How To Get Internet Access For Less – While Traveling Or On A Cruise
When you go on a cruise, one of the most annoying (and most expensive) extra charges is Internet Access.
While many new ships have increased their capacity and are offering daily internet packages for a fixed fee, most still charge by the minute for barely usable access to simple services such as email, chat and social media.
Depending on how attached to the online world you are during a trip, this could become very expensive especially when traveling in foreign countries where roaming is ridiculously costly or onboard access is slow (and again, very expensive). Enter SkyRoam (now called Solis WiFi) – a global internet hotspot initially rolled out for global nomads and business people, is now so affordable that the casual cruiser can pack one of these little devices and get worldwide coverage for a fraction of cellular roaming or ship internet access.
The genius folks at SkyRoam have made this little hockey puck device just for the road warriors and global travelers. For a few dollars per day, you can stay connected around the world by just powering up the device and connecting up to 10 phones, tablets, or computers to the hotspot. Our tests have worked around the world including England, Canary Islands, Caribbean, America, Netherlands, Greece and Croatia.
Initially we wondered with the lower costs of mobile roaming fees if this product really made sense anymore, but we quickly found out that traveling to more obscure locations that roaming costs were prohibitive and the flat fee daily pass for SkyRoam quickly began to make sense.
Cheap internet access while on a cruise:
Where the value proposition for SkyRoam starts to shine is for people who are avid cruisers where it’s likely you’ll end up in several countries with different roaming rates on every trip.
So how does this actually work in real life? Good question! So we tested the device while on several cruises to understand how it could work for us and save money.
We started in Aruba by firing up the SkyRoam. Within about 90 seconds we had a connection to the local carrier towers and launched a “day pass” for only $9. This allowed us to check email, use maps, make a VOIP call (using phone.com).
While in port in the morning, we were able to each login to the SkyRoam box and share the connection to check critical emails, chat with colleagues and pay a credit card bill we nearly forgot about all without having to use the ship based internet access at 50 cents per minute!
After we had our breakfast we we tossed the SkyRoam in a backpack and stayed connected for our entire day out. We were able to use Google and Apple Maps along with standard apps we use daily (Instagram, facebook, banking apps, etc) without any problem.
The biggest question we had with using this device were the speeds we’d get. This definitely varies by location and even sometimes the location in the country you are in. We started off with what was a strong 4G signal but sometimes the speeds slowed to around 3G speeds. I can only assume that this is due to the network in the location – not the device. SkyRoam states that the speeds are not throttled on a day pass but are subject to fair use policies. So Expect if you start downloading music and videos on a day pass, you may get throttled, though the exact amount of data/speed usage isn’t specified in the SkyRoam FAQs.
Regardless of the speed, we had no problems using the service for maps and email/chat, etc.
Second Attempt to use the SkyRoam was arriving in Southampton England on the first part of a transatlantic cruise. Our mobile carrier was going to be VERY expensive to activate international roaming for the 2 days we were in England before the cruise so we opted for SkyRoam. It took a little longer to connect (3 minutes) but it did eventually connect and served up speedy 4GLTE data.
We used this to book tables, email, plan our outings with Google Maps and research excursions. Everything we’d normally do without a problem!
So to put it in dollars and cents – if we would have used the Ships WiFi, we would have paid far more than the $9 day pass to do simple tasks. Additionally with having the portable SkyRoam box, we were able to take our access with us on shore which obviously you can’t do if you subscribe to the onboard WiFi. And with the ability to have up to 10 connections, you can imagine that we had some fast friends onboard when they realized they could quickly connect and check their email. It even earned us a few drinks from the bar by our new “friends” 🙂
We got 8 hours of use with 2 devices connected without a problem. We never tested it beyond 8 hours for “maximum” battery life, but SkyRoam says it can last 16 hours.
Other nifty features of our SkyRoam mobile wifi hotspot:
There are two versions of the SkyRoam solis hotspot. We’ve chosen to use the slightly more expensive version because not only is it a wifi hotspot for up to 10 people, it’s also a 4700mAh power bank to recharge your phone on the go and has a bluetooth speaker & microphone + camera. While I don’t really get the point of a camera, having a power bank and speaker in the same device is a nice touch but it will cost you an extra 60 bucks. (179.99 for solis X vs 119.99 for the solis light).
The Caveat of using SkyRoam on your Cruise
While it seems like common sense, realize that while you are out in the open ocean, SkyRoam will not work. So for instance, if you are on a transatlantic cruise this device will not connect to anything. However most cruises stay close enough to shore that you could possibly get a signal while close to shore.
All in all, that’s really the only caveat and it’s hardly a big one. After all, who wants to be on the internet during a fun filled sea day!
The cost of using SkyRoam mobile wifi hotspot:
Of course cost is always an issue when thinking about extra services and luxuries for your next trip. Our opinion is this : especially with cruises, internet access costs are criminally high – so that makes the value of a SkyRoam wifi hotspot worth every penny.
What you’ll expect to spend:
- For the actual SkyRoam Soils box, you’ll spend between $120 & $180 for the device
- Service is provided by daily access pass ($9) or by pay as you go data plan for about $3/GB – Monthly plans are available for $99/mo. Most people will be more than satisfied with the day pass option.
- An option to rent a SkyRoam is available but makes no real sense ($9/day) if you plan on using this more than once.
UPDATE : Solis Wifi has introduced an even better model, the Solis5G!
The new 5G model is a rugged design slim enough to fit in your pocket, yet tough enough to endure drops, dust, and water. With secure 5G and 4G LTE speeds in over 135 countries worldwide, you can stay connected whether you’re working from a local café or streaming from the Eiffel Tower. (They are even offering a bonus if you preorder)