The cruise market is booming, with more international itineraries and travelers than ever before. In 2017, 25.8 million people stepped aboard a ship for adventure, relaxation and an unforgettable experience—a 20% increase from five years ago. To accommodate the influx of new and returning passengers, cruise operators have gone to great lengths to make the on-board guest experience nothing short of exceptional. The vast number of amenities on some ships have likened them to “floating cities” that boast sky-diving simulators, celebrity chef restaurants and world-class spas. On many ships, life at sea has all the comforts of life on land.

For many guests, an exceptional experience includes high-speed internet. Whether they’re in port, on a shore excursion for the day, or sailing in the middle of the ocean, guests expect to text their friends, post on social media, stream their favorite TV shows and even check work emails. As most ships can hold anywhere from 100 or 5,000 passengers, that adds up to a lot of capacity for a wide variety of bandwidth-heavy applications. Plus, there is the bandwidth required by crew for operational requirements, such as e-Navigation, remote monitoring, crew welfare and processing guest payment information.

To catch up to guest expectations for bandwidth and to handle the increasing complexity of managing a network, cruise operators need to be selective in choosing their IT solutions. With the industry slated to grow, cruise operators should look for a network service provider with an expert knowledge of the industry and the flexibility to tailor solutions to their specific needs, now and in the future. We recommend that cruise operators seek out the following seven characteristics of a service provider so they can provide a five-star experience on-board.


1) Boasts borderless global coverage

As you sail from port to port, reliable connectivity is important for both safety and a great guest experience. However, ensuring a seamless experience can be tough as networks change between cities and countries, or as you voyage into remote regions. Especially as the expedition segment grows, cruise operators will even be expected to stretch connectivity into the hard-to-reach polar regions.

That’s why it’s important to work with a service provider that is technology agnostic—one that is not restricted to one access technology or satellite operator, but will work behind the scenes with terrestrial, satellite or hybrid networks to ensure your ships receive connectivity that switches automatically and without interruption, no matter where you sail. Since technology-agnostic service providers are open to current and future access technologies, you can rest easy knowing you will have access to borderless global coverage—now and as new technologies come online. Service providers that are not locked into one access technology or a single operator’s satellite footprints can also offer you the most powerful satellites with the most ideal look angles at the best rates.


2) Offers access to limitless bandwidth

Today, guests expect a technology experience that matches the exceptional service found throughout the ship—whether at port, at sea or onshore. They expect to watch a movie and check social media simultaneously, without lag. With bandwidth speeds for cruise ships finally catching up to guest expectations , cruise operators should seek out a service provider that offers access to limitless bandwidth, so they can run guest networks and corporate networks together and without interruption. Service providers that offer a range of bandwidth plans also provide cruise operators with room to scale as more on-board technology offerings, such as facial recognition and ship-related apps , are implemented.


3) Supplies on-demand fulfillment

Guest expectation for bandwidth is high, but it’s not always consistent. Depending on the season, guest demographics, geographical regions and more, the amount of bandwidth your ship requires may vary. Service providers that offer on-demand fulfillment can work with you to increase and decrease bandwidth on demand when your needs shift. With bandwidth on demand and resource pooling and sharing, you can more intelligently allocate bandwidth across your fleet and streamline your budget.


4) Has a reputation for reliability

Reliability is absolutely critical when you’re trusting a service provider to meet customers’ high expectations and to support your essential operations. Especially as the cruise industry upgrades its networks and introduces new on-board technologies, it’s essential to choose a provider with a track record of success in the cruise industry. Working with a service provider new to the unique challenges of cruise communications could mean spotty coverage, impacted operations and a subpar customer experience—and eventually, it could affect your bottom line.


5) Innovates on your behalf

Building a comprehensive network is only half of the equation. Applications that run on your network are the real drivers of the guest experience. That’s why innovation must be a hallmark of any service provider today. As cruise operators begin to integrate more advanced technologies, such as wearables and advanced entertainment solutions, it’s essential to have a service provider that can innovate on your behalf and add value to your core network solution.

6) Manages your network proactively

Keeping up with the fast pace of technology is difficult. As remote networks become increasingly critical and complex to manage, cruise operators should seek out a communications partner that does the heavy lifting in the IT space for them.

A proactive network operator with a knowledge of the cruise industry can help you shape and optimize traffic, manage multiple networks, and create end-to-end connectivity solutions. By handling the backend of connectivity and network management, a proactive service provider gives you the power to look at the bigger picture and make more informed network decisions. It also frees your crew up to focus on other core aspects of your business, such as food service, shore excursions and more.

7) Provides a single service experience

Hand in hand with proactive network management is a one-service experience. A service provider that can provide an end-to-end solution—and not just pieces of the puzzle—will make management of your communications exponentially easier. One communications company that serves as an extension of your team means less paperwork and less hassle.

Finding a service provider to handle your entire connectivity solution also provides greater visibility for both you and your provider. With oversight of your entire system, a service provider can create a better picture of your current and future needs and suggest solutions accordingly. Working with a single service provider also gives cruise operators more visibility into their connectivity system, instead of trying to piece together the workings of multiple companies.

Speedcast and the cruise industry

Speedcast is more than a service provider, we’re a global communications partner. We provide service to about 70% of cruise passengers in the world. With more than 30 years of experience in the industry, we’re experts in keeping your crew and passengers connected and safe.

With Speedcast Atlas, we offer a new way to building a powerful communications solution designed just for your business, whether you’re maintaining one small vessel or upgrading a fleet of ocean cruise ships.

At the heart of Speedcast is a deep commitment to provide the service and support your operations require. We work side-by-side through solution concept to implementation, through all evolutions of your business to deliver everything from a tailored design to system installation and management.

You can also trust your most critical operations to run flawlessly on the world’s largest remote communications network, with capacity from more than 95 satellites and 35+ Speedcast and Partner teleports, layered with redundancy across fiber, microwave and LTE. Atlas provides full access to our differentiated, value-added solutions that cover a comprehensive range of voice, data, network and content requirements.

Speedcast Atlas makes remote connectivity simple and dependable. With Atlas, you gain 24/7 support, the vigilant aid of field engineers deployed around the world, and access to our expert-driven consulting services.