Internet and Wifi on River Cruises

If you just can’t seem to get off the grid, you may have found your next cruise vacation option.

Unlike aboard massive cruise ships where internet is horribly expensive and may run at a snail’s pace, internet aboard river cruises is nearly 100% free of charge.

Let me clarify a little bit.

Where you’ll find free internet in Europe

River cruising in Europe has its advantages. One of which is free internet onboard your ship. Yes, that’s right; totally free. You can bring all of your can’t-live-without devices, connect to the river ship’s wifi and you’re good to go.

There are even some wired cities in Europe where you can log on from a park bench and check email or whatever. Vienna, Paris and Amsterdam are a few of the cities with open wifi.

What’s the catch

The only thing to remember is that, while the river ship is moving, it’s constantly trying to keep the satellite internet connection. That can result in slower load speeds and a few minutes here and there when the service is down. While traveling through more remote regions, for example, the lower Danube near the Iron Gates, you may experience a poor signal or none at all.

There will also be certain times of the day when your ship’s wifi will run really slow; usually between 5-6pm when everyone is onboard after their shore excursion and trying to get online.

Wifi and Internet on USA River cruises

This is something that totally shocked me. I figured that because I was in the U.S. there couldn’t possibly be any problem with getting online using either the ship’s wifi or my iPhone. I was wrong.

On a Mississippi River cruise between New Orleans and Memphis, not only are their stretches of the river that the ship doesn’t get wifi…your phone won’t even have cellular service. You’ll be totally off the grid for a few hours here and there. As your river ship travels through remote regions along the river, there’s absolutely no connecting to anything.

The good news is that you are given fair warning by your cruise director as to when the off-the-grid times occur. For safety and security reasons, of course your ship can always make emergency calls if needed.

Heading out on a Columbia River cruise between Portland, OR and Lewiston, ID? Don’t expect much reception for most of your week. Yes, when docked in towns and cities, you’ll be able to get phone and wifi signals. But the cruise travels through some of the most remote areas of the country where cellular towers seem non-existent. Trying to tether your iPhone to your computer can’t work if you don’t have a cell tower signal.

Take heart. Most people enjoy a forced downtime occasionally…even me. Knowing that the next wifi and mobile phone connection is just around an upcoming river bend, though, helps ease tech withdrawal anxiety. That plus complimentary wine with dinner helps, too.

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