Every year, new market trends, industry regulations and customer expectations force cruise and ferry operators around the world to become more innovative and evolve how they operate. And 2019 was no different.
Here, ICFR highlights a few of the key trends that have been transforming the cruise and ferry sectors this year:
Enhancing the guest experience with technology
Leading the way is MSC Cruises, which debuted the industry’s first virtual personal assistant in all guest cabins onboard its newest ships, MSC Bellissima and MSC Grandisoa. Read our exclusive interview with the company’s chief business innovation officer Luca Pronzati to learn more about Zoe and how she works with the newly updated MSC for Me app.
Similarly, European ferry operator Stena Line has created a new chatbot named Stina to provide UK customers with 24/7 assistance and help them to book ferry trips. The chatbot will be rolled out to other markets in future.
Cruise lines have also continued to roll out apps to give guests access to value-added services, before, during and after their cruise. Carnival Cruise Line, for example, has added new family-friendly features to Hub App to allow guests to see a detailed breakdown of onboard activities for young passengers. Meanwhile, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has launched an onboard app with software development agency SimpleClick to provide information about the cruise, itinerary, activities and meals with limited connectivity.
In addition, Princess Cruises is delivering more personalised experiences than ever before after rolling out its Ocean Medallion technology to 10 ships and debuting its first purpose-built MedallionClass ship, Sky Princess, this October.
Taking entertainment to new heights
Several new ships have introduced innovative onboard features this year that are designed to delight and surprise guests, offering them at-sea entertainment experiences that rival those on land. An escape room with digital and physical challenges is one of the highlights onboard Princess Cruises’ new Sky Princess, while Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Panorama offers the first at-sea trampoline park and Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Encore has an electric go-kart racing track, an open-air laser tag arena with additional augmented reality elements, and more. Plus, Dream Cruises’ Global Dream is to offer the first theme park on a cruise ship, as well as the longest roller coaster at sea, when she starts service in early 2021.
The global maritime community has made great strides to address the issue of plastic pollution this year. For example, Crystal Cruises has banned plastic straws on all ships, Quark Expeditions has created a new Polar Promise strategy with goals for plastic reduction, TUI Cruises has cut 30 million plastic items from its ships in just one year, and Carnival Corporation’s nine cruise brands all agreed to significantly eliminate single-use plastics that are not used for sanitary or public health purposes by 2021.
Ferry operators have been introducing new measure to cut plastic use this year too. Brittany Ferries has eliminated almost 5.7 million single-use plastic items from its vessels over the past 18 months, while Red Funnel Isle of Wight Ferries has “significantly reduced” disposable plastics by introducing various alternatives made from recycled, renewable or low-carbon materials. In addition, Condor Ferries aims to have replaced more than one million single-use plastics with compostable and reusable alternatives by the end of 2019.
Trialling greener fuels
As the International Maritime Organization’s January 2020 cap on sulphur content in marine fuel draws closer, passenger shipping operators have been ramping up efforts to find greener fuel alternatives. Norwegian cruise line Hurtigruten, for example, partnered with Høglund and HB Hunte Engineering to retrofit six passenger vessels so they can become the first in the world to run on liquefied biogas from 2020.
Meanwhile, AIDA Cruises and Costa Cruises both launched their first LNG ships this year – AIDAnova in April and Costa Smeralda in December. Disney Cruise Line, Genting Hong Kong, Princess Cruises, P&O Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Baleària, Brittany Ferries, Tallink Grupp, TT-Line and Viking Line are just some of the other cruise and ferry operators that have shared updates about new LNG-powered vessels in 2019.
Pioneering fuel cell systems
Back in April, ship design and engineering company Foreship predicted that fuel cells would soon become a popular option for passenger ship operators that wanted to lower emissions, reduce operational noise and vibrations. In early October, AIDA Cruises announced plans to trial fuel cells that are powered by hydrogen derived from methanol on its newest ship, AIDAnova, by as early as 2021. This will be the first time that a cruise ship has been powered by fuel cells. Just a few days later, MSC Cruises revealed that it is working with French shipbuilder Chantiers de l’Atlantique to install the world’s first LNG-powered fuel cell solution on the new MSC Europa, which is due to debut in May 2022. MSC Europa will be the first of five MSC Cruises ships to be powered by LNG.
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