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Royal Caribbean updates: Starlink wifi, Icon fuel & more

In:
16 Jun 2022

Each week we get another batch of cruise news to share covering what's happening in the world of Royal Caribbean cruises.

Freedom of the Seas aerial at Nassau

In an effort to cover it all for you, this week's update is a look around a few tidbits and updates you should know about.

Starlink installed on Freedom of the Seas?

SpaceX satellite

Last week, Royal Caribbean sent a letter to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asking for permission to use Elon Musk's Starlink internet service on their cruise ships.

It appears one cruise ship may have Starlink installed as a test.

Brandon from The Weekend Cruiser shared an update from onboard the ship with a look at an array of satellite receivers installed onboard Freedom of the Seas.

The antennas are installed at the front of the ship by the mini-golf course, with six on each side of the ship for a total of 12 receivers.

Before you can expect to get super-fast wifi on a Royal Caribbean ship, the FCC needs to approve the technology because right now Starlink isn't allowed on moving vehicles.

Royal Caribbean finds company to provide LNG for Icon of the Seas

Eagle LNG

For those of you keeping score at home, Royal Caribbean has signed a deal with Eagle LNG Partners LLC to provide liquefied natural gas (LNG) bunkering for Icon of the Seas.

Icon of the Seas will be the first Royal Caribbean cruise ship to run on LNG.

The LNG supply will be sourced from Eagle LNG’s liquefaction facilities in Jacksonville, Florida. 

Eagle LNG’s facilities are designed for loading bunker vessels and LNG carriers for the Caribbean while maintaining economies of scale using modular liquefaction technology. The facilities will be capable of blending in renewable feedstocks to help customers achieve their carbon reduction goals.

Celebrity raises minimum age for unvaccinated guests

Something to keep an eye on is a change for sister-company Celebrity Cruises and their vaccination policy.

For all Celebrity Cruises Europe sailings, guests 17 years of age and younger will no longer be required to be vaccinated in order to sail.

Also, unvaccinated guests sailing in Europe now have the option to either bring a negative pre-arrival test taken within 1 day of sailing or get tested at the terminal.

Royal Caribbean has not made any similar change to their European cruise protocols.

Royal Caribbean wants to add Elon Musk's Starlink high-speed internet to its cruise ships

In:
10 Jun 2022

There could be a new generation of high-speed internet coming to Royal Caribbean's cruise ships.

Wonder of the Seas side view

Based on regulatory filings, it appears Royal Caribbean is engaged with SpaceX’s satellite internet system Starlink to provide internet service for its ships.

A new filing with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Friday details a plan to bring the new type of internet to cruise ships.

The letter was sent to the FCC by Royal Caribbean Group Vice President of Operational Excellence, John Maya, to ask the agency to "expeditiously" approve a new plan to use Starlink on Royal Caribbean ships.

SpaceX satellite

Starlink is a satellite internet constellation operated by SpaceX, providing satellite Internet access coverage.

"We write today to respectfully request that you act expeditiously and look favorably upon the pending application filed by SpaceX Services, Inc. and referenced above."

Mr. Maya points to increased cloud-based services drawing a need for even faster internet accessibility onboard. He points to attrition, bankruptcies, and consolidation in the satellite internet business as not keeping up with demand.

"Working with SpaceX Services, Inc., we believe we have identified a true next generation solution for our vessels that meets the rigorous technical and operational requirements commensurate with our growth plans.

"We believe our work with SpaceX, the first of its kind in the cruise industry will set the standard for other cruise operators and will mean a leap in terms of guest experience and business operations while at sea."

If you are ready for Starlink to be added to a cruise ship soon, there's a legal issue that is preventing it, which is why Royal Caribbean is appealing to the FCC.

SpaceX has yet to receive approval to operate its Starlink service on moving vehicles, including planes and naval ships.

Up until now, Royal Caribbean's Voom internet service has relied on internet from other providers, including O3b MEO. The O3b internet had made it on Royal Caribbean's newer ships, but did not get added to older ships in the fleet. Moreover, it has anecdotally not performed nearly as well more recently, especially when compared to other cruise lines, such as Princess Cruises.

As an example, this article was written onboard Serenade of the Seas, which clocked a download speed of 590Kbps and an upload speed of 360Kbps, with latency of 832ms.

Serenade of the Seas internet speed test

Starlink is capable of download speeds of 50-250Mbps for residential consumers.

Which Royal Caribbean ships are powered by LNG?

In:
19 May 2022

The cruise industry is always innovating its ships to make cruising not only more fun and exciting, but safer for guests and better for the environment.

LNG tanks

Back in 2016, Royal Caribbean announced it would be building a new class of ships powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG). This class of ships is the Icon Class, which will debut next year with the first ship in the class, Icon of the Seas.

As environmental impact is one of the biggest complaints given to the cruise industry, the transition from diesel fuel to liquefied natural gas will be a great step toward a more environmentally-friendly and sustainable future for Royal Caribbean.

What is liquefied natural gas (LNG)?

Liquefied natural gas, or LNG, is the cleanest fossil fuel that can be used by cruise ships today. LNG is a natural gas that has been liquefied at around -260 ° fahrenheit, producing a volume of around 600 times smaller than in a gaseous state, which makes the gas much easier to store and transport.

When ships are powered by LNG fuel, a ship’s carbon emissions can be reduced by around 30%. Additionally, sulfur emissions will be reduced by nearly 100% and nitrogen oxide emissions by around 85%.

Outside of producing fewer emissions, ships powered by LNG will have less wear and tear on the engine, resulting in fewer repairs and lower maintenance costs. LNG fuel is also cheaper than low-sulfur fuel, allowing Royal Caribbean to decrease fuel costs with LNG-powered cruise ships.

LNG will be utilized in conjunction with many of Royal Caribbean’s other energy-reducing technologies, such as air lubrication, which sends microscopic bubbles along the ship’s hull to reduce friction as it moves through the ocean, and advantaged waste heat recovery systems which turn waste heat into extra energy.

Royal Caribbean has stated that the “use of such technologies, including LNG, will result in further reduced emissions overall, virtually zero sulfur dioxides and particulates, and a significant reduction in the production of nitrogen oxides.”

Which Royal Caribbean cruise ships are powered by LNG?

Icon of the Seas keel-laying ceremony

While there are no Royal Caribbean cruise ships sailing today that are powered by LNG, four ships are in construction or on order that will have LNG power.

The first ship to be powered by LNG is Icon of the Seas, the first ship in Royal Caribbean’s new Icon Class. While not many details are known about the layout, amenities, itineraries, and activities that will be found on Icon of the Seas, what we do know is that the ship will be the first Royal Caribbean ship to be powered by liquefied natural gas.

One of the first additions to the construction of Icon of the Seas was the ship’s LNG fuel tank, measuring 307 tons and 90 feet long, which Royal Caribbean has stated is the largest in the cruise industry.

Icon of the Seas will be launched in Fall 2023, when she will sail from England prior to being homeported in Miami, Florida. It was recently announced that Icon of the Seas will be the largest ship in Royal Caribbean’s fleet.

The next Royal Caribbean ship to be powered by LNG will be Utopia of the Seas, the sixth ship in Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class. She will be the first of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class cruise ships to be powered by liquefied natural gas, and will debut in Spring 2024.

In addition to Icon of the Seas and Utopia of the Seas are plans for two other ships powered by LNG, which will be the second and third ships in the Icon Class. These two ships are estimated for completion in the second quarter of 2025 and the second quarter 2026, but are not yet named.

Outside of Royal Caribbean, LNG is a common trend in the construction of new cruise ships throughout the industry, with new cruise ships such as the Disney Wish, Carnival Mardi Gras, Norwegian Prima, and MSC World Europa all powered by LNG.

A look at Royal Caribbean's plans now that cruises are back

In:
09 Mar 2022

The arrival of Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas heralds a point in time where the cruise industry is ready to move past the comeback phase.

Wonder of the Seas arrival Cococay

"The Royal comeback is behind us. We are back. The world’s greatest vacation is back," is what Royal Caribbean International Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations, Mark Tamis, told members of the media while onboard Wonder of the Seas this week.

Since June 2021, Royal Caribbean has been focused on getting its ships back up and running.  But with two new cruise ships launched in less than 6 months, the cruise line is ready to look forward to getting back to the sort of plans it had before the pandemic.

Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President and Chief Product Innovation Officer Jay Schneider oversees quite a few of these plans, including the line's private destinations, ship upgrades, and new builds.

With Wonder of the Seas in operation, Royal Caribbean has big plans for the next few years across the world.

While Royal Caribbean's next new cruise ship is Icon of the Seas, there are plenty of other things coming down the pike, "We're working on Oasis six. We're working on the expansion of CocoCay with Hideaway Beach. We're working on our new Beach Club in Paradise Island and Nassau."

Those plans are projects the company has publicly commented on, but there's more on the horizon, "We're also imagining the far flung future as well, because as a brand, we're never going to stop innovating."

Icon of the Seas

Ever since Royal Caribbean announced it had plans to build a new class of cruise ship with the Icon Class, there has been very few details, but that may soon change.

Mr. Schneider indicated that the public will finally hear more about Icon of the Seas in the April or May timeframe, "We go to market on Icon in the next two months."

"Over the next two months, you'll hear us talk publicly about the size of the ship, the number of passengers, the neighborhoods."

That's right, Icon of the Seas will retain the neighborhood concept from the Oasis Class ships, but Mr. Schneider hinted that may be the only traditional aspect of the ship, as they intend to innovate beyond what the Oasis Class offered.

"Everything you'll see on icon will will be an evolution or revolution. And and we'll push forward again us being the at the top of the mantle on the ultimate family vacation."

Port projects

Besides new ships, Royal Caribbean is hard at work on a number of land-based initiatives. Here's what Mr. Schneider had to share for updates on each of these previously announced expansions.

Royal Beach Club in Nassau

"Moving forward, we are still in negotiation with the government on the full proposal.

"We've been going through our environmental impact assessment. We've posted as a result of that on our website, our various plans."

Freeport

Adventure of the Seas Live Blog - Day 7 - Freeport | Royal Caribbean Blog

"We continue to move forward with our port development in Freeport."

Royal Beach Club in Antigua

Report: Royal Caribbean targeting January 2023 opening of Royal Beach Club in Nassau, Bahamas | Royal Caribbean Blog

"We still have an ambition for a Royal Beach Club in Antigua."

"Right now, our priority is the Royal Beach Club and Paradise. First, we want to really get one live, understand it before we commit to the next Royal Beach Club."

Perfect Day at Lelepa

Perfect Day at Lelepa | Royal Caribbean Blog

"It's still in our planning cycle. We are really waiting for the Pacific to reopen in a massive way."

"We, as an industry, are a challenged right now, with China closed and with a slow opening of Australia."

Hideaway Beach

Royal Caribbean will expand Perfect Day at CocoCay with Hideaway Beach | Royal Caribbean Blog

"Hideaway Beach is under construction right now."

"There were a handful of decisions that we made during the pandemic to be smarter about that construction, specifically just the movement of some of the back of house functions."

"It's going to be an amazing adult space for about 2,000 guests opening, opening in... mid to late 2023."

Royal Amplifications

The pandemic caused a few Royal Caribbean cruise ships to miss their planned amplifications, but those plans are not totally gone.

How to communicate with someone on a cruise ship

In:
24 Feb 2022

What is the best way to stay connected with family and friends while onboard a cruise ship?

Friends at Lime and Coconut bar

A lot of people that are about to go on a cruise want to know the best way to stay in touch with those on the same ship as them.  

Often, the question goes something like this, "I am cruising with several groups of people. How do you recommend we stay connected on the ship?"

Royal Caribbean cruise ships range in a guest capacity of about 2,000 to 6,500, so finding one person onboard is not always a simple task.  

Here are some common and useful ways of doing being able to easy contact someone, with each method coming with pros and cons. 

Royal Caribbean's phones

Utilizing Royal Caribbean's in-room phones and phones in common areas is a simple way to communicate with guests onboard your ship and onshore.

If you are trying to reach a guest onboard the ship, you can make a call to their stateroom and optionally leave a message.  Use of the phones for calls to a guest's stateroom is complimentary.  Of course, it requires the guest to be in the room to answer the call and/or check the voicemail.  This can result in "phone tag," where it seems like you are always missing each other.

The best part of relying on the cruise ship phones to reach someone else onboard is it's totally free.

Royal Caribbean Blog - Unofficial blog about Royal Caribbean cruises

If you want to get in contact with someone on land, there are two options.

Calls made from land to your Royal Caribbean cruise (shore to ship) can be achieved by calling (888) 724-7447/(321) 953-9003 to reach passengers.  The cost of this service is $7.95 per minute, and is chargeable to a Visa or MasterCard credit card.

Calls made from your Royal Caribbean ship to somewhere on land (ship to shore) can be made from your stateroom phone and also costs $7.95 per minute, billed to your SeaPass account.

Using your cell phone

Cellphone Use Onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise | Royal Caribbean Blog

Almost everyone has a cell phone with them and your cell phone will function while on a cruise, although the cost of doing so will vary greatly.

You could use your phone like normal and place calls and text messages by connecting to the cell provider on the Royal Caribbean ship, but this comes with a heft roaming cost. Usually, calls cost $6-8 per minute depending on your carrier.

Using your cell phone's data plan can be prohibitively expensive, with costs of $1 per MB or more.  You are better off skipping this option and looking at Voom options (scroll down to see more about this).

I don't recommend this option at all because of the crazy high prices carriers charge for roaming. I mention it purely because it exists, and some people have work phones that don't care about running up a bill.

Ship internet

What is the difference between Royal Caribbean's Voom Surf and Voom Surf and Stream? | Royal Caribbean Blog

The best option for most people is to purchase a Royal Caribbean Voom internet package.

There are two Voom plans offered: Voom Surf or Voom Surf + Stream

  • Voom Surf
    • This offers basic web browsing, with no streaming services allowed
    • Starts at $17.99 per day for 1 device
      • The price gets cheaper as more devices are added to the plan
      • Most guests can get a 20% pre-cruise discount via the Cruise Planner site
      • There is also a Crown & Anchor Society discount once onboard
  • Voom Surf + Stream
    • Full internet access, including streaming services
    • Starts at $22.99 per day for 1 device
      • The price gets cheaper as more devices are added to the plan
      • Most guests can get a 20% pre-cruise discount via the Cruise Planner site
      • There is also a Crown & Anchor Society discount once onboard
  • 24 hour single day pass: $25.99 for surf or $32.99 for Surf + Stream

Once connected to the ship's internet, you can leverage any number of messaging apps to communicate with someone else onboard, or even at home.

These apps are usually free to use for voice and texting. Popular options include:

  • Facebook Messenger
  • WhatsApp
  • Skype
  • GroupMe

Of course, for this option to work, everyone who you need to stay in contact with needs to purchase a Voom package and have their phone or tablet with them.

Buying everyone an internet package is still cheaper than the roaming charges you would incur using your cell carrier, and more than likely there's a common (and free) app you can all agree to use.

WiFi calling

Royal Caribbean WiFi: Guide to Internet at sea | Royal Caribbean Blog

If you get an internet package, another option is WiFi calling through your carrier.

Most major cell phone carriers these days provide a means of making phone calls via an internet connection instead of relying on a cell phone connection. 

WiFi calling has no additional cost and works just like you are at home and supports voice calls, text messaging (SMS and MMS).  It works with most newer devices, including iPhone 5C and later, Android and Blackberry devices.  Check with your carrier for exact devices that are supported.

At last check, these carriers supported WiFi calling

  • Verizon
  • AT&T
  • T-Mobile
  • Sprint
  • GoogleFi
  • Cricket

To make a phone call over WiFi, put your device into airplane mode and connect to Voom via WiFi.  

If set up correctly on your phone, your calls, texts will be routed through Voom.

Royal Caribbean App

Royal Caribbean's app has a text feature that offers one-to-one guest chat, along with group chats.

Once onboard the ship and logged onto Royal Caribbean's Wi-Fi  network (no internet package required to use the app), other guests will show up as offline or online but are only online if they have the app opened and to the “chat” window.

There is a cost to using the chat of $1.99 per person, per day. And everyone that wants to use the chat feature has to buy it.

The chat feature in Royal Caribbean's app is cheaper than buying a Voom internet package, but a Voom internet package allows you to do anything else on the internet.

Your Thoughts

Which means of communicating with friends and family on your ship and at sea do you find to be the best option? Did we miss one you know about? Share your comments and suggestions in the comments!

Royal Caribbean patents opening a cruise ship cabin door with facial recognition

In:
11 Nov 2021

In the future your stateroom door might be opened by your face instead of a card.

Photo tour of 2 Bedroom Grand Suite on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean filed paperwork with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for a "multifunction smart door device", that among other things, can be opened via facial recognition.

The new patent is for a device that would be installed within or near stateroom doors of a cruise ship. Each smart door device can control access to a stateroom based on facial recognition or a wireless credential.

This smart device can perform other functions such as controlling stateroom personalization features, providing an electronic peephole function, allowing controlled access for authorized crew members, accommodating remote unlocking, and providing notifications. 

It could also be used by a passenger's mobile device.

Cabin doors on Royal Caribbean ships are all opened by a SeaPass card, which guests are issued at the start of the cruise.  Crew members have master key cards that can open the doors as well.

On some new ships, Royal Caribbean has added the ability for guests to open their cabin doors via the Royal Caribbean app.

Royal Caribbean app allows guests to open stateroom door on Spectrum of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean thinks this device can be utilized for service, safety, or security purposes, such as for anonymized foot traffic analysis, hazard detection, and stateroom access auditing. 

It is a prime example by Royal Caribbean of Internet of Things (IoT) devices that aims to  provide connected services to improve passenger comfort and efficiency.

The patent authors include Joey Hasty, Gregory Morwick, Alastair Partington, Jay Schneider. Mr. Schneider is Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President and Chief Product Innovation Officer.

How it works

Photo tour of Category 2J Central Park View Balcony Stateroom on Harmony of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

According to the patent, a wide angle camera would be able to sense a face of a person within its view and then use one or more facial recognition software algorithms to determine if the person is authorized to unlock the door.

The patent also includes the possibility for the facial recognition software to be able to set guest stateroom preferences comprise at least one of a default climate control setting, a default in-room media setting, a default lighting setting, or a default window shade setting.

There is even a provision in the patent for the wide angle camera that serves as the facial recognition sensor, to transmit a live stream to a guest's mobile device, similar to how some smart locks for houses function.

Photo tour of Category B1 Boardwalk View Stateroom with Balcony on Harmony of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Of course, the door could be opened by crew members. It would be set up to allow one or more crew members to access the stateroom based at least in part on a facial recognition result or a proximity-based credential, and based at least in part on evaluating a business rule stored in the local data store.

These business rules could limit access to certain hours of the day, or determine whether the stateroom is occupied or unoccupied before allowing a crew member to enter.

Facial recognition is the future

One of the patent's authors, Jay Schneider, has spoken publicly about the value facial recognition will have for the cruise industry.

Earlier this year, Mr. Schneider talked about why facial recognition, and not wearables, are the best long-term solution for guests being able to customize their trip.

"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."

Royal Caribbean has already implemented facial recognition technology in some of its cruise terminals, where the embarkation and disembarkation process is sped up thanks to facial recognition.

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

In:
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

In:
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

In:
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

In:
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.

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