Enabling at-sea communication onboard cruise ships

Operators must diversify their communication offerings to meet the connectivity needs of guests

Enabling at-sea communication onboard cruise ships
WMS is helping cruise lines to deliver the connectivity packages that passengers want

By Elly Yates-Roberts |

The cruise industry is diversifying. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the cruising had grown significantly in popularity, with operators carrying 29.7 million passengers in 2019 compared with just over 17 million in 2009, according to research from Cruise Market Watch. The demographics associated with cruising have also changed to include people of all ages and backgrounds, and with this, so have the connectivity needs of passengers. 

“There is now a broad spectrum of people using onboard communication,” says Pramod Arora, president and CEO of Wireless Maritime Services (WMS). “At one end of the spectrum are occasional users, who may only make and receive a few calls and texts while at sea, or check their emails infrequently. For those passengers, pay-as-you-go pricing would be appropriate as it gives them control and bills them only for the small amount of service they use. 

“At the other end of the spectrum are heavy streamers, who may make Zoom calls, play online games, watch online videos or frequently use video-centric social media applications. Many cruise lines offer streaming wi-fi packages that cater to these passengers’ needs.” 

According to Arora, cruise lines should create a passenger-focused product and communication ecosystem that enables people to choose the right package for their connectivity needs.

“To maximise guest satisfaction and revenue, it’s important for cruise operators to understand that one type of onboard communication offering will not fit all passengers; rather they must provide a wide spectrum of several services like cellular and wi-fi,” says Arora. “Instead of forcing passengers to make a choice between one or the other, cruise lines should create a user-friendly ecosystem that lets the passenger pick what fits them best. 

“If the passenger needs to be reachable at sea but uses small amounts of data, then a cellular package could be a perfect choice for them, but it is not ideal for streaming a movie on Netflix. A corporate user, on the other hand, might value seamlessness and security of cellular connectivity. The use cases are diverse and keep evolving, and so do the products and technologies. Helping passengers understand these services based upon their user profile is key to guiding them in the right direction.” 

WMS enables cruise lines to offer more flexible, customised and effective connectivity packages via cellular and wi-fi services. “We are the leading cellular roaming provider at sea with the most modern network deployments in the cruise market and the richest roaming footprint in the world,” says Arora. “Offerings such as our award-winning Cellular at Sea service have been deployed for more than 15 years and we are a trusted partner to the industry.” 

WMS also provides cost-effective wi-fi design, integration and management services to help cruise lines maximise their investment. Its team of expert engineers can assess a cruise line’s wi-fi network and make recommendations to improve performance and guest satisfaction. “We can help cruise lines create that seamless environment so that onboard connectivity begins to resemble what guests are used to on land in terms of options, wide penetration and affordable pricing,” said Arora. 

While many cruise lines have already invested in essential connectivity technologies, Arora believes that they must now adjust their communication and pricing approach to ensure passengers receive the services they want. They can reap the business rewards of doing so by expanding penetration of connectivity and usage and improving guest satisfaction for these services. 

“Small changes in how cruise lines communicate the availability of these services to passengers based upon user type would increase adoption,” says Arora. “Cruise lines can also get greater return on investment by exploring marketing efforts that do not discourage guests from communicating while at sea in the manner that makes sense to them and their families.”

This article was first published in the 2022 Autumn/Winter issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.   

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