Thanks to Internet cafés, wired hotels, and tech-friendly airlines and cruise ships, there’s no need to be disconnected from the rest of the world — unless you choose to. Internet and e-mail access are now everywhere, which means more options.
Perhaps the most common option, Internet cafés, have existed for years. Yet they have only recently become popular for both business and recreational travelers who need to check e-mail or send a quick “wish you were here” note. Internet cafés are also becoming an increasingly attractive option for those who want to ditch their laptops when they travel. The Internet Cafe Guide: The Book by Ernst Larsen (Internet Cafe Guide, $14.95) is a useful resource to find a café just about anywhere. Cybercafés.com (www.cyber cafes.com) delivers a complete listing of more than 4,200 Internet cafés in 149 countries. Other online guides include www.netcafeguide.com and www.cyber captive.com.
- Traveling to Paris, Berlin, or Rome? London-based easyInternetCafé (www .easyeverything.com) is a chain of Internet cafés all over Europe with a location in Times Square. One dollar (or one Euro) can give you anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour of Internet time, depending on the time of day you log on to the T-1 connected PC.
- Taking a cruise? Maritime Telecommunications Network (MTN) and Digital Seas International, based in Miramar, Florida, have been equipping cruise lines with Internet cafés since 1999. These Internet cafés provide access to the Web, e-mail, and online service accounts via satellite. Passengers can also enjoy networked gaming, send video mail, take classes on computing and software, and rent laptops. MTN’s CEO David Kagan says, “We average 25,000 users per month. The passengers say that it really does allow them to stay connected and alleviate their workload — at least checking their office e-mails — so they don’t return to hundreds of messages after a weeklong vacation.”
If you just can’t leave your laptop behind then check out the Inter-Continental Hotels and Resorts’ CyberAssist program available in select hotels. The “Cyberbutlers” provide tech support with issues ranging from setting modem speed to voltage conversion to software and hardware compatibility. Most Inter-Continental Hotels also let guests receive printouts and burn data to CD-ROMs at the reception desk.
If you’re checking into Hotel Gates in Berlin, however, there’s no need to take your laptop. Each room features a PC with a 15-inch TFT (thin-film transistor) monitor, a CD-ROM drive, and Microsoft Office in six languages (English, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, and German). It is also equipped with a 2 to 3 Megabit/second fixed line Internet connection, which is 32 times the speed of ISDN. You may also receive printouts and burn CDs at the reception desk. For guests, all of this is free and Internet access is unlimited.
Travelers can now even use the Internet in flight. In June, Boeing announced that British Airways will be installing Connexion, which provides a service the airline says will let you connect with your laptop at 35,000 feet to surf, send e-mails with attachments, and access corporate intranets. British Airways also promises