Royal Caribbean CIO Bill Martin spoke with InformationWeek about how it has increased its ship-based bandwidth by sevenfold has lead to direct and indirect revenue gains. Martin believes investing in emerging technology that could deliver even more bandwidth could lead to even more revenue gains.
Martin believes increased Internet bandwidth pleases guests, which leads to revenue boosting directly and indirectly.
Increased bandwidth will lead to more Internet packages being sold on its ships, because until now, packages have been slow and expensive. Martin now says Royal Caribbean will be able to sell higher speed internet for $49 a day or $179 a week. That's the direct revenue.
The indirect revenue will come when all the extra guests purchasing internet will start posting photos and fun messages on social media networks, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, that will provide Royal Caribbean with more exposure.
Earlier this year, Royal Caribbean celebrated its 50 millionth customer by giving every guest on board that day an hour of free Internet access and encouraging them to post pictures. "As recently as a year ago, we couldn't have done it," Martin says.
In order to deliver higher speeds, Royal Caribbean took four steps.
First, it's been building a WiFi network on its ships to deliver Internet access everywhere onboard. Next, Royal Caribbean placed new antennas on each ship to receive satellite signals.
Third, Royal Caribbean signed a deal with to buy satellite Internet capacity. In the past, each ship had to be allocated internet capacity individually. Now, it buys a bulk quantity for a whole region and can allocate more as needed.
Lastly, Royal Caribbean is implementing a modern e-commerce portal to allow the daily and weekly packages to be purchased by guests.
AT&T has launched a new plan for its smartphone users exclusively for Royal Caribbean cruises where affordable data usage while at sea would be possible. Until now, cell phone use onboard cruise ships has been prohibit ably expensive due to roaming charges.
AT&T Cruise Ship Calling: Includes 50 minutes for $30 per month
AT&T Cruise Ship Calling and Messaging: Offers 50 minutes of talk and 100 text/picture/video messages sent for $60 per month
AT&T Cruise Ship Calling, Messaging and Data: Includes 50 minutes, 100 messages sent and 100MB of data for $120 per month
AT&T does require the package be activated for at least one month, although cruisers could sign up for the service before they leave for their cruise and then call and deactivate the package after their cruise is done. This rate is in addition to your normal contract rate.
The new package is limited to the cruise ships of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises. Here's a full list of supported Royal Caribbean cruise ships
Adventurer of the Seas
Allure of the Seas
Brilliance of the Seas
Enchantment of the Seas
Explorer of the Seas
Freedom of the Seas
Grandeur of the Seas
Independence of the Seas
Jewel of the Seas
Legend of the Seas
Liberty of the Seas
Majesty of the Seas
Mariner of the Seas
Navigator of the Seas
Oasis of the Seas
Radiance of the Seas
Rhapsody of the Seas
Serenade of the Seas
Splendour of the Seas
Vision of the Seas
Voyager of the Seas
The new AT&T packages are available when passengers are at sea and see the "Cellular At Sea" network.
Harris CapRock has completed installing advanced communication solutions across Royal Caribbean's cruise ships that will add high-bandwidth services onboard. The new upgrades will improve crew morale, guest experiences and company operational efficiencies.
Royal Caribbean awarded the contract back in May 2012 to improve the communications services onboard Royal Caribbean's fleet. Harris has upgraded these services across 33 ships, including sister companies Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises.
“The new high-performing communication service deployed across our fleet enables innovative information technology solutions that improve both the crew and the guest experience while also improving our operational efficiencies. Harris CapRock’s capability as a world-class communications systems integrator makes this possible through seamless service delivery backed by 24/7 monitoring to ensure communications are always on,” said Bill Martin, vice president and chief information officer, Royal Caribbean.
During the nine-month process, Harris CapRock performed a number of services including the de-installation and installation of more than 120 large antenna systems onboard the fleet. Each ship was equipped with Harris CapRock’s SpaceTrack™ stabilized antenna systems, which deliver more than five times the amount of bandwidth previously available. The solution combines Ku-band and C-band connectivity to maximize service availability and avoid downtime.
O3b Networks announced that it has signed a second mult-year deal with Royal Carinbbean to bring high-speed satellite internet service to another of it's ships, this time Allure of the Seas.
The agreement will provide guests and crew aboard Allure of the Seas with internet service that is anticipated to be four times more responsive than existing and planned GEO satellite systems.
Royal Caribbean and O3bsigned a deal last summer to provide O3b’s new maritime offering O3bMaritime aboard Oasis of the Seas.
Royal Caribbean Chief Information Officer Bill Martin commented on the agreement, "Cruise ship guests expect the same quality voice and Internet services they experience on land. We are proud to be the first cruise line to offer guests and crew aboard our innovative Oasis class of ships connectivity services that are in a league of their own. This latest agreement underlines our confidence in O3b Networks and the game-changing level of connectivity it is set to provide aboard our ships.”
O3b describes their internet service as "fiber-like speeds at sea".
Microsoft cited an interesting case study that highlights how Microsoft's software has helped other companies in their business operation. In the case of Royal Caribbean, Microsoft posted how their software has assisted in point-of-sales and food-safety inspections.
Microsoft's software has helped the cruise line improve profitability and cut its operating costs. This is accomplished by reducing food-inspection time from five to two hours as well as improving workflow throughout the ships.
Royal Caribbean began development of a new software solution when it was building its Oasis-class ships in an effort to improve the systems with a few key goals: improve the systems that support customer service, improve workflow, improve food safety and speed passenger payment transactions.
Microsoft's solution was to implement 35 handheld devices on Royal Caribbean's ships to monitor food and cooler temperatures and deploy an integrated POS solution based on Windows Embedded Compact, Windows Embedded POSReady, Windows 7, Windows Server and Windows Mobile.
Microsoft claims its solutions for Royal Caribbean are
Automatic alerts for cooler malfunction
Reduced time to generate temperature compliance reports
60% reduction in time to complete temperature checks
Seamless integration of POS, digital signage, interactive TV and photo gallery
Royal Caribbean offered an inside look at how they use software to manage their fleet of cruise ships to CIO.com. It's always interesting to see how Royal Caribbean manages to perform its daily operations given how many thousands of passengers it has to accomodate.
The case example begins with Allure of the Seas, where Royal Caribbean director of software engineering Jose Machado and IT manager James Defendis offered a tour of the ship's IT resources.
Royal Caribbean provides the software to run the hotel, from reservations to guest relations to point-of-sale software at the shops. In addition, Royal Caribbean provides Internet for guests, email for employees and, as well as software to count the number of checked-out towels at the pool.
As an example of how Royal Caribbean develops its technology quickly, the 32" wayfinder LCD screens throughout the ship are developed using emerging Linux touchscreen technologies. To get this product to their ships quickly, Royal Caribbean essentially "rents" expertise to accelerate the development process. The applications that will never be seen by guests, on the other hand, including staff email, the reservation system or the towel check-out, have a lower priority, he says. They need to function, and the cost of maintaining them needs to be stay lower than the cost of a rewrite.
Royal Caribbean has deployed iPads to every suite onboard Allure of the Seas as well as Oasis of the Seas. Challenges with having iPads work the way the company want popped up immediately.
Beatriz Rivero, the project's program manager, describes operational challenges such as testing streaming video on multiple devices on a floor running simultaneously. (To address this, Royal added routers and reserved extra bandwidth.) The devices also have cameras, which pose a privacy risk: Next week's guests seeing last week's guests personal photos. Royal deals with this by treating an iPad like a pair of bed sheets—each device is replaced with a fresh one and wiped. Meanwhile, the technology group is working with vendors to lock down local-save features.
Royal Caribbean has struck a deal to have CA Technologies provide integrated and automated IT management solutions that aim to improve the guest experience aboard all of its cruise ships.
The deal will simplify IT management both on shore and onboard the cruise ships. Royal Caribbean will use a range of CA Technologies solutions, including application performance management, infrastructure management, automation, and project and portfolio management.
Royal Caribbean is planning a massive IT upgrade program to modernize its legacy applications that will take place over the next 12 to 18 months.
Royal Caribbean Chief Information Officer Bill Martin commented on the deal, ""Our investment in technology has increased dramatically. Thanks to CA Technologies Business Service Innovation approach, we have transitioned our focus from maintaining IT systems to delivering new, innovative guest services with speed and agility. CA Technologies has enabled us to transform our IT organization and address the high expectations guests have as a result of the trend towards consumerization of IT. Guests want wireless access to the Internet from their smartphones, tablets, laptops and game consoles the second they board the ship to access a range of services; it's imperative that we provide them the best possible experience with those services."
CA Application Performance Management helps Royal Caribbean ensure quality of service and quality of experience for its Web sites. CA APM enables the cruise company to identify and resolve potential problems before they cause downtime and disruption for guests.
Royal Caribbean uses CA Spectrum(R) and CA Virtual Assurance for Infrastructure Managers to manage its on-board network and data center devices. The integrated solution, used on SL class and OA class ships, enables Royal Caribbean to monitor its infrastructure across multiple platforms via user-friendly dashboards that help the organization drill down to identify and fix the root cause of a problem before it impacts guests.
Royal Caribbean also uses CA Client Automation to track networked assets and deploy software upgrades remotely to help minimize the need for IT staff to travel around the ship and ensure devices remain continuously available.
Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas was designed with technology in mind to make the ship easier to navigate for the passengers and crew onboard through tools like RFID, facial recognition and handheld wireless devices for a variety of purposes, including emergency responses, food safety, point-of-sale (POS) transactions and passenger service.
Royal Caribbean vice president of information Technology, Santiago Abraham, spoke about the important of technology on the ship, "We were keenly aware that we were building the biggest ship in the world and we wanted to make sure the experience nonetheless was an intimate one, and eliminate any sense that you are on a massive ship."
To help get passengers around the ship and find their way, Oasis of the Seas has over 300 digital, interactive signs that people can use to access maps, get directions, see scheduled activities and check in real-time the occupancy level of restaurants.
"The digital signage helps our guests navigate the ship," Abraham said of the system, whose touchscreen devices use Windows 7 on the front end and tap SQL Server and other Windows server products on the back end. "You see guests interacting with it on a pretty continual basis very effectively."
Royal Caribbean's IT department also automated retail transactions and food inspections on board with PAR Technology terminals and tablets running software from Agilysys and the Windows Embedded OS.
The technology helps food inspections be done in two hours instead of five thanks to devices that have temperature probes and readers to scan RFID tags on the food containers.
The Point of Sales and food inspection data is instantly fed to back-end Microsoft SQL Server databases where it is automatically analyzed and acted upon, whether it's to replenish low inventory in a store or to order that a food container be discarded.
From Microsoft's perspective, Royal Caribbean has achieved in Oasis of the Seas the "intelligent system" vision of the Windows Embedded products, in which client devices are used to gather data that is then stored on the back end and analyzed for operational improvements.
Abraham said Royal Caribbean is very satisfied with the way the IT infrastructure in Oasis of the Seas helps passengers and staffers without being intrusive or complicated.
"We were trying to have technology help our guests in terms of their experience on board, whether it's boarding the ship, learning more about activities or planning their day, but we also didn't want to be 'in your face' with the technology, so it's all very embedded in a lot of different elements," Abraham said.
Royal Caribbean CEO Adam Goldstein was interviewed by Travel Weekly about the new found importance social media has both for Royal Caribbean and its passengers.
"Social media has become an overwhelming force in our society today. It is perfect for us. We are in an environment that overhwhelmingly satisfies guests. They want to share their experience with others who are not on the ship with them. They want to do that with video, pictures and postcards, things that take bandwidth that is hard for us to provide now. "
Goldstein indicated that Royal Caribbean is putting more emphasis on advertising its cruises in the social media realms. Specifically, Royal Caribbean is investing in Facebook, banner ads, paid search and other ways of getting into the online environment.
The importance in using social media by travel companies to spread the word while on vacation is an emerging trend. Recently Walt Disney World announced it will roll out free WiFi internet access in its theme parks, which will help facilitate the use of social media in its parks. Perhaps Royal Caribbean is in a similar grouping.
Royal Caribbean's Chief Information Officer, Bill Martin, will speak at FSTECNexGen foodservice technology conference in Miami on September 9-11, 2012.
Martin will give a keynote speech regarding the challenges Royal Caribbean encounters with providing all types of technology solutions on cruise ships.
Martin's speech will take place on September 10 at 8am and is titled, "Technology on the High Seas." In the speech, Martin will share his experiences overseeing the various types of technology that Royal Caribbean cruise ships utilize, including attracting and incenting guests,supporting various types of food and beverage operations, efficiently handling accommodations, running cutting-edge entertainment productions and providing travelers with the connectivity and tech options they're looking for.
Bill Martin is a 28-year cruise industry veteran and is responsible for shoreside business systems as well as onboard technology. Under his leadership, Royal Caribbean has received various awards from technology media for their innovation in the use of guest technology. Martin has held various executive and management positions in operations, decision support and revenue management during his career.
"We're excited to offer these diverse perspectives on the latest trends in technology," said FSTEC Chairman Rob Grimes.