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Cruise Changes

Guy Billout Sea Changes

Photo: Guy Billout

TV at Sea

SeaMobile, a company that provides satellite cell phone and Internet connectivity for major cruise lines, will soon launch the 40-channel Wave Entertainment Network—sure to help satisfy those who spend the cruise-passenger average of six hours watching TV each day. Boasting a new broadband-speed "caching" technology, the network allows passengers to see live events via satellite in familiar time slots—currently, most cruise ship TV’s stream shows that have been stored and are later rebroadcast.

"Some cruise ships pull in a local signal; some have programming that originates on the ship; and some even have a direct TV feed," CEO Bill Marks says. "But the difficulty has always been that the signal disappears when the ship moves. The concept of delivering TV programming through an existing satellite network is important."

The network will also offer an interactive component: you’ll be able to reserve a spot on an upcoming scuba excursion using the TV menu.

Green Sailing

In April of this year, with assistance from the U.S. and Canadian governments, Holland America’s Zaandam became the first cruise ship to install "green scrubber" technology and continuous emissions monitoring developed by UK-based Krystallon. The system mixes exhaust gases with seawater to "scrub" out sulphur dioxides; the water is then treated to remove harmful components, while the sulphur oxides are converted into harmless sulphates and neutral salts. The scrubber should reduce visible smoke to zero—but more important, it significantly reduces invisible, but harmful, components of exhaust gases. A final report on the program will be released in June 2008, and if the test proves a success, expect many other ships to start scrubbing as well.

Wireless Price List

Cell phone and wireless access have become commonplace on major ships. The charges for these services, however, can lead to sticker shock, with steep roaming fees and Internet access ranging from 25 to 95 cents per minute or more. Search for "Connecting @ Sea" at Cruisecritic.com for the fine print on cellular services, per-minute fees for wireless access, and equipment-rental charges on the major lines.

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