Royal Caribbean Group, the world's second largest cruise ship operator, is already providing SpaceX’s Starlink internet to passengers. In early June, the company submitted a filing with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging the regulatory agency to approve SpaceX Starlink for use on sea-going vessels. Royal Caribbean's Vice President of Operational Excellence, John Maya, wrote a letter asking the FCC to "expeditiously" grant the license. “We believe our work with SpaceX, the first of its kind in the cruise industry will set the standard for other cruise operators and will mean a leap in terms of guest experience and business operations while at sea. [...] For this reason, we are eager to advocate for new market entrants to drive a marketplace innovation step change,” the company said. "We write today to respectfully request that you act expeditiously and look favorably upon the pending application filed by SpaceX Services, Inc. and referenced above," wrote Maya to the FCC.
A couple of weeks later, on June 30, SpaceX received approval from the FCC to beam Starlink satellite internet down to user terminals aboard moving vehicles, including sea-going vessels, airplanes, trains, trucks, and RV's. This week, Royal Caribbean announced that its 'Freedom of the Seas' ship was outfitted with Starlink dish antennas, pictured above. Read more: SpaceX Wins FCC Approval For Mobile Starlink Internet Aboard Airplanes, Ships, & Road Vehicles
A Royal Caribbean customer recently booked a weekend trip and had the opportunity to test Starlink aboard the ship. They said SpaceX’s broadband network proved to be better than the cruiseline’s previous satellite internet provider. Royal Caribbean currently provides two internet options: Voom Surf, which enables users to access email, social media and browse the web. The other option is called 'Voom Surf and Stream,' which provides a higher bandwidth without data caps for video streaming and uses that require high-speed internet connectivity.
The customer who tested the Starlink network aboard the cruise ship said that when they accessed the internet -"It was instantly clear that this internet service was above and beyond what Voom typically offered.”
First, they tested Starlink while docked at the port and "the Surf package showed a download speed of 9.01 Mbps and upload speed of 20.34 Mbps. The Surf & Stream gave a download speed of 77.03 Mbps and upload speed of 15.72 Mbps," they shared via a Royal Caribbean blog. "On both devices, we tried watching YouTube videos and Netflix shows to see how they would work. Both packages allowed us to instantly start watching the videos, with no lag or buffering time." Previously, this internet option with Royal Caribbean's previous internet provider was only able to meet basic internet needs, with Starlink the Surf package was capable of streaming video services without lag. The user tested Netflix, YouTube, and even performed a Zoom video call to put Starlink to the test.
Source: Royal Caribbean Blog
At sea Starlink provided even faster internet service, "with Surf showing download speeds of 19.93 Mbps and upload speeds of 8.19 Mbps, while Surf & Stream showed download speeds of 52.50 Mbps and upload speeds of 10.10 Mbps." The user said that Starlink blew their “cruising Wi-Fi expectations out of the water," and that the only downside is that now they have "to adjust our Wi-Fi expectations when sailing on other ships without Starlink."
Source: Royal Caribbean Blog
"The next morning we docked in Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal’s private island in the Bahamas. We were excited to test the speeds while on the island, which includes wifi access if you purchased a package on the ship," they shared, "To our surprise, the [Starlink] service remained strong even on the south side of the island, with Surf showing download speeds of 19.93 Mbps and upload speeds of 8.19 Mbps, while Surf & Stream showed download speeds of 52.50 Mbps and upload speeds of 10.10 Mbps."
Featured Image Source: Royal Caribbean
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.