Royal Caribbean is rolling out an unprecedented wave of digital innovations touching every aspect of its business, charting a course for a world where travel frustrations have disappeared, erased by technology that is transforming cruise ships from stem to stern.
Most visible to consumers through a guest-empowering app that will blanket the company’s 48-ship fleet over the next two years, the surge of innovation will also banish check-in lines at ports, equip crew members to anticipate guests’ needs, and enable giant cruise ships to sail through the water on a fuel-saving curtain of air.
This new technology that will roll out to Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, and Azamara Club Cruises will allow passengers to:
- Board ships in the time it takes to order fries from the drive-through, skipping check-in lines thanks to facial recognition technology that knows who they are on arrival.
- Sign up for shore excursions, order drinks and make dinner reservations without ever leaving their chairs by the pool thanks to an intuitive app on a device most of them already have—a smartphone.
- Indulge in VR and AR experiences that transform ship spaces into virtual environments and interactive games, where stateroom ceilings might be replaced by starry skies, the walls of a restaurant can transform into the sights and sounds of an outdoor café and digital signs challenge you to play an arcade game.
The technological transformation also encompasses areas beyond the guest experience, including innovations to make ships more energy-efficient, enhance ship management and put more connectivity into the hands of crew members than ever before.
RCL’s invitation-only Sea Beyond event – held at the site of a historic shipbuilding facility in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and exclusively sponsored by EY – offers 37,000 square feet of hands-on examples of how digital technology is driving change across the company’s fleet, whose brands include industry leaders Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises.
One specific focus is removing time-stealing moments from the cruise experience. “Time spent in line—whether you’re waiting for your food, waiting for your bags to arrive, waiting on a table, or booking an excursion—is time stolen from your time off,” Schneider said. To return that time to guests, the company is combining technologies ranging from facial recognition to RFID tagging to GPS mapping to Bluetooth-enabled beacons to streamline boarding, manage check-ins automatically and improve wayfinding.
An initial release of the cruise guest app is already available on selected ships in RCL’s fleet. Schneider said RCL will continue to refine the app, adding new ship-specific features and capabilities, with each subsequent release. “Our aim is to have the app enabled on about 15 percent of our fleet by the end of this year, and more than double that by the end of 2018,” said Schneider.
Other innovations showcased at Sea Beyond are in the “concept car” phase, said Schneider. “Sea Beyond attendees will get glimpses of what happens when we let our imaginations run wild. So think of sampling an exotic dessert where, with each bite, the entire environment changes – at least virtually. Or imagine a stateroom where you not only control the lighting and the temperature, but can change the scene from starry night to rainforest canopy or island home with the touch of a button.”