Cruising communications

Think your job is tough? Imagine managing a potential 1,400 users with a nearly 100% turnover every seven to 10 days. And your only connection to the Internet is via satellite, but your downlink is in seemingly constant motion. That's the job that Digital Seas' Internet C@fe has as it handles connectivity for passengers on cruise ships throughout the world.

Think your job is tough? Imagine managing a potential 1,400 users with a nearly 100% turnover every seven to 10 days. And your only connection to the Internet is via satellite, but your downlink is in seemingly constant motion. That's the job that Digital Seas' Internet C@fe has as it handles connectivity for passengers on cruise ships throughout the world.

In the interest of finding all methods for you to remain in control of your network while attempting a little rest and relaxation, I forced myself to book passage on Holland-America's MS Volendam to cruise the southern Caribbean a couple of weeks ago. In addition to the Internet C@fe, Digital Seas had recently added wireless coverage on the ship, with a 802.11 access point in the ship's atrium. This meant I could connect my laptop from the Java Café, the Ocean Bar, the sports bar or the casino - all of which offered amenities not found in my office - especially the great view of the ocean or a tropical island. John, who manages the ship's communications for Digital Seas, had me up and operational in minutes.

But I was most impressed with how he handled the "technology-challenged" who wanted to not only send e-mail but also pictures back to their loved ones (and office-bound friends) back home. The man had the patience of Job with the smile and manner of Fred Rogers.

Of course, because John had spent the last few weeks visiting the ports of Sitka, Vancouver, San Francisco, Cabo San Lucas, Cartegena, the Cayman Islands, Cozumel, St. Thomas, Martinique and a dozen more, it could be that being mellow is simply a benefit, rather than a requirement, of the job.

At 40 cents per minute, the connect time wasn't cheap. The wireless link through the satellite to a server in Miramar, Fla., wasn't particularly speedy, either. But you could keep in touch pretty much 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world while you enjoyed the cruising life. If John's job looks desirable, by the way, that's too bad - there are no current openings. There might be a waiting list you can sign onto, though.

Tip of the week

A couple months ago, I predicted the death of the big trade show, but this month's Comdex promises to be different - more relevant, more focused, more targeted - as it relaunches under new management. So I'll withhold judgment for a couple more weeks and encourage those of you who go to drop me a note and tell me about your experience.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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