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How can I get Wi-Fi on a cruise for free?

March 29, 2022
8 min read
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If you want to cruise while staying connected, you usually must fork over some serious cash for onboard Wi-Fi access.

How much are we talking? If you’re a family of four with two teens addicted to their cell phones, it would cost $380 to get Royal Caribbean’s cheapest Wi-Fi package on four devices on a weeklong cruise if you book in advance; prices onboard are 20% higher.

If you’re wondering how to avoid this expense and get free cruise Wi-Fi, you’ll be relieved to know you do have options. Here are some tips and tricks for getting onboard internet with no charge.

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Book a cruise with inclusive fares

The rule of thumb for getting free Wi-Fi on a cruise is the opposite of getting Wi-Fi free when you stay in a hotel. On land, low to mid-priced hotels often include Wi-Fi for free, while premium and luxury brands are more likely to charge for internet. At sea, mainstream cruise lines usually do not include Wi-Fi in their cruise fares, but premium and luxury lines almost always do.

Cruise lines that include free Wi-Fi for all passengers are luxury lines like Seabourn, Silversea and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, along with upscale cruise lines Oceania Cruises and Viking.

Oceania Cruises offers free Wi-Fi for all passengers. (Photo by NAN728/Shutterstock)

Among the big-ship lines, Celebrity Cruises, adds Wi-Fi as part of their "Always Included" program that also includes drinks and tips, but you should know that they offer lower-priced cruise-only base fares for those who don't want those add-ons. The newest North American cruise line, Virgin Voyages, rounds out the list of cruise lines offering Wi-Fi for no additional charge.

Book a suite that comes with free Wi-Fi

Some cruise lines offer free Wi-Fi to guests sailing in their top suites. With Star and Sky Suite Class perks, suite guests onboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis and Quantum class ships get free premium Voom Wi-Fi. The free Wi-Fi perk applies to Grand Suites and above.

Passengers who choose to sail in MSC Cruises' Yacht Club suites, an exclusive luxury cruise area within each ship, get free premium unlimited Wi-Fi for the duration of their cruise.

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Related: 7 reasons you should splurge for a suite on your next cruise

Choose free Wi-Fi as a booking perk

Certain cruise lines choose to offer free perks instead of price discounts as booking incentives, and a common add-on is free cruise Wi-Fi.

For example, Norwegian Cruise Line has frequent (almost perpetual) sale deals known as "Free at Sea," that allow you to pick from among a menu of perks. One of those perks is free Wi-Fi. Just beware, the line's lowest fares, designated as "Sail Away" fares are cruise-only fares and typically do not include complimentary internet regardless of the deal being offered for standard fares.

Other cruise lines occasionally offer deals that include Wi-Fi as a perk, especially during "wave season," which runs between January and March. Holland America's "Ultimate Upgrade Event" is a good example; book during the promotion and you can score free Wi-Fi.

Related: The best cruise booking perks -- and which ones are actually free

Use onboard credit to pay for a Wi-Fi package

Many cruise lines offer onboard credit as a booking perk; it’s a credit to your onboard spending account that results in free money you can only spend onboard the ship. You can use your credit to pay for onboard internet access, thereby getting Wi-Fi on your cruise for free!

On most cruise lines, you'll need a minimum of $100 in onboard credit per device for a week's worth of free basic Wi-Fi. On lines that offer premium plans designed for streaming, you'll need around $20 per day per device.

How do you acquire this onboard credit? You have several options. The most common is taking advantage of limited-time cruise sales offering onboard credit You can find these directly through the cruise line, but also cruise-specific travel agent sites, which may have access to onboard credit offers not found anywhere else. The same holds true for airline and credit card travel planning sites such as United Cruises, Delta Vacations and Cruises or the Amex Cruise Privileges program.

You can use onboard credit to pay for Wi-Fi packages on your cruise. (Photo by NDStock/Getty Images)

You can also earn this free spending money by booking your next sailing while onboard a ship at the future cruise desk. Even owning a cruise line’s stock can get you onboard credit each time you cruise with the line.

One caveat: When looking at booking bonuses to cover your Wi-Fi costs, be sure to compare prices and perks across sites.

For example, The Points Guy did a recent sampling of fares on the Amex site, checking them against Holland America's and found that the fares were quite similar, but the bonuses were not. Amex was offering onboard credit of $150 on a seven-night Alaska sailing in a balcony cabin, with no mention of any other specials or perks. The same fare on Holland America’s website included four perks with a total value well over $150. One of the perks the cruise line offered was free Wi-Fi for the cruise.

Join a cruise line loyalty program

Cruise line loyalty programs would seem to be a good fit for free Wi-Fi for frequent cruisers, but historically, these programs have leaned more toward discounts than freebies. Only Cunard offers genuine free Wi-Fi, starting at two free hours after two voyages or 20 nights onboard. The free time online increases to four hours at the Platinum level and eight complimentary hours at the Diamond level.

Celebrity Cruises does have a free Wi-Fi perk in its Captain’s Club loyalty program, but only the top Zenith tier. You can get unlimited free internet (the faster plan since everyone gets the basic) but you have to earn 3,000 points first, a feat that requires you to first spend 1,000 days at sea with the cruise line.

Internet discounts in the mainstream programs top out around 25% off packages if they offer a discount at all. Only Princess Cruises was better with a 50% discount on the line's MedallionNet Wi-Fi packages after only five cruises.

Princess Cruises offers discounts on internet packages to frequent cruisers. (Photo by Apexphotos/Getty Images)

You can turn a discount into free Wi-Fi by combining two perks. For example, you could use onboard credit to cover the remaining cost of Internet after your loyalty program Wi-Fi discount.

Use cruise line credit card points to buy Wi-Fi

Cruise line credit cards vary in their rewards programs, especially when you are looking at how to earn and redeem enough points for a free cruise. What they all have in common, however, is the ability to redeem smaller batches of points for either onboard credit or a statement credit for your onboard purchases, including Wi-Fi packages.

Related: Best credit cards for booking cruises

Carnival Corporation brands each have their own branded card, but fall under the same Barclays rewards program, sharing points you earn across the brands. That means you can pay for your Carnival Cruise Line cruise with a Princess Cruises credit card and still receive double points. You can redeem those points for statement credit for the Wi-Fi you paid for onboard your cruise.

Similarly, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity each have branded Bank of America cards, but share a points program administered by My Cruise Points. Points are then redeemed for everything from onboard credit to free cruises. The Disney Premier Visa card by Chase earns points which can be redeemed for Disney reward dollars to use on your Disney Cruise Line cruise, including for Wi-Fi.

The information for the Disney Premier Visa card by Chase has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.