Cruising has seen many changes over the decades, and thanks to Royal Caribbean, we may be coming up to another one. If we wanted to be melodramatic about it, we'd call it "The Bandwidth Imperative."

As we reported in our news pages a week ago, the cruise line is making a big investment in upgraded WiFi on its ships to appeal to our addiction to bandwidth for our smartphones, tablets, cameras and social media apps.

It might appear that cruise lines have had little incentive to provide state-of-the-art Internet access at sea. After all, they've spent a lot of time and money creating and marketing shipboard (and shore-side) experiences that are not available at home.

But they must be aware that, while no one becomes a repeat cruiser simply because they can access their email at sea, they might become a one-and-doner if they experience online frustration.

As the Internet grew in importance in our lives, cruise lines began to facilitate (expensive) email to the kids back home and mustered just enough bandwidth for workaholics to upload a memo to the office. Still, for most cruises, passenger expectations of connectivity have been kept appropriately low.

The mobile revolution appears to have brought us to a tipping point.

Royal Caribbean seems to be betting that there is much to gain from catering to the always-connected generation, but not merely because it means investing in the things that passengers want. What tips the scales is the ubiquity and power of social media and the viral marketing it engenders.

Cruise lines might not want their passengers reading email all day, but tweeting and posting photos on Facebook? That's something else again.

OMG! Ship is awesome.

If you took your first cruise 30 years ago, you may have been given a pretty picture postcard of the ship to send back to the family.

Now you get broadband.
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