The Regal Princess is the largest cruise ship in Carnival Corporation’s fleet, a behemoth that is nearly a quarter of a mile long and weighs 144,000 tons. It carries 3,560 guests and a crew of 1,346. Passengers can dine in celebrity chef Curtis Stone’s restaurant, play on a full-size basketball court, and stroll along a 60-foot glass walkway 128 feet above the ocean.
And later this year, they’ll carry the company’s Ocean Medallion technology, a small wearable that provides a truly seamless experience at sea. The same minds behind Disney’s Magic Band designed the Ocean Medallion to bring cruises into the future.
Carnival is following a course charted by Disney and joins others in the hospitality industry, including competitor Royal Caribbean, in creating a world where everything you want is right there, waiting for you. What it has in store, though, goes further than its predecessors in ways that make it feel like a ship can read your mind.
The joy of a cruise lies in the complete abdication of responsibility. Feeling peckish? Enjoy this meal. Are you bored? Check out this Broadway show. Have kids? Turn them loose in this chaperoned activity room. Hundreds of people anticipate your needs, and cheerfully fulfill them. Your course is set.
For that spell to truly take hold, it must be uninterrupted. Carnival designed the Ocean Medallion to take every last bit of chop out of your trip.
“Our focus is the end-to-end guest experience being holistically delivered in a personalized way, a simplified way,” says John Padgett, who led Disney’s Magic Band team and built on the concept for Carnival.
As you might expect, this requires very little on your part. Slip the small token in your pocket, hang it around your neck, drape it around your wrist, whatever. Carnival will happily sell you a wristband, keychain, tote, or other handy doodad to keep it with you at all times. That’s it. You’re done. Your only responsibility from there is remembering it when you change your pants.
That ease of use belies the underlying technology. Each Medallion is connected to a specific guest—it has your name carved into it—and interacts with 7,000 sensors connected by 72 miles of cable and distributed throughout the ship’s 19 decks. All that tech tracks where you are, what you’re doing, and what you might want to do next.
Medallions work in conjunction with something Carnival calls the Ocean Compass, a network of 55-inch high-res screens—4,000 in all—that provide personalized recommendations. Want a margarita? How about a massage? It’s right there on the screen. The interface isn’t terribly intuitive, in no small part because it’s overstuffed with information and potential actions.
The experience aspires not just to deliver on your expressed intent, but anticipate it. A small example: As you walk toward your room, sensors detect your approach. By the time you arrive, the lights are on and the air conditioner is cooling the room to your preferred temperature.
That ease of use elevates the Ocean Medallion over the Magic Band, a device that also smooths your experience but requires a little more work on your part.
“At the Walt Disney World Resort, all of your interactions, except for a few, are delivered by an intentional interaction by NFC,” says Michael Jungen, Carnival senior VP of experience, design, and technology. He knows, because he worked with Padgett on Magic Band. “That’s great, but one of my pet peeves was the interaction with the door lock.”
The problem? It requires visitors to hold their wrists up unlock it. On the Regal Princess, the unlocked door is waiting for you.
A ship that knows who and where you are, what you want, and when you want it may sound more like a panopticon than a vacation, but Carnival says it’s created Medallion with both security and propriety in mind.
Jungen compares the medallion to a license plate in that it is used strictly for identification via an encrypted identification number. “It’s associated to a guest ID, but it contains no personal information whatsoever,” he says. Your personal info is encrypted and kept in the cloud. The medallion uses Bluetooth Low Energy and NFC to connect with all those sensors, and adds an additional layer of encryption.
But beyond the security concerns lies the question of when personalization becomes uncomfortably personal. What if you just want to be left alone? There, too, the Medallion offers a solution. The system adjusts its inundations based on how much you use it.
“Preferences aren’t just that I like a fluffy pillow, or that I like action-adventure movies. Preferences are also, ‘How do I want this personalization to play out for me?’” says Jungen. “If your preferences and your actions lead us to see that you’d prefer to be reading a book by the pool or in the sanctuary, then that becomes the sort of experience invitation that you consistently receive.”
Besides, as Carnival CEO Arnold Donald notes, you can simply choose not to wear your medallion.
Every Little Bit
Some of what the Ocean Medallion accomplishes already exists in rival tech-savvy seafarers, like the NFC system aboard Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas. Carnival’s version goes further, though, and even a small edge matters in so competitive an industry.
In its 2017 outlook, Cruise Lines International Association estimates that 25.3 million passengers will take to the seas this year. That sounds like a big number, and it is. But when you consider that hundreds of cruise ships sail the seas and many of them make multiple voyages carrying carry thousands of guests and the slices of that pie start looking thin. Every advantage counts.
This isn’t all about you, though. That trick where the Ocean Medallion turns on your lights and a/c as you approach? That means the ship can turn them off when you’re out and about, saving energy—and money. And how many more margaritas or massages will Carnival sell by making it dead-simple to get one? Carnival’s spending a lot on this technology, but will make much more on it.
Ultimately, though, Carnival hopes to provide exactly what every vacationer wants: Everything, always.
Source: Tech News