Wi-Fi on the Hurtigruten MS Fram
March 23, 2018 – by Per Christensson
A few years ago, if you asked someone about their experience on a cruise ship, you might ask about the food, the activities, and the friendliness of the staff. Now a common first question is, "How good is the Wi-Fi?"
Cruise ships are notorious for slow and unreliable Internet connections. This is because of two primary reasons: 1) many cruise ships were built before Internet access was an expectation of travelers, and 2) they only have a satellite link to the Internet. After all, it's hard to find wireless access points floating in the middle of sea.
With that in mind, I had low expectations for Internet connectivity before beginning my recent journey to Antarctica on the Hurtigruten MS Fram. I thought I might have to wait until I returned home to post any of my pictures on Facebook or Instagram. Fortunately, this fear was unfounded and I was able to use the Internet for most of the trip.
I signed up for the "VIP" Wi-Fi package, which provided Internet access for the entire journey, which was nearly 14 days. Hurtigruten offered a few other options, such as 24-hour or 72-hour access, but I did not entertain those options. The receptionist also told me that the VIP Internet access was the fastest so it was a no-brainer. I don't know how the VIP package compared to the other access levels, but at least I can say the VIP Internet access was great.
OK, I should qualify what I mean by "great." On average, it took about a minute to upload a 1 megabyte photo. So publishing 30 photos to my Antarctica album on Facebook took about 30 minutes. That's about 16.7 KBps, or 133.6 Kbps. That is by no means fast (it's less than a tenth the speed of a slow DSL connection, but it worked. When we were near the shore or close to tall mountains, the Internet connection was much slower or even unresponsive. Otherwise, upload and download speeds were pretty consistent for the duration of the trip.
Considering I was sharing a single Internet connection with over 200 travelers on the Fram, I was pleasantly surprised with the consistency of the Internet connection. I noticed an extraordinary number of wireless repeaters around the ship, which were spread out on the ceilings of every level about 30 feet apart. I did not find a single place on the ship were I was unable to connect to Wi-Fi.
As a Swede, it does not come naturally for me to compliment anything Norwegian. But Internet access on the Hurtigruten MS Fram was better than I expected, so I must give credit where credit is due. I should also mention the ship staff and expedition crew were fantastic. As for Antarctica — it was one of the most incredible places I have ever been. If you ever decide to make the voyage yourself, I recommend seeing what trips Hurtigruten has to offer.