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Royal Caribbean partners with NetDimensions for shipboard software training


Royal Caribbean announced today it is partnering with NetDimensions Interactive to create online, self-paced learning modules for its new shipboard property management software.

This new software will eventually be rolled out to all of the cruise ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet, along with sister brands Celebrity Cruisse Line and Azamara Club Cruises. The first ship crew will access their software simulation training this December for a January ship launch, with staggered rollouts on additional ships in February and March 2014.

The online training for the new property management software will support an enterprise-wide initiative that will streamline existing guest and crew handling processes, and help automate the loading of guest reservation information to the fleet in a more real-time manner. Uniform, online employee training on the software will enable Royal Caribbean operations to provide a higher level of customer service, improve business results, standardize the fleet, and simplify the operational environment.

Royal Caribbean testing 11ac network upgrade for its ship Wi-Fi


Royal Caribbean is testing a new Wi-Fi technology known as 802.11ac to optimize their Wi-Fi connectivity for the new wave in mobile data usage onboard its ships.  

Network World is reporting that Royal Caribbean is testing Meru Networks' just-released 11ac product, the AP 832.

"It’s a two-radio product, each radio capable of running in either 2.4 or 5Hz bands, supporting three spatial streams, a maximum data rate of 1.3Gbps, and the ability to run all three streams and support 80-MHz wide channels on both radios over existing 802.3af Power-over-Ethernet."

Tests of the new networking gear have been conducted at Royal Caribbean's "ship lab" in Florida, which mimics conditions on board a ship, involved four Meru AP832 access points with 11ac and 11n clients. The results of the tests found up to 782 Mbps receiving and 634Mbps sending.  That is a signifigant upgrade compared to the company’s existing 11n Wi-Fi target of 200Mbps.

“We were able to see a 40 percent improvement with the new [11ac] chipset,” says Greg Martin, IT director for Royal Caribbean.

The potential benefit of this technology for Royal Caribbean is doing away with Ethernet cabling for numerous VoIP phones, digital signage, kiosks and similar endpoints.  In addition, it will reduce the cabling needs aboard the cruise ships, which is expensive.

The next test comes in December when Royal Caribbean will use the 11ac products in a pilot program at its Oregon call center. A limited test is also planned for Navigator of the Seas in January.

Royal Caribbean plans to deploy 11ac as the standard in all new ships, and phase in 11ac upgrades to the existing fleet. The next new ship, Quantum of the Seas, likely will be the first of the company’s ships to get a stem-to-stern 11ac wireless LAN.

Adding Wi-Fi to Royal Caribbean's ships has been a boon financially, with more guests buying internet access onboard their ship and that has translated well to the company's bottom line in recent quarters.

Royal Caribbean chooses AIMS for BizTalk to monitor its Microsoft BizTalk system


Royal Caribbean has selected AIMS Innovation to monitor its Microsoft BizTalk system, at the cruise line's Florida headquarters and aboard its cruise ships.  Royal Caribbean will use the AIMS for BizTalk multi-tenant solution to monitor and manage the large bursts of traffic and information downloads that occurs when its cruise ships come into port. From its Florida "mission control", Royal Caribbean can check the status of each ship's BizTalk Solution, no matter where it is in the world.

Max Schmidt, vice president of IT Infrastructure, Operations and Information Security for Royal Caribbean, commented on the new deal, "In order to deal with bursts of information across our system, we needed a more flexible, intuitive BizTalk monitoring solution that could help us anticipate problems and lead us quickly to the exact location of errors to fix them in a short timeframe.  We chose AIMS for BizTalk because it gives us an effective tool to quickly and accurately monitor our data without using extensive resources to manage it or paying for expensive software customization."

Royal Caribbean will benefit from the deal in the following ways

  • Decreases the cruise line's monitoring time. IT administrators only need to log into one environment to automatically get information from all the ships. Plus, administrators don't need to determine the operational threshold for each system.

  • Prevents downtime. AIMS for BizTalk sends early warning alerts before downtime occurs and pinpoints the problem's exact location versus making IT staff guess which warnings are real.

  • Learns and adapts to systems' behavior. AIMS for BizTalk modifies alerts over time dynamically "self learning" traffic patterns to make alerts more accurate over time. The dynamic nature of AIMS is critical to Royal Caribbean due to the varying loads during boarding and disembarkation which is considerably higher than normal operations. Other products gave us constant false alerts making our previous monitoring solutions unusable.

  • Can easily and quickly be installed by any IT staff member. It takes 5 minutes without special training through Microsoft Azure cloud or a local install.

Royal Caribbean launches new 3G cellular service on Oasis and Allure of the Seas


Royal Caribbean and Wireless Maritime Services (WMS) have launched the second phase of 3G cellular data services onboard Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. 

Having already launched EVDO in November 2010, WMS has followed that up with the launch of UMTS (3G) services.  This marks the first time that both 3G services have been successfully deployed onboard cruise ships, and marks a major milestone in passenger connectivity.

EVDO stands for “evolution data only” which is the 3G path for CDMA carriers.  UMTS stands for “universal mobile telephone service” and is the 3G path for GSM carriers.  

Prior to this, cellular data speeds onboard cruise ships were regulated to 2G speeds, but now guests can experience speeds of four to six times those speeds with these upgrades.

“It’s one thing to have UMTS work in a lab environment, it’s an entirely different and thrilling level of success to have it working as well is it is onboard these ships,” said Tony Patino, vice president of engineering at WMS.  “Leveraging the expertise of our parent, AT&T, the WMS Engineering and Deployment teams have been working diligently to optimize and develop better use of parameters, finely honing our technology in order to achieve this great result.”

WMS recently announced the signing of a new four-year contract renewing its relationship with Royal Caribbean Cruises continue providing cellular at sea wireless services to guests and crew on all existing ships across the Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises brands.

Royal Caribbean investing in better onboard Internet for bigger profits


Royal Caribbean CIO Bill Martin spoke with InformationWeek about how it has increased its ship-based bandwidth by sevenfold has lead to direct and indirect revenue gains.  Martin believes investing in emerging technology that could deliver even more bandwidth could lead to even more revenue gains.

Martin believes increased Internet bandwidth pleases guests, which leads to revenue boosting directly and indirectly.

Increased bandwidth will lead to more Internet packages being sold on its ships, because until now, packages have been slow and expensive.  Martin now says Royal Caribbean will be able to sell higher speed internet for $49 a day or $179 a week.  That's the direct revenue.

The indirect revenue will come when all the extra guests purchasing internet will start posting photos and fun messages on social media networks, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, that will provide Royal Caribbean with more exposure.

Earlier this year, Royal Caribbean celebrated its 50 millionth customer by giving every guest on board that day an hour of free Internet access and encouraging them to post pictures. "As recently as a year ago, we couldn't have done it," Martin says.

In order to deliver higher speeds, Royal Caribbean took four steps.

First, it's been building a WiFi network on its ships to deliver Internet access everywhere onboard.  Next, Royal Caribbean placed new antennas on each ship to receive satellite signals.  

Third, Royal Caribbean signed a deal with to buy satellite Internet capacity.  In the past, each ship had to be allocated internet capacity individually.  Now, it buys a bulk quantity for a whole region and can allocate more as needed.

Lastly, Royal Caribbean is implementing a modern e-commerce portal to allow the daily and weekly packages to be purchased by guests.

AT&T launches smartphone cell service package for Royal Caribbean ships


AT&T has launched a new plan for its smartphone users exclusively for Royal Caribbean cruises where affordable data usage while at sea would be possible.  Until now, cell phone use onboard cruise ships has been prohibit ably expensive due to roaming charges.

The new plans by AT&T are as follows

  • AT&T Cruise Ship Calling: Includes 50 minutes for $30 per month
  • AT&T Cruise Ship Calling and Messaging: Offers 50 minutes of talk and 100 text/picture/video messages sent for $60 per month
  • AT&T Cruise Ship Calling, Messaging and Data: Includes 50 minutes, 100 messages sent and 100MB of data for $120 per month

AT&T does require the package be activated for at least one month, although cruisers could sign up for the service before they leave for their cruise and then call and deactivate the package after their cruise is done.  This rate is in addition to your normal contract rate.

The new package is limited to the cruise ships of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises.  Here's a full list of supported Royal Caribbean cruise ships

  • Adventurer of the Seas
  • Allure of the Seas
  • Brilliance of the Seas
  • Enchantment of the Seas
  • Explorer of the Seas
  • Freedom of the Seas
  • Grandeur of the Seas
  • Independence of the Seas
  • Jewel of the Seas
  • Legend of the Seas
  • Liberty of the Seas
  • Majesty of the Seas
  • Mariner of the Seas
  • Navigator of the Seas
  • Oasis of the Seas
  • Radiance of the Seas
  • Rhapsody of the Seas
  • Serenade of the Seas
  • Splendour of the Seas
  • Vision of the Seas
  • Voyager of the Seas

The new AT&T packages are available when passengers are at sea and see the "Cellular At Sea" network.

Harris CapRock finishes IT upgrade across Royal Caribbean fleet


Harris CapRock has completed installing advanced communication solutions across Royal Caribbean's cruise ships that will add high-bandwidth services onboard.  The new upgrades will improve crew morale, guest experiences and company operational efficiencies.

Royal Caribbean awarded the contract back in May 2012 to improve the communications services onboard Royal Caribbean's fleet.  Harris has upgraded these services across 33 ships, including sister companies Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises.

“The new high-performing communication service deployed across our fleet enables innovative information technology solutions that improve both the crew and the guest experience while also improving our operational efficiencies. Harris CapRock’s capability as a world-class communications systems integrator makes this possible through seamless service delivery backed by 24/7 monitoring to ensure communications are always on,” said Bill Martin, vice president and chief information officer, Royal Caribbean.

During the nine-month process, Harris CapRock performed a number of services including the de-installation and installation of more than 120 large antenna systems onboard the fleet. Each ship was equipped with Harris CapRock’s SpaceTrack™ stabilized antenna systems, which deliver more than five times the amount of bandwidth previously available. The solution combines Ku-band and C-band connectivity to maximize service availability and avoid downtime.

Royal Caribbean signs deal to bring high speed internet to Allure of the Seas


O3b Networks announced that it has signed a second mult-year deal with Royal Carinbbean to bring high-speed satellite internet service to another of it's ships, this time Allure of the Seas.  

The agreement will provide guests and crew aboard Allure of the Seas with internet service that is anticipated to be four times more responsive than existing and planned GEO satellite systems.

Royal Caribbean and O3b signed a deal last summer to provide O3b’s new maritime offering O3bMaritime aboard Oasis of the Seas.  

Royal Caribbean Chief Information Officer Bill Martin commented on the agreement, "Cruise ship guests expect the same quality voice and Internet services they experience on land. We are proud to be the first cruise line to offer guests and crew aboard our innovative Oasis class of ships connectivity services that are in a league of their own. This latest agreement underlines our confidence in O3b Networks and the game-changing level of connectivity it is set to provide aboard our ships.”

O3b describes their internet service as "fiber-like speeds at sea".

Microsoft highlights case study with Royal Caribbean


Microsoft cited an interesting case study that highlights how Microsoft's software has helped other companies in their business operation.  In the case of Royal Caribbean, Microsoft posted how their software has assisted in point-of-sales and food-safety inspections.

Microsoft's software has helped the cruise line improve profitability and cut its operating costs. This is accomplished by reducing food-inspection time from five to two hours as well as improving workflow throughout the ships.

Royal Caribbean began development of a new software solution when it was building its Oasis-class ships in an effort to improve the systems with a few key goals: improve the systems that support customer service, improve workflow, improve food safety and speed passenger payment transactions.

Microsoft's solution was to implement 35 handheld devices on Royal Caribbean's ships to monitor food and cooler temperatures and deploy an integrated POS solution based on Windows Embedded Compact, Windows Embedded POSReady, Windows 7, Windows Server and Windows Mobile.

Microsoft claims its solutions for Royal Caribbean are

  • Automatic alerts for cooler malfunction
  • Reduced time to generate temperature compliance reports
  • 60% reduction in time to complete temperature checks
  • Seamless integration of POS, digital signage, interactive TV and photo gallery

Inside look at how Royal Caribbean manages IT on cruise ships


Royal Caribbean offered an inside look at how they use software to manage their fleet of cruise ships to  It's always interesting to see how Royal Caribbean manages to perform its daily operations given how many thousands of passengers it has to accomodate.

The case example begins with Allure of the Seas, where Royal Caribbean director of software engineering Jose Machado and IT manager James Defendis offered a tour of the ship's IT resources.

Royal Caribbean provides the software to run the hotel, from reservations to guest relations to point-of-sale software at the shops. In addition, Royal Caribbean provides Internet for guests, email for employees and, as well as software to count the number of checked-out towels at the pool.

As an example of how Royal Caribbean develops its technology quickly, the 32" wayfinder LCD screens throughout the ship are developed using emerging Linux touchscreen technologies.  To get this product to their ships quickly, Royal Caribbean essentially "rents" expertise to accelerate the development process. The applications that will never be seen by guests, on the other hand, including staff email, the reservation system or the towel check-out, have a lower priority, he says. They need to function, and the cost of maintaining them needs to be stay lower than the cost of a rewrite.

Royal Caribbean has deployed iPads to every suite onboard Allure of the Seas as well as Oasis of the Seas.  Challenges with having iPads work the way the company want popped up immediately.

Beatriz Rivero, the project's program manager, describes operational challenges such as testing streaming video on multiple devices on a floor running simultaneously. (To address this, Royal added routers and reserved extra bandwidth.) The devices also have cameras, which pose a privacy risk: Next week's guests seeing last week's guests personal photos. Royal deals with this by treating an iPad like a pair of bed sheets—each device is replaced with a fresh one and wiped. Meanwhile, the technology group is working with vendors to lock down local-save features.