Royal Caribbean International have unveiled a number of technological innovations that are designed to enhance the cruise experience for not only passengers, but the crew too. These are set to debut on the line's newest ship; Quantum of the Seas, which launches in November.
The 167,800 ton vessel will feature six kinds of "smart technology" - all of which are new to the cruise industry:
Beginning at home, passengers will be able to check-in online and generate their own boarding documents. Although this can actually be done already; guests will be able to upload their own ID photo and receive digital boarding confirmation, hurrah! According to Royal Caribbean, guests will be able to go from "sidewalk to ship" in approximately ten minutes with no check-in counter, no forms to fill out and no lines to stand in. Brilliant!
In a day and age where the majority of people have a smartphone, you will now be able to track your luggage in real time! When you drop off your luggage at the terminal, it will be tagged with RFID technology which allows you to monitor it's progress as it makes it way to your stateroom. This feature also works when it's time to disembark at the end of your cruise. There is no need to look over the balcony and worry about your luggage anymore.
Quantum of the Seas is to offer WOWband wristbands. Similar to the MagicBands which can be found at Walt Disney World in Florida; these RFID bands replace the traditional cruise card and allow you to make onboard purchases, access your stateroom and so much more. You shouldn't lose your cruise card now, should you?!?
On top of this, two new applications will put cruise passengers in charge of their choices onboard. You'll be able to research and book dining reservations, shore excursions, spa treatments and more even before you set sail with Cruise Planner. Royal iQ allows you to manage details during the cruise and provides at-a-glance views of your daily program. You can also keep in touch with each other and home via phone and text capabilities. The app can be downloaded to a smartphone or accessed at freestanding iQ locations around the ship.
Launched by technology parter O3b Networks, Quantum of the Seas will feature satellites that can offer unprecedented bandwidth levels that match broadband connections at home. This means you'll be able to access the internet 24/7 and stream videos, check e-mails, chat with home using video-calling software and share images on social media - even in the middle of the ocean.
Additionally, the connectivity aboard will allow for one of the SeaPods in SeaPlex to become a live worldwide video gaming suite where guests young and old alike can enjoy Xbox Live and compete with gamers from around the world.
It's no surprise that Royal Caribbean are one of the pioneers of the modern cruise industry, and on-board Quantum of the Seas, robotic bartenders will be put to work mixing cocktails at the Bionic Bar. That's right, you'll be able to place your drinks order via a tablet and then enjoy watching the robots create your drink! It that isn't WOW then I simply don't know what is...
But that isn't the only place where you'll find robots, Two70 is the home of six Roboscreens that can create scenes as a group, or whilst soaring and twisting around on their own. There is also Vistarama, which is basically floor-to-ceiling glass walls that can transform into an ambient surface and project any scene; whether it is fantasy or fiction.
Quantum of the Seas also takes full advantage of technology in the staterooms, where you'll find device-charging USB outlets and environmentally friendly lighting systems. Additionally, interior staterooms feature Virtual Balconies which can display real-time sights and sounds of the sea through 80-inch LED screens. Who said an inside stateroom was boring?
All the technological benefits designed to enhance the guests experience sound exciting; but the next thing is a real gem. Crew members will also benefit from the technology available, where each member of the ships company will be given a personal Microsoft Windows Tablet; complete with an array of services and apps that is theirs to keep. Customised applications will also allow the crew to up the game in terms of personalised service; where they will be able to keep track of guests' tastes and preferences, such as dietary requirements and possibly even your favourite drink, mines a Shirley Temple.
I think this is really good, not only do the crew members get a personal tablet to keep, but this will allow for a more personalised interaction with guests; and as technological upgrades are gradually rolled out across the Royal Caribbean fleet; every shipboard crew member will receive a tablet - that's more than 40,000 in total!
During the design process, technology even helped the team to make Quantum of the Seas more environmentally friendly. Sophisticated computer modelling was used to reduce the energy consumption through a variety of means, whilst all lighting onboard will be provided by low-energy LED or fluorescents. A lot of lights are needed to illuminate an 18-deck cruise ship both inside and out; so I was pleased to hear that motion sensor technology will also be present to dim lighting in certain areas when no-one is around.
I think it is safe to say that Quantum of the Seas is going to be the smartest ship around for a while; albeit until Anthem of the Seas makes her debut sailing from Southampton in April 2015. Who is ready to start planning a cruise on one of the Quantum class ships from Royal Caribbean? I am!
Photographs are courtesy of Royal Caribbean International. Note that some are illustrations and the actual venue or product may vary.