Vacations for many computer users are a love/hate relationship. Yes, we love to take vacations. No, we do not like being unconnected; no email, no RSS feeds, no web site news, no instant messaging.
This article is coming to you from Norwegian Cruise Lines’ (NCL) ‘Pride of America’ cruise ship in the Pacific Ocean, just off the Hawaiian Island of Maui.
Vacations are usually long overdue and this one is no exception. The problem, of course, is that there’s still work to do, and most of my work is done using the computer.
At some point in the future, maybe I’ll have ‘my people’ take care of pressing needs like email messages, article editing, and online updating.
For new, even on vacation in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there’s still work to be done; messages to answer, articles to edit, sites to check.
A system administrator’s work is never done. Ever. Never. Ever. Even when all the hardware and software is Mac and Apple.
So, once you find yourself on vacation, how do you connect to the internet?
Hawaii has many cruise ships visit the islands, though only two are stationed here. NCL’s ‘Pride of Aloha’ and ‘Pride of America’.
Today, we’re on the Pride of America on Maui. The first day of the seven-day cruise was on Hawaii’s Big Island; specifically the sleepy and humid city of Hilo.
Weather has been superb, service is excellent, the food very good, and the scenery is as good as it gets.
How about connecting to the internet? Email? Browsing?
Connecting is a mixed plate lunch. This ship is new as of 2005 so if you would expect it to have all latest amenities, you would be correct.
There’s swimming pools, restaurants, an exercise gym, staterooms with balcony, Kids Camp, and all the luxuries of a stay at a four star hotel and resort.
For internet connectivity, each stateroom has an ethernet connection, and there are wireless WiFi hotspots throughout the ship.
Users are then connected to the internet by a satellite uplink from the ship.
Not including specials, NCL offers three basic plans to connect your Mac (or Windows laptop) to the internet.
At the high end, connection is a simple 75-cents per minute. That’s over a penny per second.
Connection is simple enough. Enter a login ID and a password. Billing automatic to the credit card used when registering on the ship.
Two other plans are available which reduce the connection cost considerably.
Time Plan 1 provides 250 minutes for $100, or 40-cents per minute.
Time Plan 2 provides 100 minutes for $55, or 55-cents per minute.
All plans also require a $3.95 center ‘registration’ charge. The two less expensive plans also have discounts which add bonus minutes to the total, further reducing the per-minute costs.
The ship has an Internet Cafe with a number of Windows PCs connected to the internet. The Cafe is also a WiFi hotspot. A number of public lounge areas on the ship are also connected via WiFi.
So, what kind of connection does my PowerBook get?
In short, better than dial up, but not as good as ISDN. That means your DSL or broadband cable connections absolutely screams in comparison to the satellite connection here; WiFi or ethernet.
Some web pages actually ‘time out’ before a download begins, further aggravating a slower than desired connection.
While downloading email has not been a problem, sending email is a regular problem. Even my Apple .Mac account cannot connect through NCL’s satellite connection to send email.
We cruised Hawaii and Fanning Island (about 1,000 miles south of Hawaii) a few years ago on another NCL ship. Connections, though slow, were persistent; including sending email. Not so with the newer ship.
Despite the hiccups, it’s obvious that technology has progressed rapidly. How many hotels have you visited which did not have a high speed internet connection?
Here’s a ship in the middle of the Pacific that’s connected (mostly) to the internet right inside the stateroom. Ethernet cables are provided.
I’ve been tempted to try out iChat or Skype but the 40-cents per minute charge simply to ‘test it’ remains a deterrent.
For now, it’s progress, though slower than expected, and more expensive than preferred. Maui? Beautiful. Goodbye, PowerBook. Hello, sun and 82-degrees.
Where’s the postcards, Ron? I’m sure you’ve got your camera with you. Where’s the pictures?
Jack D. Miller
Rub it in, bub. It’s not 82-degrees in St. Louis. How about some pictures?