This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2017 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.
From November 2017, guests sailing onboard Princess Cruises’ Regal Princess will be able to locate friends and family, unlock their stateroom doors, and purchase merchandise, food, beverages and shore excursions, all without touching a thing. Instead, they will simply need to carry a small disc wherever they go.
Deceptively simple, the Ocean Medallion is a first-of-its-kind wearable device that can be worn or carried by passengers to anticipate their every onboard need and deliver a fully personalised cruise experience.
“More than 250,000 passengers and crew members sail on ships in our global fleet every day, which gives our brands countless opportunities to engage with individual guests and improve their cruise experience,” says Michael Jungen, senior vice president of Guest Experience Design and Technology at Carnival Corporation. “We wanted to develop an innovative experiential technology which would transform cruise vacations by consistently delivering experiences that make guests feel as if their cruise had been specifically tailored to them.”
Jungen designed the Ocean Medallion alongside John Padgett, inventor of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts’ renowned MagicBand and now Carnival Corporation’s chief experience and innovation officer. He says the main priority was to develop a portable device that was easy and intuitive to use, particularly for non-tech-savvy guests.
“The medallion had to be a perfect fit so we created a small, lightweight and waterproof disc that can be worn on a wristband, as a pendant on a necklace, in a clip, or simply carried in a pocket,” Jungen says. “Guests don’t need to switch the medallion on and off, charge it, or press buttons and navigate menus to use it – they can simply take it with them wherever they go and it will automatically unlock enhanced services and personalised experiences.”
Guests can receive their Ocean Medallions in the mail before their cruise, or they can arrange to pick up their device at their embarkation port. Immediately after booking their cruise, guests can also visit Ocean.com to set up their Ocean Profile and select their preferred medallion accessory. By filling out required documentation like passport information, health forms, travel details and preferred form of payment at their leisure online, guests become ‘Ocean Ready’ and will enjoy a more streamlined boarding process at the terminal. In addition, they can upload a photo, create a digital avatar, share their likes and dislikes, and arrange to have their luggage picked up for expedited delivery direct to their stateroom.
“The Ocean Medallion syncs with the sailing and identification information a guest uploads into their profile, so they can be used for everything, eliminating the need for guests to switch between smart bands, key cards and printed barcodes,” comments Jungen. “The Ocean Medallion makes everyday activities – such as dining, purchasing goods and accessing staterooms – seamless and hassle-free because everything happens automatically without guests having to do a thing. They can stay fully engaged in whatever they’re doing.”
The Ocean Medallion pairs with an optional personalised digital portal called the Ocean Compass, which can be accessed online, via guests’ smart devices, stateroom TVs, interactive surfaces throughout the cruise ships, on devices carried by guest services crew, and on kiosks in homeports.
“The Ocean Compass serves as an always-available personal digital concierge that enables guests to manage their itineraries and access services,” explains Jungen. “The software also uses information from individuals’ profiles to provide personalised recommendations for shows, dining, shore excursions and more. It also powers interactive gaming and immersive entertainment experiences.”
Unlike existing wearable devices, the Ocean Medallion does not force guests to interact with technology, but silently powers an enhanced guest experience from behind the scenes via an invisible network of sensors embedded throughout Medallion Class ships, homeports and destinations. The medallion contains two microscopic antennas – one for near-field communications and another for Bluetooth Low Energy – which connect to sensors as guests move around the ship.
“Our experience operating system collects data whenever a guest inputs personal information, engages with crew, or interacts with a digital display and passes it onto a machine learning system, which will learn individuals’ likes and dislikes over time,” explains Jungen. “This creates an ‘experiential aura’ around each guest and allows us to provide more personalised experiences in future. Plus, the medallions use long-range technology so they don’t need to touch anything to work and guests never need to stop what they’re doing.”
To capitalise on these exclusive guest insights, Jungen and his team developed the Crew Compass. The portal helps crew to instantly identify guests and proactively tailor experiences and offerings to their preferences. A waiter, for example, might suggest a particular cocktail based on the drinks the guest has previously ordered.
“Our crew members aspire to provide the best customer service, but some of today’s processes can momentarily redirect their focus to things other than the guests,” says Jungen. “The Crew Compass takes the service delivery burden off the crew, allowing them to anticipate guests needs and proactively provide relevant experiences in a way they’ve never been able to do before.”
Jungen expects that this enhanced level of personalisation will boost guest satisfaction and loyalty ratings, and ultimately lead to increased yields and revenue.
“Ocean Medallion Class has the potential to shatter misconceptions about cruising and help us to generate demand for our cruise vacations,” he predicts. “Plus, because each person will enjoy a cruise experience that is fully personalised to them, they’re more likely to be satisfied and return to a Carnival Corporation ship for another great vacation in the future.”
The technology will debut on Princess Cruises’ Regal Princess in November 2017, followed by Royal Princess in January 2018 and Caribbean Princess in March 2018, and the rest of the fleet in the coming years.
“Our innovation will truly transform the guest experience to a level never previously seen in the travel and leisure industry, so we plan to expand the device, guest and crew portals to ships in Carnival Corporation’s other cruise brands,” enthuses Jungen. “We’ll do so at a pace and schedule that makes sense for our guests, operations teams and shareholders.” C&F