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Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises Offer Families A New Way to Stay In Touch at Sea

In the past, parents sometimes found cruises less attractive vacation options because of the difficulty in staying in touch with the office or loved ones at home. Soon, however, guests on Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises ships can soon use their personal cell phones to stay in touch while at sea.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has teamed with Wireless Maritime Services, a joint venture of Cingular Wireless and Maritime Telecommunications Network (MTN), to provide a convenient and affordable new communications option that allows guests to make and receive calls on their own cell phones at their personal numbers while in international waters. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., which pioneered the use of this service on Island Cruises' Island Escape, a joint venture with First Choice Holidays PLC, has now begun to offer this service to guests sailing on its Royal Caribbean and Celebrity brands.

The new capability is now available on Majesty of the Seas and is slated to launch in the coming weeks on Navigator of the Seas and the Celebrity ship Summit. The company plans to extend this service to its 29-ship Royal Caribbean and Celebrity fleet within the next year.

Most cruise guests with GSM phones will be able to take advantage of the new service, making and receiving both voice calls and text messages as they usually do while roaming on land. Guests with data-capable GSM/GPRS devices may also be able to access data services, such as email and picture messaging. In addition, the companies intend to expand the offering so that customers of CDMA carriers also can take advantage of the service.

Guests will be billed by their own wireless phone carrier at the roaming rates set by that carrier. The new shipboard service will activate when the ship leaves the range of the closest land-based cell tower. While in port, cell service will revert to the local, land-based towers.

Earlier this year, AT&T Wireless and MTN announced the formation of Wireless Maritime Services, a joint venture combining MTN's expertise in providing satellite services to the cruise industry with AT&T Wireless expertise in delivering wireless services to consumer and business travelers. The joint venture was formed to develop and launch this innovative communications offering for cruise ships, relying on a combination of satellite and wireless services. AT&T Wireless was subsequently acquired by Cingular Wireless, creating the nation's largest digital voice and data network.

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