The cruise experience is all about the cruise â€“ not the cabin.
Cruiseline executives walk a fine line between providing guest accommodations that are attractive and comfortableâ€¦ but not so comfortable that the guests would rather spend their time in the cabin than roving the decks and public spaces with wallet at the ready.
In this regard, the cruise cabin is a lot like the Casino Hotel Room â€“ really nice to be in for short periods of time.
With that in mind, here are the top ten technology gadgets that should be found in and around well-appointed cabins:
1) Flat-screen TV â€“ a great space saver, which is an important factor for all of our gadgets. Space is at a high premium, which is why you will find a lot of â€śmulti-functionâ€ť gadgets on this list.. In some inside cabins, the TV substitutes for a port hole, showing nautical scenery as a sort of â€śscreen-saverâ€ť.
2) DVD player built into the TV, or video-on-demand system.
3) Communications system â€“ again, a feature accessible possibly via the television, which provides a wide range of services, such as: a constantly-updated cruise daily schedule, advertising all of the shipboard events and shore excursion opportunities; premium dining reservations; shore excursion reservations; room service orders; access to your cabin billing folio (which can greatly speed up disembarkation); delivery of messages; radio/alarm; PA system for ship-wide announcements.
4) In-cabin and ship-wide wireless internet access â€“ even the blue-haired perennial cruisers tote laptops these days, to stay in touch with family and post their latest adventures on myFaceLinkedPage.
5) Wireless-enabled capability for cell phones. This will ultimately provide experience-enhancing services â€“ your cell phone will soon be able to: open your cabin door; charge your wine with dinner; summon mini-umbrella-bedecked drinks to your chaise longue by the pool/climbing wall/surfrider/putting green; receive geo-location-targeted advertising and notifications (so as you pass the optional fine dining restaurant, you can be told about the specials for that evening); record your movements on, off and around the ship.
6) Connectivity Center â€“ Ranging from a simple power strip (electrical outlets are notoriously scarce in most cabins), to a sophisticated charging station with integrated voltage regulator (110/240v), multi-format plug adaptors, and iPod/MP3 connector (allowing the sound and/or video to be routed to the TV).
7) Desk Telephone. These are often viewed as a necessary evil. In the past, they were used mostly for intra-ship calls, because ship-to-shore communication was very limited. Even now, with satellites providing almost ubiquitous coverage, most guests are savvy enough to use internet phone services such as Skype to avoid the aggregious telco fees for international calls.
Biometrics. There is a lot of research going on in the area of Biometrics, with the emphasis on Security. Knowing that only authorized guests and crew are onboard, and monitoring the ingress, egress and onboard movements of guests is critically important to the cruise line. Facial Recognition, and touchless palm scanning are the leading contenders, because they cause less interruption to the flow of guests, and do not require physical contact with potentially norovirus-carrying surfaces. Advances in iris- and retinal-scan technology may lead to those technologies becoming viable alternatives.
9) RFID. Another alternative to biometric and cell phone technologies, an RFID wristband or ankleband has the advantage of not requiring presence of mind to remember to carry it with you, and it can accompany the guest while swimming, adventure trekking, etc. Plus, with this technology, in-cabin sensors could detect whether guests are present, alerting room stewards to postpone cleaning/refreshing the cabin, and shutting down un-needed services to conserve energy and reduce waste.
10) In-Cabin Safe. This will use the same technology as the door locks â€“ whether keycard, biometric, cell phone, RFID, etc â€“ eliminating the need to remember yet another PIN code.
With the cruise market booming, guest experience is top priority to win market share and increase the percentage of return guests.
So wherever technology can eliminate lines and delays of any sort, and keep guests entertained, informed and involved, it will have a dramatic effect on increased revenue.
NB: Luther Pawling is co-founder of Gem Software, a startup company providing hosted applications for the meetings industry. Pawling has been in the travel industry for over 25 years, with experience in meetings, corporate travel, tours, and cruises, and the appropriate supporting technology.â€ť