The ultimate Zoom backdrop: Princess pitches work-from-sea option

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Princess said its WiFi network would enable guests to work in their cabins or any public areas "without any signal drops."
Princess said its WiFi network would enable guests to work in their cabins or any public areas "without any signal drops."
Johanna Jainchill
Johanna Jainchill

The Covid-19 pandemic made remote working a necessity for many millions of people around the globe.

Quite a few took advantage of the pandemic to work not from home but from anywhere. Resorts and hotels in destinations worldwide pitched themselves as alternatives for workers and families who were locked down in their houses and apartments.

Moreover, it appears the trend is here to say: Many surveys indicate that people will continue working remotely far beyond the end of the pandemic. And at least one cruise line is seeking to capitalize on it.

Princess Cruises recently said its "supercharged internet connectivity," achieved by leveraging a new constellation of satellites, offers "the ultimate remote workstation: an office at sea."

The line says the "land-like connectivity" that its MedallionNet WiFi service offers makes "remote working, distance learning and the opportunity to securely conduct important transactions available, all while enjoying the most picturesque video conference backdrop on the horizon, thousands of miles from home."

The work-from-ship concept, except in the case of onboard meetings and conferences, is not something cruise lines have previously pitched. In fact, Shelley Wise, vice president of integrated marketing for Princess, said this is the first time the line has marketed the concept.

"With our MedallionNet WiFi and the increase in remote working, this provides a great opportunity to reach the working professional who normally wouldn't travel for long periods because of concerns about needing to be connected, as well as the bleisure audience that likes to blend business and leisure travel," she said.

While the vast majority of the Princess guests are on vacation, Wise said, with "super connection and reliability, a Princess cruise could be something to consider as the world's working conditions have evolved."

How much faster is she talking? Wise said she was able to video chat with film crew in Costa Rica and stream cast videos from the middle of the Caribbean Sea with MedallionNet, but that without it, "I could barely open an email attachment."

Princess says its ships will have access points in every cabin, as well as in all public areas, so that guests can move freely around the ship as they work "without any frustrating signal drops."

Travel advisors were mixed on whether their clients would consider cruise ships as viable remote working locations.

Stephen Scott, a travel advisor with Protravel, Global Travel Collection, said it presents a "great opportunity," particularly for someone in the workforce "with no strings attached," such as children who might need to be in school.

"It's an alluring option," he said, adding that cruise ships always had two major barriers to being able to work from aboard: connectivity speed and the price. "This wasn't an option for cruises when WiFi was really slow and so expensive," he said.

Stephen Scott
Stephen Scott

WiFi costs can still be very expensive at sea, Scott said. (Princess is charging $9.99 per day, per device, or $14.99 per day for for up to four devices.) And a limitation for some of his clients is that the ships with the best broadband are the largest ones, and not the small, luxury vessels from which some clients might want to work long-term.

Still, and perhaps most significantly, he said that people increasingly will work from where they want to be.

"Peoples' work life has drastically changed over the last year," Scott said. "They discovered they can work from anywhere. They will be looking for creative opportunities to do amazing things."

Lauren Doyle, president of The Travel Mechanic, is not convinced that many people will embrace working from cruise ships, especially millennial travelers.

"While I love how Princess is thinking outside the box, I am not sure how big of a market there will be for this," she said. "From the clients I work with, I think the millennial crowd wants to disconnect when they travel -- particularly on a cruise."

And coming out of the pandemic, people of all ages are going to value time spent with other people above all else.

"I almost think millennials want to go in the other direction: Get together with friends and their families and really just disconnect for a few days to come back feeling renewed and ready to get back at it," she said. 

Update: Stephen Scott's title was updated to reflect his role as a travel advisor with Protravel, Global Travel Collection.

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