Opinion: Cruise Lines Of The Future: What Should We Expect Next?

This guest post was written by Ingo Soerensen, Area Vice President, Global Cruise Sales, Oracle Hospitality

Cruise ships have one mission – to give passengers the vacation they deserve. Today, the definition of “the vacation they deserve” is much different than in the past. Over the last few years, cruise lines have adopted the notion that everything needs to be individualized and personalized to give guests a superior experience that will keep them coming aboard again and again.

Between booking the cruise and setting sail, passengers are given the opportunity to personalize their experience however they’d like – whether that means booking a spa treatment or a specific dining arrangement, such as the table by the window at their favorite restaurant onboard, or opting for upgrades to get their preferred view or an extended itinerary. It’s all part of the transformation happening in the cruise industry to deliver exceptional experiences for passengers as they set sail around the world.

The ‘I’ in Itinerary

Fifteen years ago, when a person booked a cruise, all activities were included in the overall cost, from room and board to experiences and amenities. Today, activities, treatments and specialty dining are additional experiences (and costs) that passengers can opt into. This à la carte method means the initial voyage price can be much lower today, with more options to add on. This allows passengers to create their own personalized cruise agendas, with added shore excursions, dining reservations and spa treatments beyond what is offered in the base booking price. Additionally, in recent years cruise lines have added “edutainment” options for passengers, such as yoga or cooking classes, and cinematically stimulating offerings, like 4D cinemas or Formula1 simulators, that give guests more options onboard.

Cruise lines are starting to look more like airlines when it comes to offering passengers special perks, such as exclusive lounges, sun decks and restaurants for the VIPs. No two people travel alike. By offering this next level of service and personalization, passengers have the opportunity to customize their journeys to fit within both their ideals for the trip and their budget.

Seamless Tech For Smooth Sailing

While these changes are giving passengers the opportunity to book the trip of a lifetime, technology is required on the back end to create the seamless experience that passengers see. For example, in order to schedule these additional perks, reservation software that is updated in real-time is required to help ensure that a passenger is guaranteed the activity at a time that fits within their schedule. Once onboard, instead of waiting in line for snacks and drinks at a poolside bar, sunbathing passengers can enter their order into a kiosk and have it delivered, or they can stay in their lounge chair while servers take their order from a mobile tablet. No longer is a wallet required to purchase beverages and snacks – passengers can now link their RFID room keycards or bracelets to their account for a seamless, cashless purchase experience.

One of the most important factors in looking at technology to enhance the guest experience is its ability to integrate with third-party software. No one system can do everything. It is critical to look at systems that are able to expand their capabilities by integrating with new and innovative offerings. For example, cruise lines are looking at voice-activated assistants to provide passengers with more easily identifiable information, such as details around an upcoming shore excursion. However, these systems don’t just work on their own – they require enormous amounts of data on the back end in order for them to be useful.

When all is said and done, the ideal technological system enables ease of integration with innovative add-on technologies that can truly enhance a passenger’s experience. These add-ons must be easily connected with the cruise management system, otherwise, they may cause more harm than good.

Cruising Into The Future

In the future, we may see phone apps that allow passengers to turn on the A/C in their room while they are walking back after seeing a play in the theater, or to order a pizza that is delivered poolside. These innovations transform how guests see the world aboard a cruise ship – in luxury and with convenience. But to ensure all of these things become a reality, cruise lines must look at the underlying technologies to ensure they are picking a partner who can help them grow and deliver what their guests will be seeking in the future, not just today.

The world of cruises is changing to keep up with the demands of passengers. Having the proper technology onboard allows for the cruise line to adapt quickly and effectively so that their service doesn’t miss a beat. After all, cruise companies and passengers have the same goal in mind – to set sail and experience the trip of a lifetime.

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