Add checking in for a cruise to the list of things you’ll soon be able to do with a few taps on your smartphone.
Royal Caribbean Cruises this week showed off a new smartphone app that will let customers complete the check-in process before arriving at a ship.
Upon arrival, cruisers then will be able to walk right on the vessel without stopping at a desk, as long as they have their phone in a pocket. The app will pair with a facial recognition system at the pier to verify their identity as they head to the gangway.
“You don’t have to do anything,” Royal Caribbean Cruises chairman and CEO Richard Fain told USA TODAY at an event at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to show off the technology. “You walk toward the ship, and your name comes up on a screen, and it says, ‘Hi Gene, welcome aboard.'”
Once on board, the app also will serve as a room key. As long as passengers are carrying their phone, their room doors will unlock as they approach them.
Fain said the idea was to create a “frictionless arrival” for passengers on the first day of their sailing.
“Frictionless used to be an aspiration. It was something we wanted. Now it’s something we expect,” Fain said, noting that the app would roll out to all of the company’s brands by 2019. Royal Caribbean Cruises is the parent company of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises.
Called Excalibur, Royal Caribbean’s app also will let passengers order drinks that will be delivered to wherever they are on a vessel, reserve shore excursions and make dinner reservations.
Passengers also will be able to track their luggage on the app from the time it arrives at the pier until it is delivered to their rooms.
The net effect will be to give passengers back the first day of their vacation, Fain said. Passengers no longer will have to spend time on embarkation day checking in, waiting in line to board, tracking down their bags, and making show and restaurant reservations. They can just head straight to the pool or to other on-board allures.
The functionality of Royal Caribbean’s app has similarities to the functionality of a system rival Carnival Corp. is starting to roll out on Princess Cruises ships. Carnival Corp. is the parent company of Princess as well as Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line and several other cruise brands.
But Carnival Corp.’s system, called Ocean Medallion, requires passengers to be wearing a small, personalized medallion that is issued before sailing.
While not mentioning Carnival Corp.’s system by name, Fain said Royal Caribbean decided using a wearable device wasn’t the way to go.
“One of the things that we see people demanding is that everything is integrated,” Fain told USA TODAY. “They don’t want to have a device for this and a device for that.”
Almost everybody on Royal Caribbean ships already is carrying a smartphone, so it’s just simpler to have that smartphone be the device that streamlines their cruise vacation, not a wearable item, Fain said. The smartphone app also pairs with the existing, wall-to-wall WiFi infrastructure on Royal Caribbean’s ships, he noted.
“The phone is there (on passengers). We already have this incredible infrastructure of pervasive WiFi” Fain said. “If we use the wearable, we essentially would have to rewire every ship to access that device, and that’s a very expensive and time consuming process.”
Fain said the app will work no matter what sort of device you carry.
“You can use your phone, you can use your iPad. If next year the belt buckle becomes a new part of the Internet of Things, we’ll use your belt buckle as the device,” Fain said. “You can use any device you want.”
Fain said passengers who don’t own a smartphone or similar device or don’t want to carry one while aboard a ship still will be able to do everything from checking in to ordering a drink the old-fashioned way. Traditional key cards for opening doors still will be available, for instance.
“This is in addition to what we do, not instead of it,” he noted. “If you want to do (the check-in process) on paper, we’ll do it on paper.”
In presentations at the event, Royal Caribbean executives showed off additional functions that the app would control, including the adjustment of lighting and temperature in passenger cabins. The app also will tie into on-board games and offer itinerary information and ship maps….
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