Special Cruise Technology Supplement 2019

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May 03, 2019
Special Cruise Technology Supplement 2019


High Tech Hits the High Seas 

Five technology trends poised to transform the cruise industry in 2019 and beyond.
 
Exciting changes are coming to the global cruise industry — larger ships, more amenities and greener fuel among them. Yet, perhaps the most profound changes will occur in the area of technology. From groundbreaking guest-facing solutions to cutting-edge behind-the-scenes systems, high tech is hitting the high seas in a big way.

According to Megan King, senior vice president of global strategic communications for industry trade group Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the high-tech explosion reflects an intersection between the experiences travelers are seeking and the industry’s innovations. “Cruise lines are adopting all sorts of technology that streamlines the passenger journey.  And technology is increasingly being used to provide the highly personalized travel experiences guests demand, both on and off the ship,” she said.
 
Derek Fournier, president of DeCurtis Corporation, an Orlando, Fla., provider of custom application development services for the cruise industry, agrees. “We’re seeing a willingness in the industry to invest in solutions that allow innovation across the entire guest experience continuum — from well before the cruise begins to well past the end of it,” he said. “The cruise space is definitely ready for new approaches, techniques and architectures.”
 
Ian Richardson, chairman of CLIA’s Executive Partner Technology Initiative and co-founder and chief executive officer of TheICEway, a UK-based consulting company to the travel industry, says technology is revolutionizing the way cruise lines operate. “In every area, technology is changing the way services are delivered and the way problems are resolved,” he said. “A lot of money is being invested in creating new and pioneering solutions, and the industry is eager to adopt them.”
Here, Hospitality Upgrade looks at five technology trends poised to transform the cruise industry in 2019 and beyond.
 
1.  Facial recognition technology. Facial recognition technology will be used not only to speed boarding and disembarkation processes but also to help cruise lines understand more about their customers, Richardson said. Cameras located around the ship will capture demographic information like age and gender as well as information about emotion and mood. Armed with this data, cruise lines will be able to offer passengers a variety of options based on personal preferences.
 
2. Artificial intelligence. Fournier predicts that artificial intelligence (AI) technology will increasingly enable more personalized travel — from applications that streamline the delivery of food and beverage to reservations systems that tap into AI tools to recommend customized cruise experiences. Virtual assistants also will become more popular on many cruise ships. Powered through voice-enabled AI, the assistants will communicate directly with guests, doing everything from providing information about cruise events to playing their favorite music.
 
3. Integration platforms. According to Fournier, the cruise industry has traditionally worked in silos; and, as a result, has often become tied to single vendors for single roles. He predicts more ships will deploy integration platforms, which allow them to become untethered from an integration perspective. “Once you gain access to your data in a way that allows you to leverage it, you have unlimited potential to innovate and deliver a more meaningful guest experience.” Richardson believes more cruise lines will adopt integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS), a set of automated tools for connecting software applications that are deployed in different environments. “Integration platforms can dramatically reduce the development overhead involved in building and maintaining system integrations,” he said.
 
4. 'Always on’ connectivity. Thanks to Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellite systems, which circle between 400 and 1,000 miles above the earth’s surface, there will be an explosion of bandwidth, and it will become much more affordable, Richardson said. Historically hampered by connectivity challenges, cruise lines will suddenly catch up to other hospitality venues, such as theme parks and resorts, in offering ‘always on’ connectivity. This, in turn, will lead to other advancements that can save money and increase guest satisfaction.a set of automated tools for connecting software applications that are deployed in different environments. “Integration platforms can dramatically reduce the development overhead involved in building and maintaining system integrations,” he said.
 
5. Cloud technology. Eventually, Richardson predicts, LEO satellite systems also will enable ships to move technology to the cloud. And although the transition will be gradual, it will be transformational. “Cloud technology will change everything,” he said. “If you no longer have to design applications around off-line functionality, then the world suddenly opens up, and you can do what everyone else is doing.”
 
In closing, Fournier and Richardson advise cruise lines to carefully consider their technology investments. “The new bar is anticipatory concierge-level service,” said Fournier. “You want technology that helps you deliver a highly tailored guest experience while emphasizing the uniqueness of your brand.”
 
And while it may be tempting to rush out and implement the latest and greatest solutions, Richardson urges cruise lines to make sure their technology investments align with company objectives. “Don’t deploy technology just for technology’s sake,” he said. “Always make sure it fits your brand and is driven by your business goals.”
 
 

Hospitality Upgrade Exclusive Interview with Royal Caribbean Cruises – 
Jay Schneider, SVP Digital at Royal Caribbean Cruises

 

 

 
Royal Caribbean Cruises announced a digital transformation with the hiring in 2016 of Jay Schneider as senior vice president of digital. Prior to joining Royal Caribbean, Jay spent 10 years at The Walt Disney Company, where his primary focus was on the delivery of digital products for the company’s resort and cruise line businesses. Before Disney, he served as director of internet strategy for an academic health system.
 
In this exclusive interview, Hospitality Upgrade talks with Jay about technology challenges in the cruise industry, the effect of consumer technology on cruising, technologies that will transform the industry and areas in which Royal Caribbean is making technology investments.
 
 
 
HOSPITALITY UPGRADE: 
Hi Jay. Thanks for taking the time to talk with Hospitality Upgrade today. 
 
Jay Schneider: 
My pleasure.
 
HOSPITALITY UPGRADE: 
First, let’s talk about technology and the cruise industry in general. Do you think cruise lines face the same challenges as other hospitality venues?
 
Jay Schneider: 
All hospitality segments, whether it’s lodging, food and beverage, gaming  or cruising, face many of the same technology challenges. In general, the hospitality industry is loaded with friction and is overly dependent on outdated technology. The biggest difference between cruise lines and other hospitality venues is the fact that our guests live with us 24/7. We’re a food company, a hotel company, a casino company, and an operating company rolled into one. So, we have a much higher bar when it comes to removing friction and giving guests a seamless experience. Also, I think it’s more important to cruising that guest-facing technology feels familiar to guests, for that same reason. They’re living with us around-the-clock.
 
HOSPITALITY UPGRADE: 
Address consumer technology’s effect on digital technology in the cruise industry. 
In particular, how has it enabled cruise lines to streamline guest service?
 
Jay Schneider: 
Consumer technology has paved the way for much of the technology we use on our ships. For example, guests are already familiar with using apps on their smart phones, so that makes it simple for them to use our smart phone app to make dinner or shore excursion reservations or pull up their folios. Consumer technology allows us to reduce wait times, reduce lines and connect passengers and crew. Our goal is to maximize our guests’ vacations by giving them as many tools as possible through their smartphones and to make everything as frictionless as possible. 
 
HOSPITALITY UPGRADE: 
I understand you helped create Royal Caribbean’s new guest-facing smart phone app. 
When did it come out? Does it replace the WOWband and the SeaPass card?
 
Jay Schneider: 
Royal Caribbean’s smart phone app has been on Celebrity and Royal vessels since 2017. We added it to Azamara last year. But, at the end of the day, we don’t see it replacing everything. We want to give our guests choices and options. So, we still have WOWbands and SeaPass cards. We can digitize the SeaPass cards, but we’re not forcing anyone away from one solution or toward another one.
 
HOSPITALITY UPGRADE: 
What can guests do with the app?
 
Jay Schneider: 
With the app, guests have access to a lot of rich content. They can log in with a guest account and get a mobile boarding pass and view maps for each deck of the ship. They can chat with other guests. They can book shows, activities, shore excursions and dining, and they can update their folio in almost real time. Some ships have digital keys, so that the phone will unlock the door. One ship has integrated state room automation, which allows the guest to control things like the thermostat, the lighting and the curtains. That functionality really comes in handy for our guest suites. We’re also creating more ways for guests to have fun. We’re working on ‘Bring Me a Drink’, for example. We have a virtual concierge that we’re in the process of training. Hotel services are coming later this year. We’ll keep adding capabilities. Our goal is always to improve the guest experience.
 
HOSPITALITY UPGRADE: 
Does Royal Caribbean also have a crew-facing app?
 
Jay Schneider: 
Yes. Our crew app helps them get logistics, travel plans and travel alerts on their phones. It also improves precheck efficiency, eliminating about three hours in paperwork on their first day. We’re also developing role-specific apps that will provide enhanced data to crew members in various jobs.
 
HOSPITALITY UPGRADE: 
Which digital technologies do you see transforming the cruise industry?
 
Jay Schneider: 
I think two technologies in particular are really changing the industry. The first is facial recognition technology (and biometric technology in general). Over the next decade — whether it’s in air travel, hotels or cruising — I think we’ll see an increase in the use of biometric technology. We were the first cruise line to introduce facial recognition boarding, and it reduces boarding time dramatically — from 60 to 75 minutes per guest to 10 minutes or less. The guest satisfaction result is tremendous. Here at Royal Caribbean, we’ve partnered with the government, so that debarkation is quick and easy. The worst part of a cruise is sitting in front of a customs officer when the vacation is over.
 
The second technology that I believe will transform not only our industry segment but other hospitality segments as well is artificial intelligence. The power it has to provide highly personalized guest experiences is astounding. And the flip side to that is the tremendous opportunity it gives us to influence operations. For example, using an AI-based tool, we recently completed a successful pilot on reducing food waste. I imagine we’ll continue to invest in AI in ways that help shape our business around a number of objectives.
 
HOSPITALITY UPGRADE: 
Discuss the importance of data analytics to Royal Caribbean’s overall technology transformation.
 
Jay Schneider: 
So, the first part of this equation has to do with guest data. Simply put, information is at the heart of the guest experience. But it’s about so much more than just the experience on board the ship. It’s about personalizing the entire journey – from initial inquiry to disembarking. We’re using data analytics to design more relevant products and offerings and to enhance the customer experience across every touchpoint in the journey. The cruise industry is lagging behind other market sectors, such as retail, airlines and even hotels, in the use of customer analytics, but we’re catching up. It’s also exciting to see how data analytics can help in other areas of the operation. For example, we’ve built an interactive touchscreen table that takes a series of data inputs and provides visualization for our crew in times of emergency. It’s about using marine data and ship information to visualize aspects of safety.
 
HOSPITALITY UPGRADE: 
Discuss the importance of open technology to your digital strategy.
 
Jay Schneider: 
Our approach is open-source and non-proprietary. We’re working on partnerships with a level of openness. If you can find a vendor solution with the right fit, you can customize the last mile. Facial recognition is a great example. We started off thinking it would be an end-to-end solution, but we found a great partner in Tascent. We’ll continue to find partners like that. I’m not a believer in completely closed and propriety systems.
 
HOSPITALITY UPGRADE: 
Is your digital strategy designed with younger tech-savvy guests in mind?
 
Jay Schneider: 
We see similar adoption across all age groups. And we always try to design in ways that will appeal to every age.
 
HOSPITALITY UPGRADE: 
Where do you see digital technology going in the cruise industry in the next decade?
 
Jay Schneider: 
Top technology will include artificial intelligence, facial recognition and blockchain technology and the security it can provide. Companies will focus on technologies that make the cruise experience as frictionless as possible. That’s definitely the wave of the future.
 
HOSPITALITY UPGRADE: 
Where do you find new technology? Where do you get your ideas?
 
Jay Schneider: 
Royal Caribbean is a very innovative company. For starters, we have our own 20,000-square-foot innovation lab located at our Miami headquarters. One of its main features is a 3D simulation environment called the CAVE (for “Computer-Assisted Virtual Experience”) where you can experience a full-size virtual space in three dimensions. We also have some of the best technology people in the business working for us. We have teams that focus on various things. Some are focused on products we’re building within the next 12 months. Others are focused on long-term strategy. We have beer and pitch sessions, where we throw out all kinds of ideas. We also have a forum called Open House where we share what we’re doing with the entire company. There has to be a framework for innovation as well as company-wide support.
 
HOSPITALITY UPGRADE: 
Where are you making big investments?
 
Jay Schneider: 
One of the biggest investments we’re making is in infrastructure – Wi-Fi, data center improvements, etc. You can’t bring digital alive without the infrastructure.


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