Crystal Cruises claims fastest internet on the seas

Crystal Cruises now claims to offer the fastest wireless speed of any cruise ship regardless of where they are on the open seas, after installing F5's Big-IP WebAccelerator.

The cruise line has long-featured wireless access on its two ships, which both stop at Southampton on their trips ranging from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Like most cruise lines, Crystal offered such internet access using satellite transmission, which is often slower than broadband.

Aside from letting passengers check email and stocks, the ships also offer computer labs as part of their University@Sea programme.

Bjorn Andersen, manager of shipboard and network operations, said the increased latency from sending data back and forth up to a satellite was causing delays, leading guests to ask why it couldn't be made faster.

"Guests were definitely requesting it," Andersen said.

The F5 system was trialled over the summer and installed at the end of last year. The WebAccelerator compresses data in transit to reduce how much is sent - boosting internet performance and therefore decreasing load times. "It takes every 'k' it can out of the pipe," Andersen said.

The results have been noticeable for passengers. "From guests, we're receiving better ratings in our Quality Assurance programme," said Andersen.

The system won over the cruise line's tech team because they needed only to install one device per ship, and nothing needed to be downloaded to passengers' laptops in order for the system to work.

Kenneth Grimsley, vice president of strategic sales at Crystal Cruises' technical advisor CDW, said: "In addition to improving performance on the 25 state-of-the-art workstations in the Computer University@Sea program offered on all cruises, the solution needed to support rental laptops and guests' personal laptops accessing Wi-Fi throughout the ship. The resulting solution provides guests with an enhanced web browsing experience even while the ship is miles from any port."

Crystal Cruises said it was recently named the number one large-ship cruise line in a recent poll in Cond Nast Traveller, with the internet connection on the Crystal Serenity dubbed the fastest in the industry.