Princess Cruises recently announced a fourth ship in its fleet would receive Carnival Corporation’s latest Ocean Medallion technology. Rival MSC Cruises has newly introduced its own MSC for Me guest tech as well.
While the two are very similar, there are also differences to discuss.
The whole high-tech trend towards wearable and app-based devices really started when Royal Caribbean International implemented its SMART Check-In and WOWbands on its newest ships.
The idea is simply to help expedite initial embarkation with as much data pre-entered before arriving pier-side and to have a rubber bracelet that can more conveniently replace a key card. This then provides RFID access to opening cabins and making purchases in conjunction with the Royal iQ app.
Carnival’s Ocean Medallion
Announced at CES 2017, Carnival’s Ocean Medallion takes the concept much further. Curiously, it won’t first be rolled out on its Carnival Cruise Line brand but rather its Princess Cruises one. Regal Princess will introduce it in November 2017, followed by Royal Princess in January 2018, Caribbean Princess in March 2018 and now Island Princess in May 2018.
Ocean Medallion is based on a coin-sized device that can be pocketed or worn on the wrist or as a pendant. It then branches out as part of the larger O·C·E·A·N (One Cruise Experience Access Network) for passenger personalization. Besides the physical device, the Ocean Compass links everything as a digital concierge on ship displays, cabin televisions and guests’ mobile devices.
Specific features include expedited embarkation and stateroom access, not unlike Royal Caribbean. Additional capabilities encompass real-time ship navigation, friends and family locating, messaging, dining and spa reservations and even drink and food ordering with crew delivering to wherever a guest is located currently or as scheduled.
Behind the scenes, Near Field Communication (NFC) and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) systems support the platform.
MSC for Me
While less hyped initially, MSC Cruises will actually beat Carnival to the punch when it launches its own MSC for Me experience first on the MSC Meraviglia in June 2017, followed by MSC Seaside in December.
Again, MSC’s thinking is similar, but the line already plans to implement it fleet-wide across its upcoming eleven ships and existing twelve. Its goals extend to facilitating the crew with better means of servicing 170 different nationalities and their languages onboard.
MSC promises over 130 smart features backed—on the Meraviglia for example—by 144 interactive screens, 244 information screens, 31 virtual staterooms screens, 81 video wall monitors, 2,244 NFC-equipped cabins, 3,050 Bluetooth beacons, 700 access points and 1,200 CCTV cameras.
Guests will also have wearable bands and can access everything via a mobile app as well. Specific abilities will comparably include stateroom access, live navigation (accurate to 16 feet), concierge booking services and check-in.
Beyond that, MSC for Me will allow guests to book trips, utilize virtual reality to preview shore excursions, view and share cruise gallery images, receive preference-based geo-located recommendations and even be facially-recognized by cameras for more customized service.
First, how will the technology be received by Princess and MSC guests? Second, will Carnival Cruise Line join the fold as a standard mainstream competitor? Will Norwegian Cruise Line as well?
Currently, Norwegian relies more on way-finding and reservation kiosks rather than wearables, and even Royal Caribbean has room to grow to match Carnival and MSC.
Of course, the implementation of such ship-wide systems is by no means quick and easy, and any investments towards such platforms need to be made wisely and as future-proofed as possible. One thing is for certain: old-school cruising is gone and the new high-tech equivalent is here to stay.