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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When cruises restart, Royal Caribbean's app will play its largest role yet in becoming the focal point for a healthy return to cruising.
Royal Caribbean Group announced on Tuesday it intends to leverage its mobile app for paving a way for a safe return to cruising.
Royal Caribbean's app already offered a variety of features and capabilities, but will grow to include more functionality including:
Muster 2.0 – one of the least-loved, but most important, parts of a cruise vacation – the safety drill – is transformed from a process designed for large groups of people into a faster, more personal “one-to-few” approach that guests can complete at their own time.
Scheduled arrival time – staggered arrival times for guests help eliminate crowds by managing the ebb-and-flow in parking lots, drop-off areas and terminals to allow for physical distancing from car to stateroom.
Expedited boarding – by completing check-in with the app, scanning passport information and uploading a ‘selfie’ security photo, guests can generate a mobile boarding pass and qualify for an expedited boarding process. Debuted in 2018, the innovative, digital experience minimizes check-in and security lines at ports, allowing guests to get on board seamlessly and safely in minutes.
Digital key– guests can unlock staterooms with their smartphones by downloading a digital key, available in just a few taps for select ships and staterooms.
Stateroom automation – using their smartphone, guests have the ability to control elements inside their stateroom, such as the TV, lighting, window shades and temperature, limiting touchpoints while achieving higher levels of stateroom customization.
Onboard account – guests can view onboard charges and credits in real time from anywhere on the ship without waiting in line or on hold.
Daily planning – onboard activities, entertainment shows, dining and shore excursions are viewable and open for reservations all through the guest mobile app.
Royal Caribbean expects more advancements to be added to the app, including some changes that will take place "behind the scenes".
The mobile app is leveraged by ships across many Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara ships.
In a statement to the press, Royal Caribbean Group believes the app is one piece of the overall strategy in keeping guests healthy and safe, "These innovations will further demonstrate the Group’s commitment to exceeding guests’ expectations as well as their standards for health and safety on a cruise."
As part of the new digital entertainment coming to the Royal app on select ships, Royal Caribbean has introduced an interactive game called Expedition Two70 for Anthem of the Seas.
The game is free to play, and simply requires guests have the Royal Caribbean app installed on their mobile device.
Once on board the ship guests can visit the Two70° venue to begin the augmented reality adventure.
The game proceeds in a scavenger hunt fashion looking for masks with the beautiful Two70° venue on deck 5 aft.
Once a mask is found players scan the mask in the app to launch one of four augmented reality games.
Each game session explain the objectives before launching into the augmented reality game using the camera and motion sensors of your device.
At this mask station a virtual mountain appears with light directed through a series of gems by moving your device and yourself around to focus the light on an object, destroying it and moving to the next level.
Once you complete all levels in the challenge that mask is unlocked.
Masks are found in different areas around the Two70° venue. Each offers a unique and challenging augmented reality experience.
As you progress through the adventure each mask is unlocked until you have unlocked all of the masks.
It’s a lot of fun for kids of all ages and part of the digital entertainment experience that Royal is bringing to guests through the Royal app.
IDEMIA announced that its partnership with Royal Caribbean and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will be expanded to help speed up cruise passengers disembarking at select cruise ports.
Following successful trials of its high speed 3D face capture technology in Cape Liberty, New Jersey, and the Port of Miami, the program is now moving into commercial production at these ports.
IDEMIA and Royal Caribbean anticipate additional deployments in other Florida ports later in 2019 that each process several million passengers annually.
IDEMIA’s facial recognition technology has enabled the Royal Caribbean passenger debarkation process to be both more secure and efficient. The use of IDEMIA’s MFACE technology has played a key role in enhancing the passenger experience by completing the process significantly faster than the manual verification method previously used.
MFace technology compares the facial identities of guests disembarking with the identities of ticketed passengers who boarded the ship at the start of a cruise, matching against images in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Traveler Verification Service (TVS). No images are stored by Royal Caribbean, CBP or IDEMIA after the trip is completed to ensure that passenger privacy is maintained.
Royal Caribbean has partnered with an industry leader in the field of biometrics to provide frictionless arrivals for guests in the boarding procedure.
Tascent, Inc. announced it has been selected by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. to deliver an end-to-end biometric solution utilizing face recognition to streamline the check-in and boarding process for its travelers. To take advantage of Royal Caribbean’s new face recognition-enabled Expedited Arrivals process, passengers can register from the comfort of their own home and then breeze through check-in and boarding upon arrival at the terminal.
The goal of this technology is a streamlined, efficient process and personal welcome for travelers.
Tascent has been working with Royal Caribbean's Excalibur team, and has already implemented the first phase of its work, which was first utilized by the new Celebrity Edge in Terminal 25 of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Integrated with Tascent Enterprise Suite and Royal Caribbean's passenger systems, this enables seamless, “on-the-move” recognition of registered passengers as they arrive for their cruise. In combination, this capability will result in a streamlined, efficient process and personal welcome for travelers.
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 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.