So much has been written about the impact of the Internet on our world and the impact of technology on meetings. But what about the cruise industry? You might be surprised to know that cruise lines are not only keeping up with the latest developments, they’re taking the lead in embracing emerging technology.
Cruise Technology’s Quantum Leap
Remember when people went on a cruise to “get away from it all” and disconnect from the world? It’s hard to believe that there was no connectivity on cruise ships until 1999. That was the year Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Sky set sail with the first dedicated Internet Cafe. Norwegian was also the first to provide fleet-wide WiFi access (2002) and cell phone service (2006).
Ubiquitous Wi-Fi access and crystal clear cell phone reception at sea are now expected – especially from corporate meeting and incentive planners and participants.
Norwegian is not the only cruise line implementing leading-edge technology. Royal Caribbean International has announced that Wi-Fi bandwidth will be enhanced on all ships during a massive revitalization program. Other big industry players including Celebrity Cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines, and relative newcomer Disney Cruise Line are also creating waves with new technology.
And it’s not just the big guys. Luxury and ultra-premium cruise lines including Silversea, Regent Seven Seas Cruses, and Crystal Cruises offer pervasive, high-quality wireless access throughout their small and mid-sized ships.
1 2+ Coolest Tech Trends at Sea
Today’s cruise ships are outfitted with the latest high-tech products and services – in passenger areas, as well as behind the scenes. Here’s a look at some of the coolest technology innovations designed to make your cruise experience smoother, greener, and even more amazing.
1. Royal Caribbean’s Wayfinder –– There’s a reason Royal Caribbean’s Wayfinder system has won multiple awards for technology excellence – it’s awesome! Onboard activities, real time updates, and customized directions and routing are at guests’ fingertips with plasma and LCD touch-screen signs throughout Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. The interactive signage will be integrated on other Royal Caribbean ships during the ongoing “Royal Advantage” upgrade program.
2. Facial Recognition Technology – High-resolution passenger photos taken at embarkation are used for security and linked to cabins keys. And that’s not all – no more searching through rows of photos displayed in the ship’s photo gallery to find your portraits. Facial recognition software sorts through thousands of passenger photos taken by ship photographers, identifies (tags) you and uploads your photos to a personalized digital album.
3. Shape Recognition Cameras. Don’t worry about long lines at the buffet on the 5,412-passenger Allure of the Seas – your attendees will never have to wait to be seated at any of the 24 dining venues, thanks to biometrics. Shape recognition cameras count and analyze foot traffic, and this information is sent in real-time to 300 interactive boards around the ship.
4. Norwegian iConcierge App – With Norwegian’s revolutionary smart phone app, iPhone, iPad and Android users will soon be able to make dining and shore excursion reservations, review folios, and check scheduled activities during their Norwegian Epic cruise. Norwegian iConcierge will also be the industry’s first mobile app that lets guests find and communicate with other smart phone users via voice and text message. Currently, the free app is available exclusively for guests sailing on board Norwegian Epic, but will soon be rolled out across the fleet.
5. “Royal Connect” Smart Phones and Wristbands – Guests onboard the world’s largest cruise ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, can rent a Royal Connect mobile device to keep track of family or colleagues onboard. The Royal Connect system uses Radio Frequency Identification Technology (RFID)-enabled tags in wristbands and an iPhone that pinpoints tag locations on its map display. The smart phone user can also send alerts to those wearing the wristbands.
6. iPads Making Waves - Here are a few ways cruise lines are integrating tablets to enhance the guest experience:
- iPad-based menus add to the unique culinary experiences in Celebrity’s Qsine Restaurant. Guests tap menu item icons for descriptions, videos, or to create their own cocktails. Qsine Restaurant is found on Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Silhouette, and “Solsticized” Celebrity Summit and Celebrity Infinity.
- Interactive wine menus on iPad tablets make choosing the right glass of wine easy at Vintages Tapas and Wine Bar on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas.
- iPads in Cabins – Royal Caribbean’s newly revitalized Splendour of the Seas is the first cruise ship to offer Apple iPads in every cabin for use throughout the ship. With a touch of the screen, your attendees can access daily events and activities, review personal itineraries, monitor their onboard accounts, view restaurant menus, and access the internet. The iPads will be added to five more Royal Caribbean ships over the next two years. (Regent Seven Seas Cruise Line also provides iPads on Seven Seas Voyager – but only in top suites.)
- iPad Courses – Celebrity’s iLounge offers 18 custom-created classes to help guests expand the tech skills on Apple products – including iPad. Crystal Cruises also offers multiple level iPad courses in their complimentaryComputerUniversity @ Sea enrichment program.
7. Royal Express Guest Kiosks on Allure of the Seas – Allure of the Seas‘ special kiosks in the Royal Promenade provide complimentary guest services. Your attendees can view, print or e-mail their personal folios and calendars, make specialty restaurant reservations, and what we really love – confirm flight reservations and print out airline boarding passes.
8. Video Postcard Booth on Allure of the Seas – Plan a group event on Allure of the Seas, and your attendees can star in their own video postcard !It’s fun and free – create a 60-second video or photo postcard and email or post to social network pages, right from the booth.
9. Carnival‘s 5D Theater – Royal Caribbean introduced 3D movies on Oasis of the Seas; now Carnival offers a sensational new experience on Carnival Breeze – “Thrill 5D Theater”. Watch 3D-formatted films with special effects like squirting water and bubbles; while other gizmos tickle your legs, blow air on your neck, and poke you in your seat (I’m not making this up!). What’s the fifth dimensio n? The seats themselves – they vibrate and shift.
10. Disney “virtual portholes” – Disney Dream’s inside staterooms feature a “Magical Porthole” that gives guests a real-time view outside the ship, provided by high-definition cameras placed on the exterior of the ship. Another magical surprise: every few minutes, an animated Disney character flies or swims by.
11. Disney “Enchanted Art” –Disney Dream also features interactive art pieces throughout the ship. These paintings are actually animated pictures that come to life when passengers stand in front of them. Know what’s even more magical? Each enchanted art piece incorporates facial recognition technology to make sure it won’t play the same sequence twice.
12. Crystal Cruises Fast-track Embarkation: By utilizing a new barcode on each guest cruise ticket and a new ticket scanning system,Crystal’s “Fast-Track Check-In” eliminates 100% of ship check-in procedures in port terminal waiting areas, transitioning guests from dock security to the elegant comfort of Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity lounges.
Energy-saving technology also making waves in the industry include:
- LED and compact fluorescent lighting – Several cruise lines are making the switch, including Carnival Cruise Lines. Compact fluorescent and LED bulbs installed across the fleet will potentially save about $100,000 annually in energy costs per ship.
- Shore power installations – More ships are now plugging into shore-side electricity, which allows them to shut down diesel engines to reduce air pollution.
- Solar panels – Celebrity and Royal Caribbean are installing solar panels on its newest ships for powering onboard components such as LED lights and elevators
- Reverse Osmosis for fresh water – In May 2012, MSC Cruises’ Divina will introduce a revolutionary reverse osmosis system for fresh water production that consumes 40% less power.
And a glimpse into future cruise ship technology:
Wireless-enabled capability for cell phones will provide experience-enhancing services – your cell phone will soon be able to open your cabin door or charge your wine with dinner. Geo-location notifications will alert you of deals and specials for shops and restaurants as you pass by.