Royal Caribbean Plans to Roll Out Starlink Internet Across its Fleet

Starlink satellite modules in a launch rack (SpaceX file image)

Published Aug 31, 2022 10:30 PM by The Maritime Executive

Royal Caribbean Group announced Wednesday that it will be rolling out Elon Musk's Starlink satellite internet service across its fleet, beginning immediately.

The decision makes Royal Caribbean the first cruise line to pick up Starlink at scale. Royal Caribbean pointed to the service's high speed and low latency (less time delay), which have proven popular in early trials. In a statement, Royal Carribean Group president and CEO Jason Liberty said that this would open up more opportunities for video calls and streaming at sea.

“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 Liberty. “This technology will provide game-changing internet connectivity onboard our ships, enhancing the cruise experience for guests and crew alike."

The decision to move to an immediate full-scale rollout follows a trial aboard Freedom of the Seas, which drew "a tremendous amount of positive feedback from guests and crew."

The new low earth orbit broadband service will be installed on all Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises ships, along with all new vessels for each of the brands, starting right away. Installation should be complete fleetwide by the end of Q1 2023.

Starlink, a division of Elon Musk's commercial launch company SpaceX, wants to capture a wide swath of the global broadband data market - from home users up to strategic missile defense systems. To date, its marketing has aimed at rural, remote shoreside users, but it is now turning seaward.

For maritime customers, the company markets an advertised bandwidth of up to 350 mbps per terminal - several times faster than the average home cable installation. Starlink also advertises its lower latency, which is provided by its satellites' low orbit. For shoreside users, the system's tested latency is about 40 milliseconds, much longer than cable internet but very short for VSAT. Traditional geostationary satellites are far higher in orbit, and they typically have a time delay of up to 600 ms due to the extra distance.