Every captain needs a first mate. And at Virgin Voyages, the adults-only cruise line set to debut in 2020, its second-in-command will be none other than travel agents.
BROOKLYN — Royal Caribbean is going on a tech binge, rolling out an unprecedented number of digital innovations that touches every aspect of its business.
“The pace of change is relentless—and so are we,” said Richard D. Fain, RCL’s chairman and CEO. “We are harnessing a range of technologies to enhance every facet of our business, every minute of our guests’ vacations, and every inch of the ships we build.”
A guest-empowering app will blanket the company’s 48-ship fleet over the next two years, making it “simpler than ever to book and plan your cruise vacation from home or with a travel agent,” said Jay Schneider, senior vice president, digital. “Once onboard, you can navigate our ships with interactive maps and guides, explore the ship with cool features like x-ray vision, or order drinks that can be delivered to you wherever you are on the ship.”
Through the app, Royal Caribbean promises guests that they can board ships in the time “it takes to order fries from the drive-through,” skipping check-in lines thanks to facial recognition technology. Guests can also sign up for shore excursions, order drinks and make dinner reservations through their smartphones, and indulge in VR and AR experiences that transform ship spaces into virtual environments and interactive games.
Moreover, the app will unlock guest staterooms and enable guests to control stateroom lighting and temperature.
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% of our fleet by the end of this year, and more than double that by the end of 2018,” said Schneider.
The innovations enriching the cruise guest experience will be complemented by a suite of tools for crews, as well. For example, the app-enabled offerings for guests will be mirrored on the crew side by mobile applications that help crew members check-in guests, complete required paperwork, track delivery of guests’ bags to their staterooms, and interact with guests and anticipate their needs throughout their vacations.
In addition, crews will have access to easier means to manage their own schedules, stay connected to friends and family while onboard, and stay connected to RCL during their off-contract periods.