The giraffe wearing an inner tube, an art piece next to the climbing wall on Anthem of the Seas.
SOUTHAMPTON, England — Hanging on walls, suspended from ceilings, rising from pedestals and platforms, braving the weather on upper decks and turning stairwells into galleries, art is the singular attribute that defines and separates the personalities of the Anthem of the Seas and its structural twin, the Quantum of the Seas.
An astounding variety of media, from bricks to light bulbs, are employed onboard the Anthem, unified by the theme “What makes life worth living.”
Purchasing art for a cruise ship, it turns out, is a bit more complicated than selecting an oil painting to hang above your sofa.
There are a variety of technical as well as aesthetic considerations. For example, there’s little chance your apartment will list or roll or that the art in your home will be touched by hundreds of people every day for decades.
Or, if it’s kinetic or illuminated, that it will need circuitry beyond what’s specified for typical consumer appliances. (click the Video link to watch the Richard Fains artwork explained)
And your backyard fountain probably isn’t programmed to shut down if the ground tilts beyond a certain angle.
Richard Fain, the chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCCL), said during the Anthem’s pre-inaugural sailing that collectively, the art aboard the company’s ships represents a huge investment. RCCL’s spending on art is in “nine digits,” he said, though he also allowed that art is perhaps the only shipboard procurements that appreciate after purchase.
Most onboard art is acquired with the assistance of a consultancy that specializes in corporate art, though some is commissioned directly from an artist.
Over the years, there have been disappointments, even failures.
In 1987, RCCL commissioned a 9-foot-diameter clock that used tiny glass beads to tinkle, rather than chime, the quarter hour. It was for placement in the Sovereign of the Seas atrium. “I saw it work in the artist’s studio,” Fain said. “It was magnificent.”
And that was the last time he saw it work. The artist spent months tweaking it after it was installed. Engineers were brought in. But tinkling was never again heard.
“The head of [subsidiary] Pullmantur said, ‘I’ll make it work.’” But it was not to be. Today, it keeps time on a Pullmantur ship but still doesn’t function as intended.
When RCCL sells a ship, the art does not go to the buyer; it is removed, and sometimes finds a home aboard another ship.
Fain takes a strong personal interest in the art, and he can give nuanced analyses of various pieces, taking note of color saturation, light, movement, texture, technology, artistic intention and, it turns out, functionality. When he was first shown a catalog detailing the art aboard the Anthem (a catalog that was placed in every stateroom), he paused on the page of a large, illuminated piece and told an executive to check out the installation because “there are four lights out.”
Fain sees a “yin-yang” both in individual pieces and in how the Quantum’s and Anthem’s art varies. While the Quantum’s collection is by no means serious, Fain frequently used the word “fun” to describe Anthem art. Perhaps the best examples of how the two differ are the choices of statuary on Deck 15, near the rock-climbing walls. The Quantum has a giant magenta bear, holding on to the deck above; not a serious piece, but not as whimsical as the giraffe wearing an inner tube on the Anthem.During a “Common Ground” session during the sailing, in which Fain and other executives answered questions, one agent stated, “I’m not interested in art — I don’t really have time to be interested in art — but this really opened my eyes.”
Another asked Fain, “Why a giraffe in a swimsuit?”
The curator-in-chief didn’t miss a beat in responding about what is possibly the most surreal object on the ship.
When Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas made its November debut, almost lost in the crush of technology firsts was the ship’s photo gallery, the first all-digital display space at sea.
Quantum guests don’t stroll past walls of glossy prints, peering to see which ones might include them. Instead, they check digital monitors, which shorten the hunt for relevant photos.
On the Quantum, images are developed and printed only when guests see a photo they want to keep.
The system is a leap forward, said Brynley Davies, managing director of the Image Group, the concessionaire for photography on Royal Caribbean’s global fleet of 22 ships.
“It sounds very easy to say, ‘Do print on request,'” Davies said. “But what you see in the photo gallery and the systems that are running it aren’t evolutions of what we’ve done before. We started a complete rebuild three years ago, so this is a completely different architecture.”
In fact, he said, it is built on “a very, very sophisticated set of computer systems, programs and hardware that are all aligned and integrated with Royal Caribbean systems to make it work effectively.”
Across the industry, cruise lines are dashing to keep up with digitization of photography, which has brought sweeping changes to the way people take and store images.
On land, it spelled the end of everything from Kodachrome film to Polaroid cameras and one-hour photo shops. At sea, it promises to slash the amount of wasted paper and chemicals used in cruise photo operations and do away with the ubiquitous floor-to-ceiling photo display wall.
The transition to digital is happening as fast as cruise lines can figure out how to do it properly.
Old gives way to new
Every major cruise line has a mix of advanced and legacy photo systems, ranging from the all-digital vanguard on the Quantum to the traditional print-everything model on many older ships.
But digital will eventually rule because it offers benefits to every cruise photo operation, and consumers are comfortable with it.
“What we see is a fundamental shift,” Davies said. “We’ve been [doing trials of] these new technologies on another ship. What we saw there was a shift away from print toward buying digital images. We see that trend continuing.”
If for no other reason, cruise lines would embrace digital because of the growing size of new ships.
Photo managers say it has become increasingly difficult to display on a wall all of the images on ships that are carrying between 3,000 and 5,000 passengers each week. Some cruise lines had begun to adopt a folder system to cut down on the need for display space.
Going digital simplifies the photo search process and frees a wall’s square footage for other uses. The photo gallery on the Quantum is 50% smaller than a traditional one on a ship of comparable size, Davies said.
A second benefit of going digital can be found in the print savings, both economic and environmental.
Although he didn’t quantify the amount, Davies said the fully digital gallery on the Quantum will use much less photographic paper. Many of the prints in a traditional photo concession aren’t even viewed if the guest has no desire to buy photos. Henceforth, none of those images will be printed.
The classic print process also requires photo chemicals that produce “a waste stream that has to be removed from the ship and disposed of in an environmentally safe manner,” Davies said.
On the Quantum, instead of wet-processing, Image Group uses a dry-process inkjet printer, an industrial-grade version of the printer technology that many consumers have in their home or office.
“It produces absolutely no photo waste at all,” Davies said. “There’s a much-reduced environmental impact.”
The Quantum’s photo space, with 35 touch screens, 15 tablet-size devices and eight digital photo finders (that help find hard-to-track items) represent the state of the art in photo galleries.
Most of Royal’s ships are more retro. The relatively new Oasis and Allure of the Seas have 22 digital kiosks where guests can view, manipulate and purchase photos. But Image Group also prints all the photos taken on the Oasis and Allure, although it puts them in folders organized by cabin, rather than displaying them on a wall.
The print-and-display galleries will remain on many older Royal ships for some time, Davies said.
“It will take time to transition to this new business model,” he said. “This is the first time we’ve done this in terms of print on request. It will take a little time to settle into it and get it absolutely right.”
A shift to digital packaging
At Carnival Cruise Line, a transition is also underway. It will be testing digital packages that work with its current print model on one ship this winter to gauge consumer response and demand.
Guests will have the choice of one of three packages, enabling them to buy either a set number of images or all the images taken on an entire cruise, delivered on a USB thumb drive.
Carnival said the digital images will be a better value on a per-file basis than the current pricing offered by prints.
Like many other cruise lines, Carnival also offers a DVD of each cruise that includes brief glimpses of many guests, along with footage of the cruise, its destinations and live events.
Many cruise lines have found that guests are asking for fewer photos than in the past, when cruise ship photographers could count on a steady stream of orders each voyage.
“It was a very captive market,” said Michael Miller, director of the Ship’s Photographer, which handles photos for Cunard Line and P&O Cruises. “We had it all to ourselves.”
Today, with almost every guest equipped with a digital camera or a camera-capable smartphone that takes quality pictures, many guests are opting to snap their own photos, driving down demand for the professional variety.
“There’s been [everything] from a free fall in photographic revenue onboard to diminished returns year after year,” Miller said. “We’re still talking about a significant business both for the cruise lines and in general, but the industry has been challenged by the advent of digital and what it’s meant to the average consumer.”
One response has been to change the type of photo that onboard photographers shoot.
While they still do embarkation, gangplank and dinner photos, there’s less emphasis on those because they’re the type of images that consumers can take themselves.
Instead, Miller said, the Ship’s Photographer is taking more studio-quality photos with professional lighting for a customized album that tells the story of a passenger’s cruise.
The album blends photos of the passengers with stock shots of the ship and port destinations, tied together with a narrative written by professional copywriters.
If a special enrichment speaker or performer is on the ship, it might include a page about them.
In one example, passengers who have paid $125 for five prints can, for an extra $50, embed them in a 24-page book. “It becomes a very good value for money,” Miller said. “It’s a hardback book, a beautiful glossy book you’d love to have and cherish.”
Making room for cameras
There’s been an upswing at many lines in the use of spaces around ships during the evening to do more personalized photography.
“Usually there are four to seven studio locations throughout the ship and more than 34 backdrops we are using,” said Laszlo Keresztes, operations and development manager for MSC Cruises, in Geneva.
And many lines have also carved out space for a high-end custom portrait business. Carnival has Dream Studios, Princess Cruises has Platinum and on Norwegian Cruise Line, it’s called Perspectives.
Despite prices that can run past $1,000 for some packages, Ross Henderson, vice president of onboard revenue and shore excursions at Norwegian, said demand is there and growing.
“I think it’s a product for which guests are willing to splurge, in a similar vein to weddings and other events that are priceless,” Henderson said. “When they’re on a cruise, they’re in a perfect environment with everyone together, with the time on their hands to go through the process of getting those pictures taken, which will last a lifetime.”
To further differentiate its photo offerings from those taken on smartphones, Perspectives takes photos that work together in a cluster or mosaic of images on a wall. So, for example, the “Verve” collection groups 11 mounted images in a larger wall ensemble that works as a unified grouping, for $1,399. Photos are shot on the cruise, and Norwegian works with an outside vendor to have them printed, mounted and shipped to the passenger at home, Henderson said.
At the other end of the spectrum, some consumers are opting to purchase only digital images. On some ships, this enables passengers to buy a set number of photos for a fixed price, take them all home on a disc, then choose the ones they like best in a more relaxed environment.
Software included on the CD enables guests to unlock the images at home for print or other uses. They can also buy additional images post-cruise using a feature on the CD.
Davies described this method as one way to mitigate another common problem: the crush on the last night as everyone tries to sort through and pay for the photos that have been taken over the course of the cruise.
“The last day is not an easy day, so we turn that around in our thinking and say rather than making people come to the photo gallery to choose what images they want, give them a CD,” Davies said. “All the images are locked. They take them home, put them into their computer and put an application on their machine, and then they can choose at their leisure.”
At Carnival, guests are offered a discount if they purchase photos during the first two days of the cruise.
Several recent advances go hand in hand with digital images to improve the photo-buying experience. One is facial recognition, or image-matching software, which makes photo searches quicker and easier.
Cruise lines are cautiously testing the software, which currently matches some but not all faces with photos, requiring a backup mechanism.
“We’ve got a combination of Google search-type criteria for recognition of people looking at photographs,” said Andrew Burt, general manager of the Ship’s Photographer. “If you can put in a couple of words to describe the particular restaurant, or maybe the port, they can sort of drill down and limit the number of photos they’re finding that way.”
Another digital technology that promises to improve the photo selection process is software to electronically link each photo taken to the cabin of the subject. Norwegian introduced such software on the Norwegian Breakaway last year and is rolling it out to other ships, including the Norwegian Star and Gem this year.
The system enables passengers to swipe their key card on a device linked to the photographer’s camera, tagging the photo to the cabin. That makes finding the photos in an electronic kiosk much easier.
“We really believe it is the wave of the future,” Henderson said. “We need to get away from the concept of not being able to link photos to guests and just putting them on a wall and have the guests find them, especially with the size of all these new vessels coming out.”
That system, in turn, paves the way for another innovation: being able to choose and buy pictures from a passenger’s cellphone or other portable device.
“As you look at how photography is becoming more digital and the technology really does exist to do this kind of thing, it just made sense to create a different system,” Henderson said. “Down the road, the way we see it, we’d like that kiosk to become something transportable via people’s devices.
“So in other words, your device can be your kiosk; you don’t have to go to the gallery to look at your photos. You can sit in your cabin and look at your photos and choose which ones to buy there. And that can result in freeing up a lot of space that you don’t have to dedicate to a large gallery.”
Samsung Futurescape: The tech that will make travel easier, more interactive and personal
This week Samsung ran its second Futurescape technology showcase in London promoting how the travel and transportation industry will increasingly use modern devices and software.
Some of what was on show was aimed at the retail side of travel, others the more functional side. Lee Hayhurst picks out some highlights.
This virtual showroom technology has been built by Gateshead-based ZeroLight. It is already in use in car showrooms by the likes of Jaguar and Audi.
The latter has got rid of all vehicles in its store opposite the Ritz in central London. The virtual product is built electronically from the manufacturer’s design specifications and the result is something that looks and appears to be just like the real thing.
It means the product is bespokable within the limits of what the manufacturer offers so, in terms of vehicles, different colours, wheels and set ups can be instantly added.
ZeroLights says this has seen a marked increase in uptake of premium features such as sports wheels on vehicles, because the customer sees how they actually look compared to entry level options.
The firm has worked with British Airways on the design of new premium-class cabins because it allows the user to take a virtual tour before anything is decided in reality.
It says it has also had interest from cruise companies because it allows people to take a tour of a ship before committing to a holiday.
Offering virtual tours of hotels is another obvious potential use of this in travel, although it does require a certain consistency of decor and design to keep complexity to a manageable level.
More excitingly the technology has been developed to work with Oculus Rift 3D virtual reality gaming headgear.
Oculus Rift was recently bought by Facebook, and the technology opens up the prospect of a customer being able to almost touch and feel the product in-store as they make their decision about what to buy.
Big Touch Screen Retailing
This interactive touchscreen sales wall, using Worldline technology, is in use in Adidas sports stores, and offers customers the chance to interact and research different product options before they buy.
Graphics, video, celebrity endorsements – you name it – all are available at the touch of a screen, enabling a store to offer limitless options without having to physcially hold all the stock.
For travel the opportunties for using such responsive large screen touch responisive technology is not new – Microsoft surface has been trialled in a number of travel agencies.
But the technology is becoming increasingly sophisticated and modern retail outlets are looking to offer customers use of such gadgets to drive footfall and improve the retail experience.
Interactive Digital Promotional Screen
In the foreground in this picture is a simpler version of the above designed by Worldline to be used to drive people into your store.
Product offers and QR codes are displayed on the screen giving shoppers attracted by what it is displaying a special offer if they visit a store.
They could be placed in airports to capture travellers’ attention as they arrive or check-in to promote retail outlets in the departure lounge.
They could also be used in shopping centres, or even in large stores to direct attention to particular outlets or concessions.
Reviews At Your Fingertips
Here is the Duty Free shop of the future – or it could be any type of store.
Shoppers are using technology on mounted Samsung tablets developed by Uberated, a company which is only two months old.
It allows in-store shoppers to quickly and easily access all professional product reviews for the item they are interested in, all in one place.
This way, the consumer gets the same ‘at home’ research capability they expect when researching a product but without having to go back and forth via Google to find the relevant reviews.
Being in store, they can then order the product there and then, having had their decision endorsed by the product review they’ve read in store.
To date Uberated has been developing their technology for the selling of electrical goods like cameras and has not exploited its application in travel retail.
However, a similar use could be envisaged for travel, with retailers using the tablets to offer more information than they currently do in brochures, including independent reviews and travel articles.
Touchscreen Tour Guide
Zafire is a software firm developing solutions for the aviation industry and this touchscreen interface has been developed with airports in mind.
Travellers can access general information about their destination at the touch of a button using the graphical display.
When not being actively used by a customer, the screen can be used to promote a particular retailer or attraction.
Zafire sees these sorts of screens proliferating in places like airports with the cost of having the hardware mitigated by various ‘advertising as a service’ commercial deals.
The firm has also developed the departure board of the future, which unlike conventional departure boards do not need lots of hardware attached to them to operate.
Cloud-based, they are basically plug-in-and-go digital devices working via Wi-Fi networks, so maintenance costs for airport operators are reduced.
Because there’s never a departure board where you need one, customers can use a mobile QR code app which downloads the relevant information onto their device and updates them on their phone.
These departure boards are currently in use at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.
Biometric secure access
More of a functional application of technology this one, but Samsung technology is being used to develop the customs gates of the future.
This gate uses biometric data to recognise the passenger and allow them through based on a scan of their face.
The technology will cut down on fraud associated with paper access or any other type of physical passes.
It could be used to control access to any office or building or at any point on the journey through an airport where security checks are required.
Real-time travel advice
Turning to the world of trains now, and Worldline again, which has developed technology to allow information from the control centre to be accessed throughout the network.
The concept is that the same source of data that the central control station uses is made available to all staff so they can pass this on to customers.
As many regular train users today know, getting reliable information from on-train and station staff about delays can be incredibly difficult.
Often customers or other members of the public on the scene are able to find out what’s going on and communicate this to travellers before staff.
The Worldline software allows this information to be accessed by the relevant people on handheld touchscreen devices.
In time these will also replace the old clunky portable ticket machines guards carry by being able to scan tickets for validity and retail upgrades or replacements there and then.
Technically there’s no reason why this sort of data can’t be made available to third parties so travel agents and tour operators can give customers up-to-date advice about delays getting to and from airports.