CruiseComing soon: ‘Smart’ staterooms that might even serve you coffee in bed.

Royal Caribbean has big technology ideas, some close to reality

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A concept for future staterooms imagines floors, ceilings and walls that can change to create a “choose your own environment” capability
A concept for future staterooms imagines floors, ceilings and walls that can change to create a “choose your own environment” capability

At its invitation-only Sea Beyond event held at a historic shipbuilding facility in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL) showcased the various ways that passengers on its three brands - Royal Caribbean International,Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises - will experience technological innovations going forward, some much sooner than others.  

On the cruise of the future, check-in counters, guest services desks and in-room phones will be relics, replaced by facial recognition, virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

Passengers on some Royal Caribbean International cruises this year (the Oasis and the Allure of the Seas) will be able to check in, order drinks and reserve shore excursions and dinner reservations on their smartphones, using the cruise company’s new app, which will debut this year on 13% of the line’s ships, half of the fleet in 2018 and on 100% of its ships by 2019. 

The app, the first consumer-facing piece of the Excalibur technology initiative, is for passengers to do tasks they would normally do at the guest services desk or from their stateroom phone, in addition to checking into the cruise, tracking their luggage, opening cabin doors and texting fellow passengers.  

RCL’s chairman and CEO Richard Fain said that by streamlining the cruise check-in process to a “frictionless arrival”, passengers will get back the first day of their cruise, a day they are normally spending much time checking in, looking for their luggage and organising the rest of the week. “Family time means more now than ever before,” 
Fain said.

RCL also demonstrated the evolution of smart staterooms, which Royal Caribbean International president Michael Bayley said allows the room to “take care of the guest”. 

Sky Suite, one of the cabin categories on the upcoming Celebrity Edge, will have some of the features of smart speaker systems like Amazon’s Alexa. Guests will be able to make some commands, such as having the lights turn off and shades close by simply saying, “Computer, good night” and a “good morning” command in the morning to turn them back on.  

Passengers also will be able to control all of the room’s lighting, temperature and the shades using their smartphones or a control panel on the wall, including pre-set options like ‘movie’, which will close the shades and turn down the lights for optimal movie watching.

As the technology gets better, Bayley said, passengers could be lying in bed and announce that they’d like a coffee, which will then be ordered.

Many of the ideas RCL showcased are still just that, ideas that may or may not make their way onto ships. One is a ‘virtual restaurant’ experience where passengers put on VR masks while they are eating. Diners would enjoy Japanese food while looking at cherry blossoms in Kyoto. 

Another is RCL’s vision for the inside cabin of the future, in which high-definition videos create the illusion not only of a real balcony with the ocean going by outside -- complete with the appropriate weather -- but a screen on the floor that shows the sea below and a moon roof ceiling that opens to the “sky”. 

Removing ‘time-stealing’ moments from the cruise experience

Richard D. Fain, chairman & CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
Richard D. Fain, chairman & CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

“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,” said Jay Schneider, senior vice president, digital, RCL. “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.”

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