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Royal Caribbean's tech chief thinks cruise ship passengers will expect a better digital experience after pandemic life

30 Sep 2021

One major shift coming out of the pandemic for Royal Caribbean is the world is going to expect something different.

Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President and Chief Product Innovation Officer Jay Schneider spoke at Seatrade Cruise Global on Wednesday about his company's efforts, and believes digital is now the expectation, and not just an enhancement.

"I think we're going to come out of this pandemic where digital is now just the norm and most people's expectation shot through the roof," Mr. Schneider stated after answering a question about digital transformation.

"It's going to be the world is going to expect something very different coming out of the pandemic than they did going into it."

According to Schneider, that expectation is already taking place with the cruise line app.

Prior to the pandemic, Royal Caribbean saw about 70% adoption rate of the cruise line app on a ship that had the app available. Since the restart of operations this year, the adoption rate jumped to the mid to upper 90s.

"As we've turned back on ships, our focus hasn't been go to market communication to tell you to use an app. It's been all of the other health and safety information that we have to tell you."

How Royal Caribbean will make check-in, Adventure Ocean and its app easier & faster | Royal Caribbean Blog

Something else that has shifted a lot has been the desire by guests to complete online check-in.

"Right before the pandemic, we had gotten our check in numbers like 90 percent, and I was really curious what was that last 10 percent."

Mr. Scheider wanted to dig into who that last 10% was that was not doing check-in, and many stereotypically assumed it was the older generation that was hesitant to adopt tech as part of their vacation experience.

His research showed this breakdown of guests who checked in via the Royal Caribbean app before embarkation day in the days before the pandemic:

  • People over 65: 99.5%
  • Gen X: 98.5%
  • Millenials: 82%

"It was millennials that were dragging down our digital engagement."

New check in process in app - Royal Caribbean Discussion - Royal Caribbean Blog

One change Royal Caribbean made since cruises restarted this year was to allow guests to check-in via the app up to one hour before boarding.

"As we implemented one hour check in, we saw all of our numbers go up. Boomers stayed the same, Gen X went up a little bit, and then millennials are the one that brought the percentage up."

Mr. Schneider believes this data shows that age isn't a factor in preventing technology adoption, but rather, how the technology is implemented to reach all guests' needs.

Disconnect moments

10 ways to overcome common cruise ship mistakes | Royal Caribbean Blog

While technology is a fascinating new tool for Royal Caribbean, some passengers want to take a break from it.

Mr. Schneider admitted that there is a percentage of guests who want "disconnect moments" during their vacation, and that means Royal Caribbean must integrate technology into the cruise ship life without making it a full-time experience.

"What you do see and hear from people is people do want to find these disconnect moments. And so our job is to build technology and experiences that allow them to connect or disconnect as much as they want."

Royal Caribbean signs deal for new contact tracing band

29 Sep 2021

Royal Caribbean announced a new a wearable technology partnership.

The cruise line signed a two year technology partnership with TraceSafe.

TraceSafe and Royal Caribbean developed the Tracelet contact tracing wearable bands, which can be used on cruise ships to easily identify close contacts in the case a passenger or crew member tests positive for Covid-19.

Both companies worked closely together to design and manufacture the wearable that can meet both Royal Caribbean's high standards for comfort and the cruise line's commitment to sustainability.

TraceSafe's bands rely on a location-aware Internet of Things (IoT) platform, which have been scaled for large-scale enterprise operations such as across a fleet of cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean Group Chief Product Innovation Officer, Jay Schneider, talked about the new agreement, "It was the willingness of the TraceSafe team to develop a custom Tracelet device that met our requirements for style and design that propelled the partnership forward

"We look forward to continuing this engagement with TraceSafe as we explore the many new opportunities for IoT Technology onboard our ships."

What is a Tracelet?

Allure of the Seas Test Cruise Live Blog - Day 1 | Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean started working on the technology behind Tracelets even before the pandemic, but pivoted the technology for contact tracing in 2020 when the cruise industry shutdown.

Royal Caribbean trademarked the name in October 2020, and the first Tracelets began appearing on Quantum of the Seas sailings that restarted from Singapore in December 2020.

The Tracelet is a comfortable, water-resistant, hypoallergenic wearable worn by all guests and crew on some Royal Caribbean sailings.  

CDC asks Royal Caribbean to share covid safety technology from its cruise ships | Royal Caribbean Blog

When offered onboard, all guests regardless of age, needs to wear it.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) actually went as far as to ask Royal Caribbean to share with them details on the Tracelet because of how intriguing an option it was.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley told investors in February 2021 that the CDC asked the line to share the technology behind the Tracelet on early sailings from Singapore.

How Royal Caribbean invested in new port projects and tech during the cruise industry shutdown

02 Aug 2021

Royal Caribbean may have been shut down for 15 months, but that does not mean work stopped behind the scenes on new innovations and ideas that were announced in the months leading up to the stoppage.

While there may not have been many public updates on what was happening, Royal Caribbean prioritized certain initiatives and expansions so that when cruise ships could return, the company would be ready with exciting new announcements.

Overseeing these initiatives is Royal Caribbean Group Chief Product Innovation Officer, Jay Schneider, whose job it is to blend product development and experience, and he manages Royal Caribbean's technology and private destination innovations.

So what has Royal Caribbean been up to all these months, and what changes, additions, and new offerings can we expect with cruise ships starting to restart operations? I asked Mr. Schneider what is behind Royal Caribbean's proverbial curtain.

Continual investment

First and foremost, Mr. Schneider pointed to the fact his team invested in creating a new tech foundation to support initiatives that would prove to be critical to success during the shutdown, "Had we not made that investment, getting back into service now would be very difficult and very expensive."

This includes things like reducing friction at check-in, emuster, or being able to review your folio were good ideas pre-shutdown, and are now critical for social distancing and reducing touch points.

More importantly, Royal Caribbean not stopping work on its digital projects is a lesson learned from the days of the last smartphone app, Royal iQ.

"I think one of the mistakes we made, if you remember our Royal iQ app," Schneider admitted.

"We stopped investing in it and it just became stagnant. And so you'll see us continue to make improvements and additions and edits to the Royal Caribbean app and build the product out."

Chat feature

Schneider says the chat feature was ready to be rolled out right before the pandemic hit, but it is ready for all the ships in the fleet now.

Mr. Schneider confirmed the chat feature is ready for use fleet wide, "As we bring every ship back, every ship, will have chat."

Royal Beach Club

In March 2020, Royal Caribbean announced a Royal Beach Club in Nassau, which is an enhancement of an area that Royal Caribbean's cruise ships sail to, with the option for guests to go there, or do something else in that destination.

Mr. Schneider confirmed the first Royal Beach Club will be in Nassau, known as the Royal Beach Club in Paradise Island. After that, the Perfect Day projects will continue, "We're going to continue to go and build out Royal Beach clubs. The first one will be here in Nassau. It will be the Royal Beach Club in Paradise Island. And then we're going to continue to expand our Perfect Day portfolio."

"We have gotten to the point where we've announced that we've executed our lease with the government. So the total space is 20 acres, 13 of which we own privately, and then it's seven acres of government land that we've leased."

"We are going to continue to move forward to that program."

The daily occupancy for the Royal Beach Club in Paradise Island will be 3,500 guests.

Also in the Bahamas is another project in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island. 

According to Schneider, that project is still moving forward, "It continues to move forward. We're still working through the legal agreements, so that's just been an elongated process that we hope will conclude sometime soon."

So which projects are a go with the way things stand now? Mr. Schneider would only say some things have changed over the last 15 months that may or may not alter Royal Caribbean's plans.

"Number one, the destinations are evolving, meaning they're coming out of a pandemic themselves. So their situations are different."

"Second, our guests are evolving and we're constantly updating our slate of where we want to go. And so those factors and formulas together help us think about where we want to go."

Read moreRoyal Caribbean's plans to build a cruise resort in Bahamas are still alive

Amplifications will return

One of the many projects that had to be sidelined were ship upgrades under the Royal Amplified program, and it looks like those updates are delayed, but not denied.

"We're going to pick up Amplification again. We're going to keep making sure that the Amplification we have is working."

Moreover, new ship construction is not stopping either, "Our new build portfolio isn't isn't stopping. We're going to continue to build amazing ships."

"You're going to see new concepts come out on future ships and you're going to see us experiment with new fun ways to, again, get people to have an amazing vacation."

Read moreWhat was added to each Royal Caribbean ship during its Royal Amplified refurbishment

Royal Caribbean patents new way to alert cruise ship passengers in their cabin

06 Jul 2021

Royal Caribbean revolutionized the cruise industry with an easier safety drill, and is now looking to take it one step further with a new patent aimed at alerting passengers there is a drill they need to participate in.

The new emuster drill is already available on Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruise ships that have restarted sailings. This new drill replaces the traditional one where guests would have to stop everything they are doing and line up and hear about safety protocols.

Instead, guests have a window of time to conduct the drill via their smart phone.

Royal Caribbean Group recently filed a patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for "Guest Quarters Coordination During Muster".

This patent seeks to do two things:

  • Alerting passengers in their cabin that a muster event has started
  • Displaying the muster location on the television display

The patent would cover an additional way to alert guests they need to complete their muster drill, as well be more easily notified they need to report to their muster station.

On the television, there would be a computed navigation path from the cabin to the retrieved muster location, selecting one or more turn by turn directions for the path, selecting landmark disposed within the path and displaying the muster location, a graphical image of the computed navigation path in the television display, at least one of the turn by turn directives and the landmark on the television display.

Traditionally on cruise ships, a muster drill is performed at the beginning of the cruise before the cruise ship departs or shortly thereafter.

During the muster drill, each individual passenger reports to an assigned muster station--a specific location on the vessel. A crew member then confirms the presence of each passenger expected to be present at the specific location during the muster drill so that all passengers may be accounted for in the event of an actual emergency and a resultant actual muster.

The muster process is particularly important because in the event of an emergency, all passengers can be accounted for and the location of the passengers managed relative to a location of an emergency condition aboard the vessel. 

In its filing, Royal Caribbean determined that even with the best safety drill information provided earlier, the reality is during an emergency condition--even a minor emergency--general confusion may arise simply owing to the complexity of size and architecture of a vessel and the mass movement of so many passengers to different locations within a short period of time. 

Because of this confusion, it can be confusing for some--particularly the elderly and children--both of whom often require additional assistance locating and moving towards assigned muster stations.  The foregoing difficulties may be compounded when the muster event occurs during nighttime when passengers awake from sleep and may not be completely aware of unfamiliar surroundings. 

As a result, Royal Caribbean came up with this idea for a guest quarters coordination method during muster.

Royal Caribbean patents new firework illusion special effect for its cruise ships

28 May 2021

Innovation has been a major part of what separates Royal Caribbean from other cruise lines, and that tradition continues with the cruise line's latest public filing.

The entertainment onboard a Royal Caribbean ship has always been a focal point for trying to push the envelope, and a new patent application points to something cruise ship passengers are likely to see onboard soon.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office reports a filing by Royal Caribbean for something called a "Water-based Pyrotechnic Illusion".

Among the four patent authors is Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President of Entertainment for Royal Caribbean International, Nick Weir. It is also credited to Daniel Comins, Zachary Cook, and Steven Michelman.

What exactly is this thing that Royal Caribbean patented?

Based on the patent application, it sounds like something meant to look like fireworks, but utilizing high speed water and lights to create the effect.

Systems and methods for firework water illusions are disclosed. In one aspect, a device for creating an illusion of rotary pyrotechnics includes at least one nozzle configured to rotate about an axis of the device and spray water in a radial direction while rotating. The device can also include a water supply configured to provide the water to the at least one nozzle and a lighting system configured to illuminate the water sprayed from the at least one nozzle to create an illusion of rotary pyrotechnics.

Basically, making something that looks like fireworks without actually using fireworks.

Figure included with patent

Specifically, they aimed to recreate a Catherine wheel, which is a pinwheel type of firework that when ignited, the energy of the fireworks not only create sparks and flame, but cause the wheel to quickly rotate, making the display much more spectacular.

Example of a typical Catherine wheel

Fire is a major concern for cruise ships, and its use onboard is usually prohibited, so creating the illusion of fire would be an important asset.

The use of fireworks in such performances, particularly in the cruise ship environment, may be relatively dangerous and/or prohibited. Thus, there is a demand for the recreation of fireworks using an illusion to recreate at least some of the effects of fireworks without the drawbacks, such as the fire hazard associated with traditional fireworks.

A few different configurations are possible with this patent, and the use of a mister or multiple water nozzles can provide different effects when the light shines on the water droplets moving at a high speed.

They even outlined using a fog machine to further enhance the look.

Whenever water is mentioned in the context of entertainment, Royal Caribbean's signature AquaTheater space usually comes to mind as the likely setting for it.

In fact, the patent talks about the patent being utilized in the AquaTheater without actually naming the venue.

Aquatic shows, which are traditionally performed in a permanent theater, are being adapted for performance on cruise ships due to their continued popularity. 

The patent says that a water-based illusion has an advantage since aquatic shows already have the necessary hardware support in place, as well as being more engaging to an audience compared to a simple visual projection of the image of fireworks onto a screen.

Interestingly enough, the patent also mentions this water-based pyrotechnic illusion could even be used by Las Vegas.

 Yet another environment in which such a water based firework illusion may be so-called "pool parties" which are popular in entertainment centers such as Las Vegas. These parties may include live music, DJs, numerous swimming pools, etc. In this setting, the use of fireworks may also be a fire hazard, and thus, the use of a water-based firework illusion may be desirable.

Whether Royal Caribbean uses this technology on its next Oasis Class cruise ship, which is currently under construction, or on existing ships in the fleet remains to be seen. 

Royal Caribbean sees facial recognition technology, not wearables, as the future of personalization

15 Apr 2021

Many cruise lines now offer guests something they can wear on their wrist or on a lanyard to personalize their vacation experience, but Royal Caribbean thinks the future is going be something different.

Speaking at the Seatrade Cruise Virtual conference, Royal Caribbean Group SVP Digital Experience Jay Schneider, talked about the how believes facial recognition will be the the best long-term solution for guests being able to customize their trip.

Why facial recognition over wearables, such as a wristband, token, or watch?  The rate of adoption among guests would be universal with facial recognition, whereas wearable technology requires passengers to want to adopt and wear something all day long for it to truly be useful.

"There are use cases where a wearable on your arm or a lanyard, et cetera, might be relevant, but your face is a better wearable for you long term than having to distribute something to you."

Schneider pointed at Disney Parks recent move from their wearable technology, MagicBands, has something to do with the limitation of adoption by customers.

Scheider, who spent a decade working at Disney, noted MagicBand adoption never really got high enough to where the company wanted, "They never really got to full parity of all of their guests with the MagicBand."

"It was a tool used by the vast majority of the resort guests, but their day visitors didn't really get the full access out of that."

Read moreHow Royal Caribbean will make check-in, Adventure Ocean and its app easier & faster

Royal Caribbean was the first cruise line to implement facial recognition technology as part of the boarding process in select cruise terminals.

In fact, Royal Caribbean announced it would invest in facial recognition back in 2017 when they introduced a slew of new innovations coming to cruises over the next few years.

Mr. Schneider conceded that facial recognition is not ready for prime time yet, but Royal Caribbean has already made strides in getting there.

"We're not there yet at the same level of ubiquity we need to be with what you can pull off with something on your arm, or a SeaPass card or something like that."

Contact tracing wearables

In the meantime, Royal Caribbean is deploying a contact tracing wearable on Quantum of the Seas, and it has provided phenomenal results.

"We've gotten to one hundred percent accuracy of false positives and false negatives on every voyage since since we basically started."

"We have what we call, "high accuracy contact tracing" that is that's nearly instantaneous on board that ship and will continue to expand it as we restart ships around the globe."

Read moreCDC asks Royal Caribbean to share covid safety technology from its cruise ships

Certainly there are privacy concerns with a device that tracks the movements of every single guests onboard, but Mr. Schneider was insistent the data is destroyed and not even shared off the ship for those reasons.

"We also want to make sure that we can retain the data on board so we can destroy it, because we're very the privacy of this data as well. It's meant for our public health team on board and our security team on board to be able to rapidly prevent cases from spreading."

Schneider is not certain if the future for contact tracing will remain with wearables, or become appcentric.

What if I want to keep my phone off while I'm on the ship?

During the session, Mr. Schneider was asked about what about people who prefer not to keep a digital device with them.

He noted that a "vast majority" of guests have their smartphone with them in many cases, but Royal Caribbean wants to ensure everyone is covered.

"We need to make technology for those to improve the experience for those who don't want to engage digitally."

"But the vast majority of our guests are engaging digitally."

CDC asks Royal Caribbean to share covid safety technology from its cruise ships

23 Feb 2021

As the cruise industry inches ever closer to restarting operations, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has asked Royal Caribbean to share some of its safety technology, a cruise line executive revealed Monday.

On a Royal Caribbean Group earnings call, Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, said the CDC has asked the line to share the technology behind two new tools on which it is heavily relying during Quantum of the Seas voyages, which resumed from Singapore on December 1, 2020, with no port calls.

"...that technology development is really, we think, groundbreaking and very sophisticated," Bayley said. "And in our conversations that we had the week before last with the CDC, they specifically asked us to share that technology and what we've been doing in Singapore with them, which we've subsequently done."

"There are two technologies that have come from Quantum that really are game-changing. One is the e-mustering, which completely transforms the whole process of lifeboat mustering," Bayley explained.

Muster 2.0 -- otherwise known as "e-mustering" -- is a system that helps to keep large groups of passengers from congregating for what, previously, was an in-person safety drill prior to sailaway on each cruise.

Now, passengers can simply watch safety briefings via a cell phone app or their in-cabin televisions. They will have a four-hour window in which to do so and then report, in person, to a designated area where a crew member will verify completion.

Read moreTop 10 questions about Royal Caribbean's new Muster 2.0

Bayley then discussed a second innovation used on Quantum of the Seas -- contact tracing.

"The second is, we've really developed technology for contact tracing, using a combination of technologies. One of them is a Tracelet, which basically each guest wears, and you can tell exactly how long they've been in contact with everybody else who's wearing a Tracelet.

"Then, we have artificial intelligence connected into basically CCTV cameras that use facial and body recognition to then double check and verify contact tracing in the event that somebody did have covid onboard the ship."

Although Royal Caribbean filed a patent for Muster 2.0 in 2019, months before the pandemic was declared, the Traclet's patent was filed in October 2020 as a means to help track covid cases onboard.

Read moreHow cruising changed on Royal Caribbean's first cruise back

Similar to Royal Caribbean's WOWBands, Tracelets are made of silicone. The latter use tracking technology to determine who came in contact with any person found to test positive for covid during a sailing. This information allows proper action to be taken in terms of isolating and quarantining to avoid further spread.

Royal Caribbean's new rules state the following:

"Contact tracing is an important part of our enhanced protocols to keep all our guests and crew safe. Each guest will be provided with a wearable device that allows rapid tracing in the event it is necessary. If you have found to have come within 6 feet of a covid-positive person, for at least 15 minutes, certain actions may be required for your safety and the safety of your fellow guests."

Currently, cruise lines are implementing a slew of new protocols in line with the CDC's conditional sail framework. They include improved air filtration systems and cleaning procedures, as well as plans for isolating, quarantining and disembarking ill passengers if necessary.

In order to test these protocols, cruise ships will soon be required to undergo test sailings with volunteer passengers. If all goes well, each vessel would then be required to receive authorization from the CDC in order to resume revenue voyages.

Bionic Bar competition: MSC introduces humanoid robot bartender

11 Feb 2021

When Royal Caribbean introduced the Bionic Bar with its one-armed robot bartenders 7 years ago, it turned heads. 

Now, there's a new bartender in town.

MSC Cruises announced today the first humanoid bartender will be found aboard its MSC Virtuosa cruise ship.

Known as "Rob", the bartender will be part of the MSC Starliner One bar experience, which is themed to a futuristic spaceship.

Rob can mix and serve cocktails (with or without booze) and personalize drinks as well. He can even talk to guests in 8 languages (English, Italian, Spanish, French, German, Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese). His LED face can convey a variety of emotions.

This humanoid robotic bartender moves his arms, body and head in a highly natural way, all collaborating to give the impression that a real bartender is preparing the cocktail - a very unique engineering feature. Different facial expressions and a voice have been designed to give Rob a human-like personality.

Parallels between Rob and Royal Caribbean's Bionic Bar started almost as soon as MSC made the announcement.

Beginning on Quantum of the Seas, Royal Caribbean introduced the first robotic bartenders in 2014.

The Bionic Bartenders are not humanoid. Instead, they are a robot arm that can make drinks based on orders placed by guests via tablets.

The Bionic Bar concept has spread to a number of cruise ships in the fleet since the debut, including other Oasis and Quantum class cruise ships.

Ordering drinks

Guests will place orders for drinks in specifically designed vertical digital cockpits. 

Guests can monitor the status of their drink while Rob makes it through digital monitors within the area and a ticker-tape-style LED strip above the robotic island.

The cosmic cocktails are served in custom-designed futuristic souvenir glasses.

Between making drinks, Rob can interact with guests and change his facial expressions or even dance.  He is capable of telling jokes, riddles and space trivia.

The MSC Starship Club

In addition to Rob, the bar has 3D holograms, an immersive digital art wall and a 12-seater infinity digital interactive table, giving guests the possibility to explore space with their own personalized galactic tour.

MSC said they have spent almost six years developing the space, and worked hard to push the boundaries of engineering.

During this time, MSC Cruises has worked with leading experts from companies specializing in robotics and automation, interior design as well as entertainment and digital experience solutions to create a custom designed entertainment venue with a humanoid robot as the star.

The robotic island solution is completely automated and integrated with all the catering machines and tools needed for the end-to-end drink preparation and delivery. Safety glass and the 2-level safety laser barriers have been installed to avoid any mishaps.

Human bartenders will be always be on-hand to assist and prepare unique beverages too as part of the overall experience.

The MSC Starship Club also offers an extensive futuristic menu served from the human bar in addition to the cocktails served by Rob These cocktails are not included within the drinks packages.

MSC Virtuosa is the newest cruise ship for MSC Cruises anbd after completing a few three, four and five-night cruises in the Mediterranean, MSC Virtuosa will be deployed to Northern Europe in summer 2021 with a range of itineraries to the Norwegian fjords and Baltic capital cities.

Where does the poop go on a cruise ship?

30 Jan 2021

Have you ever wondered where all the waste on a cruise ship goes?

Once while I was relaxing in my stateroom on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, my daughter asked where her poop went after she flushed the toilet and it is actually a good question.

Cruise ships are often described as floating cities, and their waste management is no different than a small municipality.

With thousands of people onboard a ship, there is a need for a sophisticated approach to managing where everything goes once people are done with it, from human waste to recycling to leftover food.

In fact, cruise lines are highly-regulated and work with environmental government agencies to ensure their waste practices are approved. These protocols ensure ships comply with strict requirements set out by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and other regional and national authorities with a responsibility to protect the environment. 


Royal Caribbean touts the fact Symphony of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship, is actually a zero-landfill ship.  This means the ship can deal with their own waste, ranging all the way from recycling to water filtration.

Cruise ships like Symphony have a designated waste and recycling center. There are separate teams to deal with each incoming recyclable: glass, cardboard, plastic, and metal.

The ship's waste incineration room is manned twenty four hours a day by crew members who differentiate glass based on its color: green, brown and white.

It is then sent for being crushed.

The ship has an incinerator, as well as a compactor for processing plastic waste. The compactor crushes approximately 528 gallons of water bottles.

Once the ship returns to port, it can then transport plastic, aluminum, paper, and glass for recycling through a third party vendor.

In 2018, Royal Caribbean recycled 43.7 million pounds of waste.

Read more15 really cool things to do that you can only find on Royal Caribbean cruise ships


If you have been on a cruise ship, you have noticed there is always plenty of uneaten food.  Either food people leave on their plates, or food that is never picked up from the buffet or ordered at a restaurant.

The chefs on Symphony of the Seas segregate food scraps into different buckets, which is then put into a big pipe that leads to the ship’s hydro-processor for incineration.

Incinerating food waste reduces the volume of the leftover food waste, and that reduces the ship's weight and thus, fuel needed by the ship.

Where your poop goes

Time to tackle my daughter's question of where your poop, shower water, and any other wastewater goes.

Cruise ships have a water-treatment system onboard, similar to your hometown. With over 7,000 passengers and crew, Symphony of the Seas generates 210,000 gallons of black water and one million gallons of grey water during a one week cruise. 

All the wastewater onboard is collected and absolutely nothing goes overboard unless it is first run through a treatment plant. 

Water is divided into three categories:

  • Grey water: sinks, laundries, and drains
  • Black water: galleys and toilets
  • Bilge water: oils released from equipment in engine compartments that collect at the bottom of the vessel.

Wastewater is run through the advanced wastewater-purification plant on the ship, which is above the US federal standard for purified water.

When black water enters the integrated treatment system, it first passes into a bioreactor ‘aeration chamber’ which is filled with bacteria that break down organic contaminants dissolved in the wastewater.

The sewage then enters a membrane filtration system to further filter impurities. In the ‘settlement chamber’, dense substances sink to the bottom and the water floats to the top. The residual sludgy material is repeatedly returned for reprocessing. At the end of the cycles the remaining material is disposed of in low-emission incinerators. 

Finally, the clean sewage enters the ‘disinfection chamber’ where any remaining pathogens are sterilized by UV radiation. This leaves clean, safe and bacteria-free water, which is transferred to a storage tank until it can be discharged. 

Believe it or not, this water is near tap-water quality.   The water is either kept on board or discharged overboard when the cruise ship is at sea with a certain distance from land in order to meet the different local and international regulations.  The ability to discharge water depends on where the ship is located, as some oceans and areas prohibit the practice.  

Grey water can be discharged far out to sea after minimal treatment because it rarely includes harmful bacteria. Just like black water, it can only be discharged at sea in areas that are not designated environmentally sensitive regions.

4 futuristic ideas Royal Caribbean has for cruise ships

18 Jan 2021

Technology innovates constantly, and Royal Caribbean has never been one to shy away from leveraging new advances to improve the guest experience.

Most recently, the cruise line rolled out a virtual muster drill that not only solves a social distancing problem, but also addresses a negative guest experience that has been an issue for decades.

Royal Caribbean has plans for other next generation transformations to the cruise ship experience, and some have already been filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Whether or not these products ever see the light of day is another question, but here are some of the more intriguing and futuristic ideas that might be coming to a cruise ship near you sometime soon.

Virtual reality dining

Despite the cruise industry being stuck in a year-long shutdown, Royal Caribbean is still hard at work innovating the cruise ship experience.

The cruise line files plenty of trademarks and patents, including a patent for virtual reality dining that caught my attention.

The patent was filed in 2018, but has been updated as recently as November 2020 and was summarized as follows:

A method, system and computer program product for virtual reality dining includes establishing an index of different human consumables positioned on a sensory surface of a serving tray and, generating in a display of a virtual reality headset, a rendering both of a thematic visual background and also a display of different graphical representations of corresponding ones of the different human consumables at different positions consistent with the index. Thereafter, the removal from the serving tray of one of the different human consumables is detected. In response, a theme of the thematic visual background changes and the thematic visual background re-renders in the headset with the changed theme. Finally, the method includes animating the movement of a display of a corresponding one of the different graphical representations of the removed one of the different human consumables in the headset.

I was able to actually try out this idea in a very early test back in 2017 at a press event that introduced a number of new technologies and concepts.

Essentially, the user puts on a virtual reality headset and is seated at a virtual restaurant.  You see virtual food, which is replaced with real food by servers around you.

The idea is that your surroundings and overall experience are more than just being in another restaurant.  There is the opportunity for eating to be a visual experience too.

Not only did Royal Caribbean patent the idea, they even filed a second patent for the interactive serving tray that has an integrated digital display.

The tray has a computer program that can identify the food or beverage item ordered by the customer, and identity information of a customer associated with the order, such as a digital image of the customer, and displaying the identity information in the display.

Hologram tours

Until the holodeck from Star Trek becomes a reality, the next best thing might be augmented reality.

Royal Caribbean filed a patent for what sounds like a cruise ship tour that you can see around you using holographic animation.

The "Augmented reality tour guide" is described as:

In augmented reality self-guided tour, different augmented reality views are received in a mobile computing device. One of the views presents a holographic animation of a tourable three-dimensional structure with multiple activatable points of interest disposed thereon. A geographic location of the device relative to the structure is determined and a camera of the device retrieves an image of a surrounding portion of the environment so as to compute a position in the image at which to render the animation. The animation is then projected in the display at the computed position. Upon selecting an activatable point of interest, it is determined if the geographic location matches that of the selected point of interest. If so, a different animation associated with the selected point of interest is projected in the display at the computed position.

This is a self-guided tour of a three-dimensional cruise ship, with a holographic person speaking behind the ship. 

The patent sounds like you would be able to navigate parts of the ship to get an idea of where things are located and become acclimated with the cruise ship more easily.

Crowd detection cameras

As cruise ships have gotten bigger and bigger, managing crowds to avoid a negative guest experience has been a major focus for Royal Caribbean.

To help detect where crowds are congregating (and perhaps offer swifter crew responses to help move things along), Royal Caribbean patented a multi-camera that can detect population density.

Cruise ships have always relied on security cameras to record what is happening, but what if cameras could be a front line tool for knowing where crowds will form before they get there? 

The invention relies on using automated surveillance, while leveraging deep learning to better determine how crowds form in compact areas.

The patent was filed in May 2019, and then updated again in November 2020, and summarized as follows:

A method for determining population density of a defined space from multi-camera sourced imagery includes loading a set of images acquired from multiple different cameras positioned about the defined space, locating different individuals within each of the images and computing a population distribution of the located different individuals in respect to different locations of the defined space. The method additionally includes submitting each of the images to a convolutional neural network as training data, each in association with a correspondingly computed population distribution. Subsequent to the submission, contemporaneous imagery from the different cameras is acquired in real time and submitted to the neural network, in response to which, a predicted population distribution for the defined space is received from the neural network. Finally, a message is displayed that includes information correlating at least a portion of the population distribution with a specific location of the defined space.

Different cameras positioned  around a space are programmed to figure out all the different individuals in a given space, count how many people are there, and then using a neural network, predict population distribution in that area.

The images gathered by the computer system would be processed so that the neural network could be "trained" to predict a number of individuals at different locations in imagery so as to produce a population distribution by location of a supplied real-time image 

In the short term, the system could determine how empty or full an area is, and report back to the ship crew so they could be alerted of crowding issues.

Long term, the neural network could help Royal Caribbean better manage spaces to mitigate congestion in the first place.

The system can then give crew members a message of what to expect before it happens.

Augmented reality cruise ship cabin

Royal Caribbean played around with the notion of the cruise ship stateroom of the future when it patented the augmented reality stateroom.

Another concept that was showcased at a media event in 2017, the basic concept was to take a traditional cruise ship cabin and use technology to enhance the look and feel of the space.

A method, system and computer program product for generating augmented reality in a state room includes establishing a communicative link with different computing devices disposed within separate state rooms, with each of the state rooms including a display positioned at a ceiling, a display positioned on a wall and a display embedded in a floor. The method further includes, for each of the state rooms, assigning a theme of an exterior environment, directing the retrieval from fixed storage of exterior environmental imagery, and directing display of an atmospheric portion of the exterior environmental imagery on the display positioned at the ceiling, directing display of a horizon portion of the exterior environmental imagery on the display positioned on the wall, and directing display of a surface portion of the exterior environmental imagery on the display embedded in the floor.

Digital displays embedded in the walls and floors would allow the room's look to be changed at any time, and could match a theme of what is happening outside. They even thought of taking live outside imagery and making that what you see on your walls or ceiling.

Imagine sailing through Alaska and seeing the amazing scenery without leaving your room. Or seeing the horizon and sea going past your ship on your wall.

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