During a cruise last month, I encountered a modern-day version of Murphy’s Law: just when I needed the Wi-Fi the most, it went down.
A few days into the trip, I was scheduled to conduct a video interview while sailing from the Netherlands to New York, and the internet connection had been reliable, if not fast. The already sluggish connection came to a halt a couple of hours before the meeting time, as we sailed away from our stop in England toward the United States.
I spent the next 90 minutes or so frantically refreshing my browser window and contacting my coworkers to see if anyone could attend in my place. I was finally able to reach my editor through the phone in my stateroom, and my coworker graciously filled in for me.
Employees are doing their jobs from a variety of locations, including while travelling, as more companies have adopted a remote or hybrid work model in the aftermath of the pandemic. Among U.S. companies, 74% have or plan to use a permanent hybrid work model, and 44% of employees in America “prefer a hybrid work model,” according to research compiled by Zippia.com.
I set out to see if I could work and sail across the Atlantic Ocean while covering the Holland America Line voyage from Rotterdam, Netherlands. And, while experiences vary from cruise to cruise, there were ups and downs, just as the waves outside rocked the ship.
Here’s what I learned about working remotely while crossing the Atlantic.
Is the cruise Wi-Fi adequate for working?
When I boarded the ship on October 15, I had no trouble connecting my devices to the ship’s Wi-Fi network. I paid $320 for the premium package, which allowed me to connect up to four devices for the duration of the trip (through Oct. 27).
The connection was mostly reliable, but it was significantly slower than my home or office Wi-Fi, which I expected. However, the connection became especially slow at unpredictable points throughout the trip. For example, about four days into the cruise, I attempted to work in Google Docs, only to have it repeatedly stall as if “trying to connect,” despite the fact that other websites appeared to load fine.
While I had no trouble downloading photos, I had trouble uploading them to our content management system. Making phone calls was also difficult. The connection was spotty when I used my phone’s Wi-Fi calling feature, and I experienced an audio delay through WhatsApp, though the call quality was better.
Working as much as possible offline provided a workaround, such as switching from Google Docs to Microsoft Word and downloading any necessary files when the internet was at its strongest.
Time zones can be perplexing.
We changed time zones several times during our cruise. We gained time and set our clocks back one hour five times because we were travelling from Europe to the United States.
That meant extra-long nights of sleep, but it also meant keeping track of how far away I was from my usual working hours was a puzzle with ever-changing pieces. For the first part of the cruise, I got up early because most of my colleagues were probably fast asleep, but by the end, we were back in the same time zone.
While I usually keep time on my cellphone, it stopped automatically updating as we got further away from land. However, the home page of Holland America’s Navigator app, as well as my stateroom’s TV, always displayed the current ship time, and I manually changed the time on my phone accordingly.
When in doubt, searching Google for the local time in a given location is a quick and easy way to double-check time differences.
Some areas of the ship are more suitable for work than others.
The Rotterdam, like many modern cruise ships, was packed with activities, ranging from lectures and fitness classes to games like bingo. These were especially useful on sea days, which are plentiful on a transatlantic cruise, but they also meant that some areas of the ship were less conducive to working at certain times.
I snagged a seat in the Crow’s Nest on Deck 12 one afternoon and worked for about 30 minutes before the host of a trivia game began reading questions over the loudspeaker. I retreated to my stateroom after futilely attempting to compete with the sound by turning up the music in my headphones.
The ship’s daily programmes, which are distributed to cabins, include a list of activities with times and locations, which can assist passengers in determining which areas may be quieter than others. Rotterdam also had an on-board library and a computer-equipped internet centre.
I spent most of my time working in my stateroom, which had a desk with plenty of space for my laptop and other items like a notepad, power outlets, and a view of the ocean.
Despite the difficulties, I was able to submit stories, communicate with my colleagues (most of the time), and perform the majority of my job functions while on board.