Cruise company Carnival reveal personal concierge technology

Miles Clark of Carnival Corp. shows the Ocean Compass interface for the CES-International, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017, in Las Vegas.


LAS VEGAS – What if you get a room on a cruise ship were to unlock automatically when you approach, or if the staff could bring your favorite cocktail, after which you still have questions?

Carnival Corp, the operator of such cruise lines as Princess, Holland America and Carnival, the will to make that happen, so it can be even cozier with the guests and making cruises even more personalized.

Carnival is the use of the CES gadget show in Las Vegas on Wednesday to reveal new concierge technology that is designed to help the crew members to anticipate and respond to the passengers. It will depend on sensors, and wearable trackers, and is scheduled to debut on the Regal Princess cruise ship in November.

The leisure-cruise industry is playing catch-up with travel peers, such as hotels and airlines, which now allows you to unlock rooms with a smartwatch or fly with a boarding pass on your phone.

Personalization is important as cruise ships become larger and come across as impersonal, said Mike Driscoll, editor-in-chief of Cruise Week, a trade publication. Personalization can also help cruise companies attract more first-timers, including tech-savvy millennials.

“It is a lot of catching up to the life in the country,” Driscoll said.

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Or anticipating the needs of the guest will feel useful or creepy remains to be seen. Those of you who might be afraid of not having the medallion or can set a limit on how much they want to participate in, Carnival CEO Arnold Donald said.

“In the end, the guests will tell us,” Donald told The Associated Press. “If it doesn’t (resonate), it’s back to the drawing board.”

The core of the system is a tracking medallion the size of a quarter. Cruise passengers to wear as a pendant, throw it in a bag or in a pocket. The medallion makes use of wireless technology to communicate with sensors placed around the ship, cruise terminals and even airports, where staff can offer you personalized greetings as passengers fly.

Members of the crew armed with tablets can respond to the needs in the neighborhood. For example, a guest could drink it as a member of the crew comes in to remind him that a yoga class starts in five minutes. Or a waiter to work at the swimming pool one can ask whether a guest wants to her usual gin and tonic.

In addition, interactive displays can provide personalized directions to the rooms of the guests. And the medallion ties in a payment system, so no one has to swipe or sign anything when buying souvenirs or drinks.

Donald said that he hopes the service will encourage customers to sign up for repeat cruises, while spending more on extras.

Different passengers can react very differently to the service. “With the 83-year-old aunt in Saskatchewan, it is perhaps too much,” Driscoll said. But for a passenger in his 50s, such as Driscoll, the life on the ship “just easier.”

Carnival plans to expand to settings for all other Princess ships in the coming years and eventually to other ships. Carnival, the world’s largest leisure travel company, owner of more than 100 ships under 10 brands.

Personalization is not new for the travel industry. Walt Disney World in Florida has a MagicBand bracelet device that acts as a room key and a “FastPass” reservation of popular attractions. The MagicBand is also linked to a credit card for faster payments in restaurants and souvenir shops.

John Padgett, who was one of the main architects of the MagicBand before joining the Carnival in 2014, said the cruise-ship system goes further in eliminating the need for contact or tap on a terminal. Sensors pick up signals automatically.

“There are no wires. There is no charge,” Padgett said. “It is not necessary to be a guest or to the consumer to do anything.”

Carnival officials say that there are safeguards against someone running with another guest medallion. Each guest profile is linked to a security plate, so that a member of the crew can compare with a passenger the picture on a portable device. Carnival also says the medallion contains no sensitive information, such as stateroom number, like a hotel room key. The company added that the system has additional authentication, although he refused to work.

Donald said the technology could be adapted for other industries. Imagine a patient entering the hospital, and is recognised immediately by a nurse, without a check or filling out forms.

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