Cruise lines are using tech to cash in on pent-up demand
Digital check-ins and boarding passes that rely on biometric technology, are already being used across most major airlines, have now become the norm for cruise ships
As travellers return to the skies with regained confidence, the cruise industry is also making its comeback. Pent-up demand from delayed and cancelled trips over the past two years are leading to record cruise bookings, with the industry expected to exceed its pre-Covid record highs in terms of passenger numbers and revenues by 2023. In fact, cruise lines like Royal Caribbean are sailing at over 100 per cent capacity.
Recent surveys show that only a fairly small percentage of shipping executives believe their companies have made the most of digitalisation by turning data into effective action. It's easy to understand why. As Lloyd's Register notes: "Maritime is fragmented with many companies developing solutions and then trying to find the problem, instead of solving the problem directly. In its report 'A Changed World: The state of digital transformation in a post-Covid-19 maritime industry' published last year, Thetius / Inmarsat highlights the large increase in the adoption of digital tools. Investment in digital technologies increased by 85 per cent in 2021, and by 2030 it is expected to reach $345 billion, up from an earlier forecast of $279 billion.
Few sectors within the travel sphere were hit as hard by Covid-19 as cruises. Cruise ships' close-knit quarters and international demographic, considered by loyal cruise-goers a staple of the experience, were health and safety nightmares in the face of a global pandemic.
Digital check-ins and boarding passes that rely on biometric technology, are already being used across most major airlines, have now become the norm for cruise ships.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology has also become a popular adaptation for cruise lines to provide passengers with a more seamless way to board, move about and pay for items on the ship. Wearable devices such as Princess Cruise's Ocean Medallions, Royal Caribbean's WOW Bands, or Viking Cruise's intelligent TraceSafe devices, that come equipped with RFID technology, can act as a room key, enabling passengers to automatically open up doors and pay for drinks, services, games and other amenities. Wearable devices enable mobile identification, which also allows passengers to easily embark and disembark the ship. With just a scan of the wristband, crew members can access a passenger's necessary information, to maintain faster boarding processes while also keeping travellers and crew members safe and accounted for.
Some cruise lines such as MSC Cruises, have implemented in-cabin, voice-activated artificial intelligence to answer customer questions that would previously require picking up the phone or walking to the concierge desk. MSC's digital assistant named Zoe, akin to Apple's Siri or Amazon's Alexa, comes customized to each ship to offer passengers a new form of personalized and digital hospitality.
Whether shopping retail, booking online trips or on vacation, today's consumers expect a personalized and seamless experience, emphasizing the need for connectivity and data digitization. The mobile phone has become a necessary accessory for most travellers - especially millennials and Gen-Z'ers and cruise lines have adopted advanced technology to accommodate these expectations.
Designated cruise line apps, such as the Cruise Norwegian app, offers enhanced communication abilities so that guests can connect with family, friends and crew members while out on sea. Other cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean are investing in next-gen technologies like augmented reality that let passengers play virtual reality games on its app. As guests view schedules, interact, book excursions, make dining plans and other purchases, operators can track this behaviour to better understand and tailor customer experiences.
Resorts World Cruises, a luxury and lifestyle cruise brand launched in 2022, is hitting the ground running with a partnership with IBS software to offer passengers a digitally enhanced shopping experience. Through IBS's iTravel Cruise Enterprise Reservation, Resorts World Cruises will provide customized offers and promotions to guests, digitally engaging them throughout the entire lifecycle of their trip.
Additionally, in an effort to provide a more frictionless experience for passengers, connect with guests, and open additional revenue streams, Royal Caribbean has used advanced analytics to develop a personalization engine that learns, tracks and helps its crew respond to passenger preferences from its mobile app so as to let guests enjoy the trip they want.
Similar to how travel "super apps" aim to provide a one-stop shop for door-to-destination travel, cruise packages enable travellers enhanced booking convenience by combining all aspects of their trip transportation into a single digital reservation. Partnerships between cruise and airlines, such as Carnival Cruises and American Airlines, can include roundtrip transfers between their arrival airport and subsequent port, so passengers can relax instead of stressing over additional travel fees or connections.
OAG's platform provides flight status data to airlines and cruise lines so they can coordinate around delays to ensure that each passenger arrives at their destination on time. Mixing data, technology and organisation enables you to embrace digital and leap ahead of the competition in the new normal.