Technology

Royal Caribbean wants to replace phone trees with virtual assistant

In:
Category: 
23Aug2018

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (the parent company of Royal Caribbean International) is actively working on a plan to let its customers bypass annoying phone trees and instead interact with a virtual assistant to speed up the customer service process.

Travel Weekly shared details of the new tech initiative, which is scheduled for "selective rollout in the fall, with an end to phone tree envisioned in the spring of 2019".

Details provided by Royal Caribbean vice president  & Chief Guest Experience Officer Carlos Leyva indicates the new virtual assistant would be an automated system that would feature a more natural sounding voice programming.  Royal Caribbean was sure to mention that a human backup would be available to step in for situations where the virtual assistant cannot understand or process what the customer is saying.

In addition, text messaging support will launch in the fall, beginning with customer-service functions. Leyva indicated the new system will begin with travel agents and then become available to consumers directly.

Royal Caribbean introduces AI tool for turning photos into shareable works of art

In:
07Aug2018

Royal Caribbean announced a new digital experience, powered by artificial intelligence, called SoundSeeker that will turn your favorite photos into musical works of art.

After working on SoundSeeker for more than a year, the cruise line has released the tool publically today.  It is specifically designed to use machine learning to seamlessly create original soundtracks based on the content of each photograph.

By simply visiting the SoundSeeker site, users can upload three photos of their choice, and the AI analyzes them based on color, landscape, backdrop, emotion, body language and facial expression. SoundSeeker then turns them into a shareable and one-of-a kind soundtrack – virtually DJing life’s most brag-worthy moments. Fans can follow along on Royal Caribbean’s social channels, and by searching #SoundSeeker.

 

Royal Caribbean teamed up with the Berklee College of Music, and technologists from around the world, to create the unique song generator.  Berklee leveraged music theory to create a roadmap for the tool that helps determine the musical pairing to photos, accounting for pitch, tempo and instrumental combinations, among others. 

“SoundSeeker is the latest proof point of Royal Caribbean innovation and how we focus it on delivering unexpected, memorable experiences; whether that is the SkyPad, which uniquely combines bungee jumping with virtual reality or live streaming your favorite shows from the middle of the ocean using VOOM, the fastest internet at sea,” said Jim Berra, chief marketing officer, Royal Caribbean International. “People of all ages crave new ways to share their best experiences on social media. This unprecedented tool allows you to put a completely unique, multisensory spin on sharing those memories – now friends and followers can see and hear your life’s adventures.” 

SoundSeeker uses machine learning, an artificial intelligence technique that enables computers to simulate human intelligence and make decisions on their own without explicit instructions. The learning process entailed more than 600 hours in which Royal Caribbean and a team of musicians and technologists reviewed hundreds of music tracks along with 10,000 photos, matching each of the 2.5 million combinations to one of 10 moods.

The AI in SoundSeeker uses Google Cloud Vision to identify objects, facial expressions and colors in a user’s photo by referencing the roadmap developed by the leaders in music theory at Berklee. SoundSeeker then finds the musical elements corresponding to each mood in the photo to compose a genuinely distinct audio and visual photo album. The Royal Caribbean tool is equipped to generate over one million unique tracks, based on custom base tracks, composed exclusively for the cruise line. The customized tracks take inspiration from a wide variety of music, including 90s hip-hop, rock, modern and electronic dance music. 

Royal Caribbean helping to test new satellite system

In:
26Mar2018

Royal Caribbean's Ovation fo the Seas is helping test a new satellite tracking system that aims to be even more precise and accurate than any system before it.

Ovation of the Seas is testing the highly accurate positioning technology, as part of the trial of a Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) for the Australasian region. Standalone GPS positioning is giving you five to 10 metre level positioning, whereas SBAS allows for corrections at the 10 centimere level to the entire area.

SBAS technology was used by Acoustic Imaging in consultation with the Port Authority of New South Wales to help dock Ovation of the Seas on its most recent visit to Sydney Harbour.

The Chief Operating Officer of Port Authority of New South Wales and Harbour Master, Philip Holliday said Ovation of the Seas is one of the biggest cruise ships to dock in Sydney Harbour during the cruise season.

"Sydney is extremely busy during the cruise season; we have enormous cruise ships coming in virtually every day and intermingled into all of that is ferry and recreation traffic. It's a busy working harbour," Mr Holliday said.

The lead scientist of Acoustic Imaging's maritime programs, Nicole Bergersen said the docking of Ovation of the Seas, which is over 330 metres long and too tall to sail beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge, was a unique opportunity to test how the use of SBAS technology could potentially benefit the ports of Sydney Harbour.

"The berth box inside Circular Quay is marginally smaller than the Ovation of the Seas, so the Ovation of the Seas is actually parking with nose protruding out in front of that parking spot. We're on a level where metres matter, and centimetres matter." Ms Bergersen said.

"What SBAS is allowing us to do is have the pilot rely just on the information on the computer screen and if we can enable instrument navigation, then the pilot no longer needs visibility to be able to steer a ship.

"That's going to allow the Port Authority of New South Wales to bring in more ships, more frequently and in adverse conditions."

Royal Caribbean creating single login for use between Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises

In:
07Mar2018

Royal Caribbean announced today it is rolling out the first part of its enhanced Guest Digital Experience with a new Universal Guest Account.

Beginning in March 2018, Royal Caribbean will begin offering an enhanced guest account that will, "deliver many capabilities of our digital cruise experience, to simplify the guest experience online and to allow guests to quickly access features and information."

The one login can be used for Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises apps and websites. It promises to bring them everything guests need from loyalty (Crown & Anchor) information, personalized itineraries and details – all with just one account login.

In addition, Royal Caribbean has simplified and strengthened the account security and password reset processes to ensure guest information is safe and accessible.

Guests may experience new functionality while it is being trialed beginning as early as March 7, 2018 who have upcoming reservations.

Royal Caribbean has also hinted that additional digital enhancements are coming in the months to follow. Other enhancements include the ability to book anything imaginable from a smart phone and more.

Royal Caribbean increasing satellite bandwidth with expansion of agreement with Speedcast

In:
Category: 
14Feb2018

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Speedcast announced today they have extended its relationship together, which will further increase the bandwidth delivered across all Royal Caribbean International cruise ships.

The expansion of this deal will lead to increased bandwidth for guests and crew members, which will improve the guest experience.

Royal Caribbean began parterning with Speedcast in 2006, when Speedcast installted the first Ku-Band VSAT antenna that helped with increased demand. The Speedcast network now delivers fully managed communications solutions and value-added services to 37 Royal Caribbean brand ships for shipboard administration, and guest and crew usage. Multiple antennas on each ship with seamless automatic failover between Ku-Band and C-Band ensures high availability and Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

"Speedcast has been an integral part of our long-standing efforts to implement the latest connectivity solutions that allow us to provide enhanced communications for everyone, from our guests onboard to our employees onshore," said Guillermo Muniz, director, Network and Satellite Engineering, Royal Caribbean. "We are consistently raising the bar on ship innovation and increasing requirements, and Speedcast is right there with us, collaborating to make sure that we have the infrastructure and support to deliver the best experience."

Royal Caribbean talks fleet changes, marketing shifts, Caribbean recovery and more

In:
24Jan2018

Royal Caribbean held a conference call with investors to review the fourth quarter 2017 results, and within the discussion, we picked out some interesting anecdotes that cruise fans would enjoy.

Fleet wide refurbishment

Of particular interest to cruisers, Royal Caribbean Chairman and CEO Richard Fain alluded to a "transformational fleet upgrading program" which will kick off this year.

Royal Caribbean International ships will be part of what the company is calling Royal Amplified.  This program aims to extend the appeal of the brand with new cruisers and returning cruisers.  

Mr. Fain summed up Royal Amplified as, "We're redefining the experiences that drive, choice, guest satisfaction, and ultimately revenue."

If you are wondering what exactly Royal Amplified entails, there does not appear to be much information on that yet. Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley alluded to Royal Amplified in November 2017, when he mentioned the program as part of a way the cruise line is rethinking some of its onboard venues.

Caribbean recovery after the hurricanes

Photo by TheTwangster

Following the hurricanes of 2017, Royal Caribbean saw soft bookings in the six weeks that followed these storms.

Royal Caribbean Chief Financial Officer Jason Liberty noted that trends normalized in November, and have been in-line with the cruise line's expectations since then.

"First quarter Caribbean sailings were in a very strong booked position before the storms, recovered relatively quickly afterwards, and are currently booked ahead."

Project Excalibur potential

Royal Caribbean's next-gen technology initiative, codenamed Project Excalibur, has Richard Fain very excited for the prospects of the future.

"I really think it is going to transform. I think it is going to be fantastic.  I think it will take a little while for it roll out and for the public to see just how exciting it is."

No change in reducing last minute discounts

When questioned about the possibility of Royal Caribbean revisiting its Price Integrity Policy that curbs last-minute cruise discounts, Richard Fain was quite firm in his answer.

"Absolutely not."

"The Price Integrity Program was a part of [the Double Double Program], and we think the benefit keeps growing over time.  The Price Integrity Program has been a big success for us.  We have been fairly religious about executing against it, and we continue to expect to do that."

Michael Bayley added another point, "We introduced several months ago a non-refundable deposit pricing program for the Royal brand, and that has proven to be very successful for us. So we have a significant percentage of our '18 bookings are in this non-refundable category, which means that we will see significantly less churn in our bookings as we move through the calendar year for '18 and into '19."

Emphasis on digital over traditional marketing

Michael Bayley also talked about the emphasis the cruise line has placed in digital marketing over traditional marketing, primarily for cost savings and for better tracking ability.

"What we are seeing is an improvement in the efficiency of that marketing investment over time, because of digital - because it is a lot easier to track and understand the results that you are generating through digital versus traditional.  Yes, we are investing more in our marketing, and yes we are investing more as we look into the future, but, we're also seeing an improvement in the efficiency of that investment."

Spark looks to transform the cruise ship guest experience with Moneyball approach to the cruise industry

In:
14Nov2017

Spark Cooperative launched a new toolset that has one simple goal: revolutionize the way cruise lines plan the onboard guest experience.

Spark's SET software suite is designed to let a cruise line utilize models and visualizations of the guest experience to cater to guest segments. Once experience plans are made, brands can run game-changing analytics to reveal a number of insights, such as where they can reduce associated resource costs, and how best to deliver experiences for all types of climates and scenarios.

"Traditionally, in the 80s, 90s, and even early 2000s, there was really kind one type of cruiser, and it was really easy to kind of plan the six o'clock, eight o'clock dinner, and the six o'clock, eight o'clock show. These early cruisers were really satisfied with the way that cruise lines planned ahead for them," said Joshua Belz, Principal, Spark Cooperative. "Then NCL introduced Freestyle cruising, which was revolutionary at the time, and has really spread through the industry. . .What SET is going to do for cruise brands, and resort and hospitality brands that compete on experience, is think through the day of all of their different segments simultaneously."

"It has gotten to a point now where everyone expects so much from these brands that rely on experience, that you really need to segment your populations," said Ronnie Farzad, Principal, Spark Cooperative. "What SET does for these brands is actually allow them to spend a significant amount of time up front planning for those processes and planning for those people who are going to show up at the pier, but it basically takes all the guess work on the adjustments they have to make on a cruise by cruise basis during rain-or-shine scenarios, or when itineraries change.  They experience design up front, and it creates all the tools for their teams to be able to actually execute that on the go."

SET offers flexible plans to span the marketplace: from international enterprises with multiple brands and properties to single-property portfolios. The software comes with responsive and reliable support, and because it’s web-based, it can be accessed from anywhere at any time.

What this software aims to do is attempt to disrupt process that has been done traditionally by historical experience, and instead infuse data and analytics into the modeling and simulation tool to give cruise lines an operational plan.

Belz talked about the impetus for SET is as much a market demand today as it will be going forward, "Just looking at the roadmap of the industry, so many ships coming online in the next 10 years, so many more guest experiences, way more complex and exciting demographics coming onboard.  The industry is going to be hungry for a way to address these new cruises."

Farzad explained, “For hospitality companies, carrying forward experiences delivered to the previous properties worked for a period of time. In the experience economy, brands are asking how can we differentiate further? And that’s exactly what we want to do. We want to make it a data-driven and design-driven process.”

ABB to deliver first fuel cell system for Royal Caribbean

In:
13Nov2017

Heavy electrical company ABB announced it will deliver its first fuel cell system to be piloted on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  This will be the first fuel cell system to provide an energy source for a luxury cruise ship.

The pilot installation, including control, converter and transformer technology from ABB, will generate 100 kW of energy, and has been fully developed, marinized, assembled and tested by ABB Marine & Ports. ABB selected an FCvelocity® proton exchange membrane (PEM) pure hydrogen fuel cell engine from Ballard Power Systems for its pilot system.

Fuel cells generate energy by exploiting an electrochemical reaction at the interface between the anode or cathode and the electrolyte membrane. They involve no combustion, converting fuel directly to electricity and heat.

"Our goal is to take the smoke out of the smokestacks", said Harri Kulovaara, Executive Vice President of Maritime and Newbuilding, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. "We are dedicated to innovation, continuous improvement, and environmental responsibility, and using fuel cell technology gives us the opportunity to deliver against all three of these pillars."

This test installation is part of Royal Caribbean's drive to include emissions-free fuel cell technology as part of the powering for its forthcoming Icon-class ships.

Royal Caribbean announces new fleetwide tech innovations to enhance guest experience

In:
08Nov2017

Royal Caribbean announced today a slew of technological innovations that aim to make things simpler and easier for guests going on a cruise.

At the heart of the new technology overhaul is a new smartphone app that will be rolled out to every Royal Caribbean ship over the next two years.  The app promises to eliminate check-in lines at ports, equip crew members to anticipate guests’ needs, and enable giant cruise ships to sail through the water on a fuel-saving curtain of air.

Some features of the new app include 

  • Allowing guests to board ships in the time it takes to order fries from the drive-through, skipping check-in lines thanks to facial recognition technology that knows who they are on arrival.
  • Sign up for shore excursions, order drinks and make dinner reservations without ever leaving their chairs by the pool thanks to an intuitive app on a device most of them already have—a smartphone.
  •  Indulge in VR and AR experiences that transform ship spaces into virtual environments and interactive games, where stateroom ceilings might be replaced by starry skies, the walls of a restaurant can transform into the sights and sounds of an outdoor café and digital signs challenge you to play an arcade game.

Many of these same technologies are being deployed to put the power to manage your vacation in the palm of your hand. Jay Schneider, RCL’s senior vice president, digital, explained, “Our new app will make it simpler than ever to book and plan your cruise vacation from home or with a travel agent. Once on board, you can navigate our ships with interactive maps and guides, explore the ship with cool features like x-ray vision, or order drinks that can be delivered to you wherever you are on the ship.” The app, along with the next generation of the company’s WOW Bands, will also unlock guest staterooms and enable guests to control stateroom lighting and temperature.

This technology will be available on 13% of ships by the end of 2017, 50% by the end of 2018 and fleetwide by the end of 2019.

Frictionless Check-in

Royal Caribbean is turning to a combination of technologies to make the process of getting onboard a Royal Caribbean ship the easiest it has ever been.  In Royal Caribbean's eyes, less time spent boarding means more time for vacation.  To that end, Royal Caribbean is utilizing technologies ranging from facial recognition to RFID tagging to GPS mapping to Bluetooth-enabled beacons to streamline boarding, manage check-ins automatically and improve wayfinding. 

“We are finding ways to eliminate friction and frustration, giving guests more time to make the memories that make vacations special,” said Schneider.

Lessened environmental impact

At a Royal Caribbean's invitation-only Sea Beyond event in New York City, innovations aimed at enhancing overall ship management and improving energy efficiency were on display.

For example, forthcoming command centers will use augmented reality to assist with navigation and maneuvering. “Think of it as enabling the nautical equivalent of flying on instruments,” said Richard D. Fain, RCL’s chairman and CEO. “Our ships always operate with keen sensitivity to the limitations the weather may impose. But having new means to mitigate the weather’s impacts on departures and arrivals helps us uphold schedule and itinerary commitments important to our guests,” added Fain.

Royal Caribbean is also innovating to reduce fuel consumption across its fleet, which not only lowers operating costs but also lightens stack emissions that are part of cruising’s environmental footprint. Historically, each new class of RCL ships is significantly more fuel efficient than its predecessors as new high efficiency appliances, window tinting and improved lighting, heating and cooling technologies help reduce energy needs. The company continues to evolve hull designs to reduce drag, an evolution most evident in the “bulbous bows” now common on cruise ships. In addition, RCL is pioneering the use of an air lubrication system that coats the hulls of its ships with millions of microscopic air bubbles to further reduce resistance and drag. In initial uses, air lubrication has reduced fuel consumption at speed by 7 to 8 percent.

Complementing RCL’s energy conservation efforts are initiatives to use alternative energy sources. Some RCL ships are already equipped with solar panels that generate sufficient power for limited onboard needs. At Sea Beyond, RCL will be previewing the use of fuel cells for power generation. Fuel cell use could fundamentally change ship design by distributing power sources throughout the ship. Furthermore, adoption of fuel cells would also mean producing less energy from diesel generators, reducing ships’ environmental footprints. The company is planning fuel cell experiments on existing ships, with an eye to extensive use of fuel cells and liquefied natural gas (LNG) propulsion on its upcoming Icon class of ships. “We are fully embracing the expectation that we run an environmentally sustainable business,” said Fain. “Experimenting with new ways to power our ships is just part of our broad commitment to being a responsible environmental steward.”

Focus on the crew

The innovations enriching the cruise guest experience will be complemented by a suite of tools for crews, as well. For example, the app-enabled offerings for guests will be mirrored on the crew side by mobile applications that help crew members check-in guests, complete required paperwork, track delivery of guests’ bags to their staterooms, and interact with guests and anticipate their needs throughout their vacations.

In addition, crews will have access to easier means to manage their own schedules, stay connected to friends and family while onboard, and stay connected to RCL during their off-contract periods.

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