Royal Caribbean: ‘Very Aggressive’ on Tech Infrastructure

Ovation of the Seas in Hong Kong

At Royal Caribbean Cruises, the idea is to anticipate the future of technology and get ready for it now.

“I believe that the largest challenges for us are the things that we don’t even know will be coming in the next five to 10 years. There are revolutions coming, things like virtual reality and other things that we don’t even imagine. We need to look at the historical growth of those technologies in the past, focusing on the future,” said Guillermo Muniz, director of satellite and network engineering, Royal Caribbean Cruises.

While cruise lines may plan into the 2020s on the technology front, challenges still remain when it comes to internet aboard today’s fleet.

“Royal Caribbean is being very aggressive regarding infrastructure within the ship. We are investing to make sure we have the infrastructure on our ships to have the correct Wi-Fi and the latest technologies to be able to not worry about connectivity over the next decade,” Muniz said.

The newer Royal Caribbean ships are using a new technology, marketed as Voom, that has significantly improved internet access aboard, helped in part by SES Networks.

“On those ships, the connection is comparable to our home experience. You can stream and watch videos on your devices easily. The amount of bandwidth that we provide to a single user today is the same amount of bandwidth that we provided for our entire fleet in 2000,” Muniz noted.

Royal Caribbean is working on a new boarding process that uses facial recognition to speed up the embarkation. Muniz explained that guests will be able to take a selfie at home, upload it via an app, and then be recognized at the cruise terminal by special facial recognition cameras. The cruise line plans to launch the system over the next few years.

Advertisements

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.”

Technology Meets Cruise Trends

Port of Miami entrancePHOTO: Port of Miami entrance. (photo via Flickr/Phillip Pessar)Cruise travel is so hot right now.

In order to determine just how hot, advertising platform Sojern partnered with Google to ascertain the outlook.

The three biggest takeaways from the report pertain to mobile planning, influence and alternative forms of travel. First, there has been an uptick in mobile cruise searches during 2017—33 percent to be exact, accounting for 29 percent of such overall searches. Second, pricing (89 percent) and entertainment (47 percent) are among the factors that influence potential cruisers.

Third, those searching for other vacations may still opt for a cruise in time.

Additionally, the report cross-referenced Google’s treasure trove of search and survey data with Sojern’s own intent information from traveler profiles and purchase signals.

As much as mobile and online are important these days, offline booking is still viable. Of past cruisers, 41 percent still made their reservations either by utilizing a travel agent or calling the cruise line directly. However, trends are certainly shifting more digital, so online travel agencies are crucial. After all, 69 percent of cruisers desire to book their next trip online.

Going digital is an influence in itself. The video specifically is cited as an important tool in capturing travelers’ attention, (which is one of the very reasons I produce my own Popular Cruising YouTube channel).

As far as marketing is concerned, there is a multitude of paths a buyer may take before booking.

One of the most common, with a 37 percent share, remains a simple cruise search followed by the reservation. However, there are also bookings that follow one or more searches for other travel forms and agencies either before or after a cruise inquiry.

In other words, agents, as well as cruise lines, should have a strong online presence, especially via social media.

As one might expect, searches for key air destinations also correspond to cruise searches. In the top ten are Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Los Angeles, Boston, Cancun, Vancouver, San Juan, Honolulu, and Tampa.

Given most of these are also cruise hubs, it makes perfect sense that a search for something land-based might transfer over to something cruise based.

The report points out that, despite the wonderful all-inclusive value proposition of cruises, it is not always what leads people first to a cruise. Rather, it’s more often about a destination or experience.

Once another gets them interested, however, the value is a great way to win them over.

It’s worth noting a majority of cruise searches still occur on desktop platforms and almost all bookings are made on the desktop over mobile. During a week, most searches happen on Mondays and Tuesdays, with three-quarters via desktop. However, by the weekend, mobile searches account for one-third of the traffic.

Meanwhile, only 9 to 11 percent of reservations are actually made over mobile versus the remainder via desktop. There definitely seems to be potential to convert more mobile searches to bookings accordingly. Perhaps apps need to mature in this area to ensure better consumer confidence.

Ultimately, there remain plenty of ways in which a traveler can research and purchase a cruise vacation. Both cruise lines and travel agents need to simply be aware of the prime marketing positions and avenues to occupy.