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I Work From a Cruise Ship for 3 Months a Year. Here's How I Stay Productive at Sea. Improved WiFi speed and reliability have been game-changers for remote workers who want to work on a cruise.

By Elle Hardy

Key Takeaways

  • Walter Biscardi runs his travel business remotely from cruise ships for three months each year.
  • He said WiFi reliability has improved, but video calls and finding power outlets can be challenging.
  • Biscardi recommends Virgin Voyages for remote workers because of the spaces to work and the WiFi.
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Walter Biscardi via Business Insider
Walter Biscardi on the Oceania Sirena in December 2023.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Walter Biscardi, a 59-year-old travel agent based in Orlando. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I used to work in film, television, documentary, and marketing, and I ran two creative agencies in Atlanta for 25 years.

A few years ago, my wife and I turned my second passion, travel, into "Where's Walter Travel." We specialize in travel planning services for cruises, group vacations, theme park tours, and company retreats.

We live in an Orlando rental, but I run the travel-planning business from a cruise ship for three months out of the year.

We started taking advantage of our remote working situation after the pandemic

In a few short years of working on cruise ships, I've noticed that more and more people are starting to do the same thing.

We predominantly cruise the Caribbean. Last year, our three months were spread over six different trips on the Royal Caribbean, Oceania, Virgin Voyages, and Carnival cruise lines. If it were up to me, I'd be at sea for six months a year, but my wife prefers three.

This year, we'll be back on Virgin Voyages in June and on the Sun Princess in October. We're planning a few more, too.

WiFi speed and reliability onboard ships have been game-changers

a laptop sits on a table on a cruise ship

Working remotely on the Sky Princess. Walter Biscardi via BI

I don't always look for speed but rather consistency and reliability.

Even though the WiFi is reliable on most ships, it's still not perfect, and you need to manage your expectations. The WiFi on ships is satellite-based, so the signal will be slower if there's a lot of cloud cover. Rain may also temporarily cut it out completely.

The WiFi signal in rooms can be weak. When I get on board, I walk around public places, look at the ceiling, and find the repeaters, which amplify the router's signal. I park myself under a repeater to work, so at least I know I'm getting the fastest signal.

Video calls can be dicey, but voice calls over WiFi work well

Most of my work is using emails, social media apps, and a web browser, so I don't tend to have problems. The upload speed is the most difficult thing about working on a cruise ship.

Working from a cruise ship might not be for you if you're required to upload a video to YouTube or be on video for 100% of your Zoom calls. Zoom with video turned off works well. I post TikToks all day, but uploading to YouTube will fail almost every time.

Turn off your cell service on the ship, even if you have unlimited roaming overseas. Phones use satellite maritime cellular, and it's ridiculously expensive. I've heard of people who have come home with $1,000 cellular bills because they didn't turn off their roaming.

I can typically make most of my calls over WiFi, but you won't be able to on some ships. Texting from ship to land usually works well if you're using the same type of phone as the person you're messaging, but when you're texting cross-platform, sometimes it doesn't work.

Finding power outlets can be challenging

a laptop plugged into an outlet

Outlets on the Scarlet Lady. Walter Biscardi via BI

Typically, if you need to put in a full day of work connected to power, you need to stay in your room. One tip to finding power when you're looking around public areas is to see where they plug in the vacuum cleaners.

I strongly recommend bringing a powerboard with multiple USB sockets. I have one with 10 USB connections, so I can charge my phone, GoPro, and other devices simultaneously.

Virgin Voyages ships are the most friendly for remote workers

The galley on a Virgin Voyages ship is set up like a coffee shop, with easily accessible power and USB sockets at the table. There are dozens of outlets, as they're inviting people to bring their laptops and work from the ship.

I usually upgrade to the premium WiFi option, which can cost anywhere from $19 to $39 per day on most lines, but Virgin only charges $10 per day to upgrade.

I work in an office at home, so working on a cruise is a big change

I operate at sea as I do on land, with the same office hours available to my clients other than when I know we're going on an excursion.

Cruise ships are comparable to remote working spaces, but they offer so much more. On a cruise, almost everything is included: breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, entertainment, and most amenities.

If I want to take a break from work, I go to the pool. When I finish for the day, I'll go to the theater to see a show.

Meeting places are usually free on a cruise ship. Generally, all you have to do is reserve a conference room. AV facilities are usually included too, although you may have to pay a setup fee.

Remember to be respectful — many people are on board for a vacation. I've been out by the pool and seen people taking business calls on speakerphone, which is ridiculously annoying.

I suggest picking at least one port on every cruise and make it a 'ship day'

About 75% of people will get off the ship at any port, so staying on board feels like you have the whole place to yourself.

Activities like the pools will still be open, and the spas will often discount their services by 20-40% on port days.

Of course, I still recommend getting off and exploring as much as possible — that's what cruises are for.

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