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Once upon a time, people took ocean cruises to get away from everything, from developments at home or work to news of the world.
But in today's Type-A age of telecommunications, it seems that some cruise passengers crave constant contact more than midnight buffets. Instead of written news updates posted outside the purser's office, most ships now provide in-cabin TVs with CNN and ESPN around the clock, not to mention a selection of movies. Upscale lines also provide in-room access to the internet, though at a price.
Daily printed and abridged versions of USA Today, the New York Times, and many other newspapers are delivered to your cabin. Some upscale lines can even provide daily summaries of the closing price of stocks in a passenger's portfolio.
And ship-to-shore communication, once possible only by radio, has become much easier. Many vessels have direct dial telephones in every cabin. But satellite connections are still pricey, ranging from $5 to $15 a minute. Several lines provide on-board business centers where passengers can make photocopies, send or receive e-mail, or get online and surf the Web. Yet, since all these links are via satellite, the cost of contact adds up fast.
Cell phone users can sign up for a service that will let them make connections throughout much of the Caribbean, at something of a savings over the normal ship service. Call Cable and Wireless Caribbean Cellular at 800-262-8366. But many really price-conscious passengers wait to use public pay phones at various ports of call. Too often, however, they discover their pre-paid calling cards don't work and the available lines have already been commandeered by the ship's crew. Convenience always has its costs.
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