Tim Wood | December 05, 2015 7:00 AM ET
Time For Dream Makers To End the Internet Nightmare
Do you want to be connected to the real world when you’re on a cruise?
Princess Cruises brilliantly made use of this dilemma in their most recent marketing blitz – leave the work world behind, don’t answer the voicemail and just live in the moment of an amazing cruise.
It’s a lovely idea, and honestly, for years, it was the fallback line and de facto marketing strategy for cruise lines to avoid upgrading their Internet offerings.
I remember asking a steward about Internet connection on a cruise with my wife in 2007 and getting that line.
“We have service, but really, do you need it here? Our whole goal is to keep you from needing it.”
In 1997, I would have savored that. Turn off the pager and I’m off the grid.
In 2007, it still resonated with us. Eh, you know what, I am turning off my flip phone and work will understand. And when I got back from the cruise, I stood in line for four hours for this crazy new invention called an iPhone.
As we approach 2016, the World Wide Web isn’t just a novelty to find grumpy cats or squirrels riding waterskis. It is as much a part of our economic existence and everyday life as the automobile or the telephone.
So when I get on a cruise ship and I’m told I need to spend $100 for a sliver of connectivity, it touches a nerve.
We are at a point in the technological revolution where asking folks to pay extra to use a basic service is comical.
It’s time for airlines and cruise lines to make basic unlimited Internet access a part of their fares and stop adding exorbitant charges in a la carte.
This is a basic cost of doing business, plain and simple. You want to attract us customers, get with the times.
The idea of being disconnected, while still a glorious thought, is not a reality. Some need it to send a file or attend a meeting or two while out of the office to “stay in the loop.”
Families need it more and more to quench the needs of kids using smart devices as effortlessly as we played with our “beep beep boop boop” Coleco Handheld Football games in the 1980s. Parents know. Tablets have become an imperative tool to get moments of peace in between the together time, and most of the games kids play require basic Internet connections.
Hotels learned this lesson years ago. Most chains and independents now offer free basic Internet, even if that cost might be included in the room rate. Others tie free basic connectivity to a rewards program, which is an added step, but most reward programs are free to join. Fine.
There’s still usually a cost for premium connections that will allow for streaming videos through Netflix or iTunes. It’s a structure that we as regular travelers have come to appreciate and understand as a manageable compromise.
Airlines are very slow to this game. They are smart in that many put the third-party connections, like GoGo, front and center. Blame them for the slow connection you’re paying $10 for. Nice try.
Southwest, as usual, is ahead of the curve in customer service. They offer free live and on-demand TV through your personal device. But they still charge $8 a day per device for basic Internet connection to check email.
I’m sorry, it’s not good enough. We as consumers are done caring what the cost might be to build all this infrastructure. There are times when I’m on the verge of forgiving airlines for charging, because there’s supposedly “communication issues” that arise between the plane and the air traffic controllers, and playing out that scenario in my head is never good, no matter how bogus that claim may be. But then it takes me longer to pull up an email than it did with a 28k modem with Internet I paid $9.99 to use, and the forgiveness passes.
Cruise lines are way behind in recognizing the need for Internet and they have no air traffic controller to blame. Yes, there’s progress. Royal Caribbean is touting their Zoom service for their three newest ships. You’ll be able to stream Netflix for just $15 per day for one device.
Great job on the tech upgrade. Awful job on passing your upgrade cost on to me.
All the cruise lines are just as bad. Reading through comment sections, you’ll find a Disney cruiser who spent $300 for a three-day cruise just to send three emails with large attachments. Or the Liberty of the Seas cruiser who spent $161.74 — about two month's worth of cable/Internet bills — over a 10-day cruise for download speeds of 0.25 mbps (the average home Internet plan provides 25 mbps).
Oh, and don’t try to upload photos or text messages. One cruiser bought a $15 per day “unlimited” package thinking they were covered and then got an $880 Internet bill on disembarkation day.
It’s reminiscent of the early days of cellphones when we had to buy plans with minutes. And when smartphones became a thing, the phone companies gouged us for data.
The free market pushed the phone companies to at least find the word “unlimited” in their vocabulary.
We’re at that crossroads when it comes to airline and cruise line Internet access. Problem is, there’s no signs of these companies understanding this is the cost of doing business. And I’m not seeing a loud-enough pushback from the consumers … yet.
These companies have already taken enough time to offer sketchy service at best for a premium. We as consumers will need to push this pendulum in our favor by speaking up.
Yes, being disconnected is a dreamy idea. It’s probably why most of us haven’t been more vocal. Sadly, today’s connected economy means our vacations are invaded by work or Flappy Bird too often.
If these companies understood customer service better, they would not exploit that unfortunate reality as a revenue stream.
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