Trish O'Loughlin

8 May 2017

Step Inside the World’s Most High-Tech Cruise Ship

Cruise ships are typically renowned for their luxury lifestyle offerings. Guests climb aboard, ready for a holiday spent indulging in the finer things in life while barely lifting a finger.

Now, with the advent of technology reshaping the way we live our lives and performing plenty of menial tasks for us, the traditional cruise ship holiday is also transforming. Welcome to the Regal Princess, a division of American-British company Carnival Corporation, where wearable technology is becoming the new thing.

The aforementioned technology goes by the name of ‘Ocean Medallion’, a small, coin-sized device worn by each passenger to create a high-tech cruise ship experience like nothing we’ve seen before.

What kinds of features are offered by the Ocean Medallion?

The wearable device is designed to streamline and simplify a multitude of tasks. Basically, it functions to:

  • Replace electronic room keys
  • Communicate your personal preferences to the ship’s crew
  • Track the movements of your travelling partners (e.g. wandering children)

However, one of the most prominent features of the Ocean Medallion technology is its ability to grant guests authentication to use Ocean Compass – an interactive device that comes in the form of screens around the deck, private in-room tablets and televisions. It is through here that passengers can virtually plan their entire itinerary and access navigation assistance around the giant ship.

The technology is that advanced that it gives passengers the opportunity to book excursions, find out how long it will take them to walk from A to B on the ship, and whether there are seats available at their favourite on-board restaurant. The screens also display announcements and special events, while simultaneously controlling the entertainment system.

Furthermore, there’s an Ocean Compass app for guests to download on their phones so they can perform all these tasks from virtually wherever.

Crafting a super user-friendly experience

Carnival Corporation has gone to the ultimate lengths to ensure the entire Medallion experience is as seamless as physically possible. The wearable technology does not require any logins, passwords, or even the need to tap against anything – it’s completely automatic. Furthermore, it comes in a variety of choices: passengers can opt to wear the device as a wristband, a pendant, or to simply carry it loose in their pocket. Battery life extends for months, meaning passengers needn’t worry about their Ocean Medallion conking out on them.

Passengers also get to choose their own virtual avatar to represent them. Similar to Nintendo’s Mii, these avatars – called ‘Tagalongs’ – are created and customised by passengers before they board the ship. Tagalongs then digitally follow passengers around, appearing on all interactive screens and even featuring in games.

But what exactly are the nuts and bolts of this highly-advanced technology?

There are two core elements that enable Ocean Medallion to function: connectivity and personal data. Passengers are required to fill out questionnaires before they board the ship (and also during their time aboard), thereby creating a personal profile. However, the company reaffirms that this information won’t be shared or sold to other companies unless passengers opt-in.

In terms of connectivity, the cruise ship hosts a network of extremely advanced data centres, each featuring highly advanced technology. This means the Medallion chip does not store data, but rather, the information is sent to these centres which boast custom storage systems and high-performance routers to combat downtime.

Keeping connected out at sea

Perhaps the idea of connectivity while on the water seems like a major oxymoron. While traditionally this might have been the case, technology has advanced so much that keeping connected in the most remote corners of the earth is entirely possible nowadays. The Regal Princess has skyrocketed its connectivity power by installing three new multi-band, multi-provider satellite antennas. Combined with fibre-optic cabling running throughout the ship, and passengers can expect the best bandwidth available.

Oh, and did we mention the ship will also provide Wi-Fi or cellular roaming connections so passengers can keep constantly connected to their mobiles?

So, when is all this happening?

The cruise-of-the-future will go live on November 12 this year, taking passengers on a high-tech journey that diverges from the nautical voyages we’re used to. However, a spokesperson for the Regal Princess has reiterated that the new wave of cruise ship technology is not designed to propagate our smartphone-wielding ways, but rather to improve and enhance clunky old procedures. In fact, part of the crew’s training includes crafting a service grounded in eye contact and organic conversation, and forging personal relationships with the ship’s passengers.

Is there any stop to technology?

As we’re all perfectly aware, technology is advancing at an astonishingly rapid rate. While innovations such as the Ocean Medallion may seem like the pinnacle of digitisation, there’s still a lot to look forward to. Simply put, this is just the beginning for the Medallion technology: the creators are already hatching future plans to use the system for a myriad of benefits – from automatic activation and deactivation of air conditioning and lighting, to installing sensors that will detect whether the devices are being worn or not, there are plenty of cruise ship firsts in the making.

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