The future of cruise promises high-tech travel, customised fitness programmes, design-conscious accommodation and adventurous trips to remote locations. Frances Marcellin takes a look at current trends.
From high-tech wearables to on-board robots and far-flung destinations, cruise companies are transforming the world of travel as we know it. With the future of cruise set to offer the very latest in technology, lifestyle choices and style concepts, here are some of the most significant developments to impact the industry over the coming year.
High-tech bracelets – MSC for Me
In March 2017 MSC Cruises announced its “MSC for Me” concept, part of a €9bn, ten-year investment plan to be rolled out across its twelve-strong fleet, as well as eleven upcoming “mega ships”. Described as a “customer-centric technology”, interactive bracelets allow passengers to access services via a network of more than 3,000 Bluetooth beacons.
With more and more cruise travellers wishing to customise their experience, over 130 smart features will be offered, including digital wayfinding, a 24/7 concierge service and tailor-made experience recommendations.
Having partnered with Deloitte Digital, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Samsung, Luca Pronzati, MSC Cruises’ chief business innovation officer has compared the future fleet to “smart, connected cities” with the “added complexity of being at sea” and believes that the MSC for Me concept will lead to the ships becoming a “holiday destination in their own right.”
MSC for Me debuts on the MSC Meraviglia in June 2017, which will be fitted with 16,000 points of connectivity, 700 digital access points, 358 informative and interactive screens, and 2,244 cabins with RFID/NFC access technology.
Adam Coulter, UK managing editor of Cruise Critic, believes that the growth of wearable technology on cruises will streamline elements of the trip and is a significant development in facilitating personalisation at sea.
“While the smaller cruise ships are renowned for offering a tailored and personalised experience to passengers, it’s typically been more of a challenge for larger ships to offer this level of personalisation,” says Coulter.
“However, wearable technology solutions, which enable cruise lines to obtain information about their passengers’ personal preferences, such as dietary restrictions and restaurant preferences, mean that cruise lines can better deliver a holiday to suit individual travel styles.”
A new level of personalisation – the Ocean Medallion
Following two years of development with partners including Accenture, Nytech and Xevo, Carnival Cruises will introduce its highly anticipated Ocean Medallion on board the Regal Princess in November 2017, and then the Royal Princess, Caribbean Princess and Island Princess in 2018.
The wearable device contains two microscopic antennas – one using Near-field communication (NFC) and one using Bluetooth low energy (BLE) – which communicate with thousands of readers and sensors.
This allows the Medallion to pair with a digital concierge service called the Ocean Compass through which guests can, for example, place dining orders to be delivered to their location. It also replaces the key card, simplifies embarkation and disembarkation, helps passengers find their way round the ship and improves staff-to-passenger support. The Medallion will also allow Carnival to provide a new level of personalised service to cruise passengers.
“Our mission is to help our guests make the most of every moment of their precious vacation time,” says John Padgett, chief experience and innovation officer at Carnival Corporation. “We are doing that by delivering a level of service and personalisation that has never before been considered possible, especially on such a large scale.”
Meet the robots
Last year Costa Cruises introduced a humanoid robot called Pepper on to the Costa Diadema. Kitted out with facial features, a high-level interface and the ability to speak three languages (Italian, English and French), Pepper first launched in Tokyo in 2014.
Since then ten Pepper robots have been implemented on four of Carnival Corporation’s ships: the AIDAprima, Costa Diadema, Costa Fascinosa and AIDAstella. Each is designed to provide information and create fun, engaging experiences for guests, which include dancing and games.
Whether more Peppers will be rolled out across Carnival’s ships remains to be seen; for now the company says it is focusing on improving guest and crew interactions with Pepper, of which there are thousands every hour.