A passenger uses an OceanMedallion to check in and board the Regal Princess in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Some cruise lines are adding apps to speed up boarding and wearable medallions that serve as passenger IDs, charge cards and location beacons. The New York Times
Global cruise lines are rolling out new technology to help servers deliver cocktails to passengers who have wandered off, address travellers by name on ships carrying thousands of passengers and shrink the boarding process to 10 minutes from one hour. The companies say they are using technology to reduce the most common passenger complaints and make these huge floating vacation cities feel more personal.

Many ships now offer a mobile app to help guests pay for purchases, learn about daily activities, make special requests and communicate with others in their travel party.

Some, like Carnival Corp, Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean Cruises and the Geneva-based cruise company MSC, are beginning to pair them with wearable devices that can better track the passenger’s exact location on the ship and offer additional conveniences.

The technology trend coincides with a period of growth in the industry. About 27 million people took a cruise last year, up from 20.5 million in 2013, says Monty Mathisen, managing editor of Cruise Industry News. “We’ll see some 40million cruise passengers by 2028.”

Carnival Corp, which owns nine lines and represents about half the global cruise industry in number of passengers, has ordered 20 ships to be delivered by the end of 2025.

Passengers see the technology first on the newest and biggest ships, said Mathisen. The surge is partly thanks to increased computing power on the vessels themselves. Ships now “have better data centres, satellite connectivity and IT staff on board”, said Manny Vellon, chief technology officer of the software and consulting company Level 11, that worked with Carnival to create its wearable OceanMedallion.

Here are some ways companies hope to address common complaints:

It takes too long to check in

Customers have long complained about the check-in process, which can require standing in lines for passport presentation, photo-taking and excursion booking. This can stretch to an hour or more, says Jay Schneider, senior vice-president for digital at Royal Caribbean International. The goal now is to get passengers “from car to bar in 10 minutes”, he said. Passengers on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises ships can now use a mobile app to scan their passport, take a security selfie and receive a digital boarding pass before they even arrive at the ship.

I want to order a drink, but can’t find a waiter

A passenger with Carnival’s OceanMedallion can order a drink using a mobile app, and the medallion tells the server the person’s name and exact location. The device acts as identification, charge card and location beacon..

I feel anonymous on this big ship

Wearables can allow crew members using a mobile device to view the name of the person approaching them so they can greet the passenger by name

They aren’t playing our song

Passengers wearing an Ocean-Medallion carry the information they’ve chosen to share with the cruise line wherever they go. When a cruise guitarist sees people from Colorado are in the audience and plays John Denver music, it’s like magic happening.

This bar is too crowded

Using a heat map to see where guests are congregating and how many crew members are there can help determine staffing levels, said David DeCurtis of the DeCurtis Corp, which creates customer softwear for cruise ships. 

 New York Times