer
to see what I had missed. Turned out, I didn't miss much. But the mere
fact that I wasn't there to personally witness all that nothing, kept
me away from cruising for several more years.
The good news is, today's cruise ships
almost all have internet access. The bad news is, internet access remains slow and expensive.
Guide to Cruising
Of course, a ship in transit cannot be hard wired to the internet. In
fact, all data communication on a ship, which is often the size of a
small city, is connected to a single point where it is converted to
bits and beamed up to a satellite. This includes telephone and
internet data communications by passengers and staff. That's right,
while you are worrying about getting on IRC, and your partner is eager
to send the folks back home a few pics by email, the crew is busy
checking credit card charges, ordering supplies, and making shore
excursion reservations. All of this adds up to a tremendous amount of
data queing up in that satellite uplink stream. Did I mention that for
all the ships at sea, all around the world, there are only FOUR
satellites serving them?
This reduced the satellite uplink speed to be only twice as fast as a
home dial-up modem, shared amongst all the people on the entire ship.
Cruise lines pay approximately $10,000 per month, per ship, for this
service. Now you know why it is so expensive.
The best thing you can do is purchase the largest internet access
package available when you board your ship. Even so, expect a fee of
$25 to $60 per hour, and delays of 10 minutes plus waiting to download
your email. An alternative is to wait until you reach your port of
call, where cybercafes are plentiful and usually charge a much more
reasonable $6 - 15 per hour. You can also park in a hotel lobby or
restaurant and access their wireless, often without any charge at all.
As technology improves, and cruiselines are able to access more
low-orbit telecom satellites, shipboard internet access will get
faster and cheaper. When that day comes, I may never come back home.
Tips for the traveling IRC addict
- Bring a laptop. You can have everything set up just the way you
like it with bookmarks, favorite clients, etc.
- Before you leave, set up a new gmail account - one that is not
going to download dozens of useless spam messages every time you sign
on. You want a clean account where only essential email will
download. If you have a network email address that you want to check
regularly, point it to that gmail addy. Tell your staff to contact you
via that email account.
- If you must use a computer at a cybercafe, use the java client on
SearchIRC to access your network. Not all cybercafes have IRC clients
on their systems. You cannot depend on finding a clean, unscripted
copy of mIRC on a computer you do not own.