Can you work from a cruise? It was doable on my transatlantic sailing

  • Since many employees do their jobs remotely, even while traveling, I tried to work from a transatlantic cruise.
  • Wi-Fi was generally reliable, but there were interruptions.
  • I found it easier to work in some parts of the ship than others.

On a cruise last month, I experienced a version of Murphy’s Law for the age of remote work: when I needed Wi-Fi the most, it stopped working.

I had to conduct a video interview during a transatlantic crossing from the Netherlands to New York a few days into the trip, and the internet connection had been reliable, if not fast. But a few hours before the meeting time, as we were traveling away from our stopover in England towards the United States, the already slow connection completely stopped.

I spent the next 90 minutes frantically refreshing my browser window and trying to contact my colleagues to see if someone could attend for me. I was finally able to reach my editor by phone in my cubicle, and my colleague kindly filled out the form for me.

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As more companies have adopted a remote or hybrid work model in the wake of the pandemic, employees are doing their jobs from a wide range of locations, including while traveling. Among U.S. companies, 74% currently have or plan to use a permanent hybrid work model, and 44% of U.S. employees “prefer a hybrid work model,” according to research compiled by Zippia.com.

While covering the Holland America Line voyage from Rotterdam in the Netherlands, I researched whether I could work and sail across the Atlantic Ocean. And while experiences may differ from cruise to cruise, just as the waves outside rocked the ship, there were ups and downs.

Here’s what I learned about working remotely on a transatlantic trip.

Is cruise wifi good enough to work?

When I boarded the ship on October 15, I was able to easily connect my devices to the ship’s Wi-Fi network. I paid for the premium plan for the duration of the trip – until October 27 – which allowed me to connect up to four devices for around $320.

The connection was mostly reliable but overall slower than my home or office Wi-Fi, which I expected. However, the connection got particularly slow at random points throughout the journey in unpredictable ways. For example, about four days into the cruise, I tried working in Google Docs only to have it crash several times because it was “trying to log in”, even though other websites seemed to load fine .

Holland America's ship Rotterdam sailed through sometimes choppy waves during the trip.

Although I was able to upload photos easily, I had trouble uploading photos to our content management system. Making calls was also a bit difficult. When I used my phone’s Wi-Fi calling feature, the connection was spotty and I experienced audio delay through WhatsApp, even though the call quality was better.

Working offline as much as possible provided a workaround, switching from Google Docs to Microsoft Word, for example, and downloading all necessary files during times when the internet was strongest.

Connection delays were also always temporary, and connectivity usually returned to full functionality within minutes or hours.

Time zones can be confusing

During our cruise, we changed time zones several times. Because we were going from Europe to the United States, we saved time and set our clocks back one hour a total of five times.

This meant very long nights of sleep, but proved to be a puzzle with ever-changing pieces as I tried to keep track of my distance from my usual working hours. For the first part of the cruise, for example, I got up in the morning because most of my colleagues were probably asleep, but by the end we were back in the same time zone.

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While I usually keep track of the weather using my cell phone, it stopped updating automatically as we moved away from land. However, Holland America’s Navigator app home page still showed the current ship’s time, as did my stateroom TV, and I manually changed the time on my phone accordingly.

And when in doubt, searching the local time for a given location on Google is a quick and easy way to check time differences.

Some areas of the ship are more conducive to work than others

Like many modern cruise ships, Holland America’s Rotterdam had no shortage of activities, ranging from lectures and fitness classes to games like bingo. These were particularly useful on days at sea, of which a transatlantic cruise has many, but also meant that certain parts of the ship were less suitable for work at certain times.

One afternoon I took a seat in a plush chair at the Crow’s Nest on deck 12 and worked for about half an hour before a quiz host started reading the questions. by loudspeaker. After trying in vain to compete with the sound by turning up the music in my headphones, I retired to my cabin.

A cabin office on Holland America's ship Rotterdam.

The ship’s daily schedules distributed to cabins included a list of activities with times and locations, and can help passengers determine which locations might be quieter than others. Rotterdam also had an onboard library and an internet center with computers.

I mostly worked in my cabin, which had a desk with more than enough room for my laptop and other items like a notepad, power outlets, and an ocean view.

Despite the challenges, on board I was able to tell stories, communicate with my colleagues (most of the time) and perform most of the usual functions of my job from an unlikely location.

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