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Carnival Corp.’s new ‘smart ships’ know your name, what you want and where you want it

Time:2017-01-05 14:42wine - Red wine life health Click:

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Imagine a future world defined by technology so subtle that you hardly know it’s there.

Servers know what you want ahead of time, so your food is ready when you sit down. The “what should I do today?” question is answered by a list of curated options based on your personal interests. Standing in line is a remnant of a life long ago. And perhaps best of all, the technology works so smoothly that no user manual is required.

But this isn’t some distant, Trekkie future. Within months, passengers will find these features aboard Princess Cruises’ Regal Princess.

For the last 18 months, in a boxy building across from a Doral cow field, Carnival Corp. — parent of Princess and 9 other lines — has been imagining and then devising a seagoing smart city. In November, it will be introduced first on Regal Princess in Fort Lauderdale, creating a world in which the crew and even the ship itself respond to each guest’s needs — often before anyone asks.

The Doral-based cruise company is set to announce its futuristic innovation at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Wednesday, delivering what it promises will be the idea that changes how companies approach not only cruising, but the hospitality industry altogether.

It’s the first time that a company can know who you are, it can know what you want, it can know where you are, it can at least make a good guess at what mood you’re in and take everything on the ship and customize it to your individual need at this time. Joe Pine, co-author of the ‘Experience Economy’

The project directly addresses the argument that cruises are floating behemoths that carry thousands of people like they’re cattle and not individuals with specific needs, said Joe Pine, co-author of “The Experience Economy,” which theorized in 1998 that what consumers truly want are personalized experiences rather than goods.

Carnival is hoping its new approach reduces or even eliminates the major gripes surrounding cruising — both for those who have and haven’t traveled on a cruise ship before — such as crowding, queues to get on and off the ship, impersonal experiences, and a lack of authenticity.

“It’s the first time that a company can know who you are, it can know what you want, it can know where you are, it can at least make a good guess at what mood you’re in and take everything on the ship and customize it to your individual need at this time,” Pine said.

What Carnival’s new system does well, he said, is maximize the time a vacationer spends on the things they enjoy while minimizing the tedious logistics that can cut into their precious leisure experience.

Lines? No more — travelers will be able to book slots to disembark and skip the line when it’s time to get off. Crowded spaces? Services will come to the cruisers, rather than forcing them to congregate in one space while they wait for a drink or to book a shore excursion. Impersonal experience? Every cruiser will be addressed by name, and crew members will know details about them even if they’ve never met. And lack of authenticity? Not so lacking in this smart world where activities are catered around individuals and not mass groups.

How it works

Don’t let the idea of super-smart tech overwhelm you. For the guest, Carnival’s new technology is deceptively simple.

It starts with a medallion, a quarter-sized disc weighing just under 2 ounces emblazoned with a traveler’s name, ship and sail date. Guests need only carry it around or purchase a wristband or necklace to carry it in.

This medallion is like a starship room key embedded with information on the individual cruiser. Like card keys and bands on some other ships, the medallion helps travelers unlock doors and pay for goods. But here it does much more. It can alert crew members to know who guests are as they approach. Guests’ preferences — such as dietary restrictions and dining reservations — will also be part of the information crew members see on tablets populated with information from the medallions.

The more cruisers do, the more the medallion knows what they like and the more customized their experience becomes.

We think once it’s actually executed in those first sailings in November on Princess, when people experience it, it’s going to be transformational. Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival Corp.

Remind you of something? Part of the team behind Disney’s MagicBand, a wrist band that unlocks similar features at Disney parks, has been entrusted to create Carnival’s iteration. And they’ve kicked the experience up a few notches.

“Frictionless” is the word Carnival’s chief experience and innovation officer (and MagicBand’s creator) John Padgett uses to describe it.

“Themillisecond it’s not perfect in its function, it becomes technology,” Padgett said during a tour of the cruise company’s innovation center in early December. The experience, he said, is designed to be seamless.

With Carnival’s medallion, for instance, guests don’t have to raise their hands to a sensor — as they do with the MagicBand — to open a door. Instead, the room already knows they’re coming, so it will also know to change the temperature of the cabin depending on the weather outside and will open only for its occupants.

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