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Royal Caribbean Group taps SpaceX's Starlink for high-speed internet aboard cruise ships

The move will enhance the cruise experience for passengers and crew alike, according to RCG

In a first in the cruise industry, Royal Caribbean Group has partnered with SpaceX's Starlink to enable high-speed, low-latency connectivity across its full fleet of cruise ships.

Per reports, Starlink’s broadband internet service will be installed on all Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Silversea Cruises ships. New vessels akin to each brand will also avail of the service.

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“Deployment of the Starlink technology across the fleet will begin immediately, leveraging the insights obtained from the trial onboard Freedom of the Seas, which has received tremendous positive feedback from guests and crew,” confirmed Royal Caribbean.

Starlink’s deal with Royal Caribbean Group is anticipated to close within the first quarter of 2023. The low form-factor of Starlink dishes, which are a mere 19 inches long and can be relayed into a central router, makes them a good fit for expedited roll out across ships. 

A trial of Starlink Wi-Fi recently took place on the Royal Caribbean ship Freedom of the Seas, which it says resulted in “tremendous positive feedback” from its guests and crew. Currently, Starlink customers receive internet at speeds of up to 104 Mbits/sec, although companies can sign up to Starlink Business to gain access to speeds of up to 350 Mbits/sec.

Photos shared on a blog by a Freedom of the Seas passenger appear to show an array of Starlink dishes along the ship’s outer wall, although it is not clear if this represents the final configuration that the fleet will use.

Royal Caribbean currently operates their own Wi-Fi service on board their cruise ships called Voom, and the Starlink deal is expected to supplement this with faster and more reliable speeds.

"Our purpose as a company is to deliver the best vacation experiences to our guests responsibly, and this new offering, which is the biggest public deployment of Starlink's high-speed internet in the travel industry so far, demonstrates our commitment to that purpose," said Jason Liberty, president and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Group. 

"This technology will provide game-changing internet connectivity onboard our ships, enhancing the cruise experience for guests and crew alike. It will improve and enable more high-bandwidth activities like video streaming as well as activities like video calls.”

“Using Starlink is one more example of our continued focus on innovation and excellence for our guests, our crew, the communities we visit and our shareholders," added Liberty.

SpaceX only got official FCC approval to provide Starlink to vehicles in motion at the start of July, but the company has been in talks to provide Wi-Fi as a service to planes and ships for some time.

There are now more than 3,000 satellites in the Starlink constellation, varying from a range of around 1,000 to 500 km above Earth, and the FCC has already approved plans for an eventual total of 12,000 satellites.

Satellite broadband can offer coverage to areas with traditionally poor network coverage, and Last week, SpaceX announced a partnership with T-Moble to boost cell coverage across the US, providing at least call and SMS service in some of the country’s most remote areas. 

The US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has begun a years-long project to develop an LEO internet that could facilitate reliable communication across government, military and civilian satellite constellations. SpaceX is one of 11 companies, alongside Intel and an Amazon subsidiary, to further the DoD’s interests within the rapidly-growing sector.

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