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You can vacation but you can't hide.

If you're one of those workaholic types who won't take a sea cruise because you'll be too far from a phone, this may be the year to vacation.

Passengers, officers and crew of the cruise ship M/S Seaward may be beyond sight of land, but they won't be out of touch.

Passengers can pick up a phone in their cabin and dial directly to almost anywhere in the world. There is no waiting, no intermediary.

Call quality, based on a U.S. to Caribbean conversation, is virtually identical to typical land-based calls.

Using the latest satellite and telecomm technology, the Seaward has six to 16 dedicated satellite voice circuits for passengers. Configuration changes depend on loan demand and time of day. There are usually two circuits for shipboard business, one for the crew, one for data transmissions and another for fax. Passengers have priority.

In the past, most ships only had equipment and satellite access to handle from one to four calls at a time--on an on-call basis--for all communications needs. That created a lot of waiting and frequent busy signals.

At present, service on the Seaward is limited to the Caribbean. NCL uses the Pan American Satellite. Satellite connections are made through the Maritime Telecommunications network, a joint venture of Sea-Tel Inc. and Cresscomm Transmission Services.

Calls are processed through the Seaward's on-ship PBX, through the billing system which resembles a typical hotel's setup, to the Radome--the uplink to the satellite--then to the Homestead, Fla., Teleport and on to NCL headquarters. From NCL's PBX, landline services are handled via AT&T Megacom WATS.

NCL sees revenue enhancements both in saved operational costs and perhaps as a new revenue base for outgoing call operations.

"This means a real improvement in customer service," says William Partipilo, NCL's vice president of information services. "Our passengers have all the direct, normal phone contacts with the outside world that they currently have at home."

Business travelers, for the first time, can plug laptop computers into their stateroom (or borrow a PC or fax on board) and have phone, fax or computer contact with their offices.

Ship operations, including inventory, payroll, passenger lists and future reservations, are handled by shipboard computers linked by satellito to corporate mainframes in Florida.

The days of diskettes being mailed back and forth are history.

"Our inventory savings alone will be enormous," Partipilo says. "As items are used, we are able to set up reorder and cut lead times. We see that, more than our passenger base, as the main revenue benefit."

NCL's crews also have a new perk. A dedicated, subsidized voice line lets them call home when they want to. All crew calls still go through the radio officer, so the potential friction from bypassing the radio room is avoided.

Kloster manages operations for NCL. NCL is outfitting its other ships, including its SS Norway, for similar service. Kloster also manages ships in the Royal Viking Line and the Royal Cruise Line. They are expected to begin dedicated phone and data service later this year. Service on Royal Viking and Royal Cruise will be worldwide, via Intelsat.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:phone service on-board in the Caribbean
Author:Harler, Curt
Publication:Communications News
Date:Mar 1, 1992
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