Carnival Corp. to proceed cautiously with Ocean Medallion

Arnold Donald, left, with Travel Weekly’s Arnie Weissmann at CruiseWorld. Photo Credit: Creative FocusFORT LAUDERDALE — Carnival Corp. is taking a slow approach to introducing Ocean Medallion technology, making sure it works right and is delivering the services that customers really want, CEO Arnold Donald said Friday at Travel Weekly’s CruiseWorld.

Speaking to travel agents at the conference, Donald said the technology is so transformational that Carnival Corp. doesn’t want to create a future shock for past passengers.

The Ocean Medallion is a wearable disc that can be worn as a pendant, wristband or clip. Besides functioning as a stateroom key and streamlining the boarding process, the device is billed as a “personal concierge.” When used in tandem with the Ocean Compass app, the Ocean Medallion will enable passengers to make dinner reservations, order drinks to be delivered where they are located, receive excursion invitations based on interests, and play casino games anywhere on the ship.

“We’ve got to be really intelligent about how we introduce this because it’s different,” Donald said.

Carnival Corp. did a multimillion-dollar upgrade of the Regal Princess’ terminal at Port Everglades to create a new embarkation experience. “When guests walk through that terminal, it doesn’t feel like what they’re used to, so we want to manage all the unintended reactions,” Donald said.The first ship to have the Ocean Medallion, Princess Cruises’ Regal Princess, was to offer it on the entire 3,560-passenger ship starting Nov. 13, but the rollout has been scaled back to select guests and groups.

The MedallionNet rapid Internet service, which is in use on the whole ship, is drawing rave reviews, Donald said.

Carnival Corp. is targeting the 2018 first quarter for a wider introduction of the Ocean Medallion. “The guests will decide what they want, how they want it when they want it. That’s why we’re introducing it slowly to make sure we get it right because it’s truly transformational,” Donald said.

Carnival is also moving deliberately on developing a new $200 million beach destination in Grand Bahama. Donald said Carnival signed a deal to build the destination just before a change in government in the Bahamas.

“We’re working closely with the new government to make sure we’ve got the right location, the right development concepts and that it will work for the locals,” Donald said. “It’s not just a matter of building a destination, but building a destination that’s woven through the local community. We hope to have that destination completed in the next few years, but it is a process.”

Donald was also asked why Carnival sells through warehouse club Costco, which uses gift cards convertible to cash as a rebate when club members buy cruises

“I don’t have an easy answer for any of these big-scale folks that go low-cost,” Donald responded. “You have to match up your business where it really will compete effectively.”

He said agents that provide personal service and client understanding will not suffer from bottom-feeder competition, but he said Carnival will look at the issue. “We would prefer to see strong pricing,” he said. “There’s no big reason to be discounting today.”

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How will Virgin Voyages navigate adults-only cruising?

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Built to carry more than 2,700 passengers at double occupancy, Virgin Voyages ships will be the largest that won’t cater to families.

The line said last week that it won’t book passengers under age 18. Virgin Voyages is due to launch its first ship in 2020.

“We have seen it work successfully with Viking Ocean’s 18-plus policy,” said Vicky Garcia, COO of Cruise Planners. “Also, on the land side, there are many adults-only resort models that work well when targeted so that the clients know what to expect.”

Most cruise lines that sail with children have an area of the ship that is adults-only, such as the Solarium on Royal Caribbean International’s largest ships, the Sanctuary on Princess Cruises and the Serenity areas on Carnival Cruise Line.

“Virgin Voyages is looking to attract those who probably are averse to cruising because of their impression that cruising is too focused on kids and families, with water slides, rock climbing and such,” Garcia said.

While Virgin could be going after a “party-hearty” demographic, several mainstream cruise lines fill that niche already, especially in the short-cruise segment.

Virgin’s plan calls for seven-day Caribbean cruises from Miami on its first ship.

Some expect Virgin to be aimed at the more sophisticated and lucrative end of the singles/couples continuum.

“I’m foreseeing a very South Beach-style vibe that will attract new-to-cruise passengers,” Garcia said. “It’s hard to know exactly what other vacations their target is currently aimed at, but the brand’s focus on the yacht-like design is unique and super sexy.”

The first renderings of the Virgin ships’ exterior design demonstrated some of Branson’s typical flair.

The ship’s colours will be silver-grey with red accents, including a red funnel. The aft below the promenade deck will be red with the familiar Virgin logo in large white letters centred in the middle.

Virgin also unveiled an image specific to Virgin Voyages: a sexy mermaid with blonde hair and a red tail trailing a flowing Virgin banner in one hand. The mermaid will appear at a modest size on the side of the ship’s bow in line with the bridge.

Virgin said the mermaid was inspired by figureheads on historical vessels and was designed by the London-based artist Toby Tinsley.

The overall shape of the vessel shares some angles and features with recent Fincantieri designs, such as MSC Cruises’ upcoming MSC Seaside and Norwegian Cruise Line’s Project Leonardo ships.

Renderings show a broad promenade at the aft contrasting with a slim tower of upper decks and a bow with a strong vertical aspect. Virgin said that 86% of all cabins will feature a balcony, and 93% will offer an ocean view.

Virgin has begun accepting $500 refundable deposits that will enrol prospective passengers in a presale that takes place before Virgin Voyages goes on sale to the public.

P&O’s Arcadia and Oceana to undergo refits before Christmas

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P&O Arcadia.

Two P&O Cruises ships are to undergo multi-million-pound refits before Christmas.

Hospitality interior design practice, RPW Design, has been drafted in to support the updating of adults-only ship Arcadia. Cabins, suites, public areas, bars, main dining restaurants and fine dining venues are to be revamped.

Oceana will enter dry dock in Hamburg at the end of November to be updated and refreshed.

Arcadia, which entered service in 2005, will undergo its refit in Hamburg this autumn in preparation for Christmas and a 99-night world cruise which departs Southampton on January 9, 2018.

Arcadia’s first cruise after its refit will be a three-night Belgium cruise from Southampton on November 15.

Work to Oceana, which joined the P&O Cruises fleet from Princess Cruises in 2002, includes refurbished youth spaces with improved entertainment equipment, new soft play equipment, revised nursery space and an updated area for teenagers.

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The Terrace Bar will gain refurbished hot tubs as well as a new canopy over a swimming pool which will extend out to cover the bar.

Following its refit, Oceana will embark on a 12-night Canary Islands and Portugal cruise from Southampton on December 17.

P&O Cruises senior vice president Paul Ludlow said “We continually invest in our ships in order to create a contemporary and comfortable environment while still keeping the unique character and key features that our guests know and love.

“Those traveling on Arcadia and Oceana can look forward to new design concepts and improvements to comfort while still enjoying the incomparable service that characterises a P&O Cruises holiday.”