As a society, we seem to be becoming more and more fixated with gadgets and technology. For many it’s all about the latest ‘must-haves’ to make our lives a little easier, or at least a little more interesting, but quite often, what may seem small technological advancements can make a big difference. So how does this transfer to the world of cruising? Surely, the most important aspect of a cruise is the places we visit. Does it really matter to us if our journey from one place to another is enhanced by on-board gadgetry or are some of these technological developments key to the experience, playing a major role? Here’s a look at some inventions and innovations which are making waves.
How did we live without it? Well, however you answer, there’s no denying that it’s now central to our lives. There’s a good chance you booked your last cruise online for a start, but even when at sea, the internet’s never far away and long gone are the days when we were incommunicado while off on holiday. In the world of cruising, we had no choice than to be offline until 1999, when Norwegian Cruise Line became the first company to open an internet café on-board one of its NCL ships – the Norwegian Sky. Since then, the line’s pioneered at-sea techno-savvy, becoming the first to offer Wi-Fi access across its whole fleet in 2002. As one of the world’s biggest cruise lines, Royal Caribbean is certainly no slouch when it comes to cutting-edge internet service, offering an enhanced bandwidth on all its ships.
IPad and apps
We’ve already seen the internet scaled down to palm size on our mobile devices and then, scaled slightly up to cater for the middle ground tablet market, and the cruise lines have not been slow to join in the i-revolution. Knowing how important cuisine is to cruisers, Celebrity Cruises have made ipad menus available in their Qsine restaurants on such ships as Celebrity Eclipse and Celebrity Summit, enabling passengers to check out dishes and even create their own cocktails. On such Royal Caribbean vessels as the Allure of the Seas, there’s an interactive wine menu, while the line’s Splendour of the Seas offers ipads in every cabin, allowing passengers to check out itineraries and activities, too.
Once the preserve of paranoid (but often eerily clairvoyant!) 1960’s science fiction, recognition technology is now a reality in everyday life. Indeed, facial recognition is now a part of your cruise experience, so that the photos taken of you before you embark are used to link you to your room key and to help improve security on the ship. On Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Dream, this ingenious technology is used to an altogether lighter effect. The ship boasts enchanted art pieces which come to life when a passenger stands in front of them, but the technology ensures that they’ll never see the same animation twice. On Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, there are even shape recognition cameras, which use biometrics to study foot traffic and contribute to reducing queuing at the buffets.
In-cabin and public area technology
Again, it’s Royal Caribbean leading the way with innovation, with their way finder system, which offers LCD and plasma touch screen signage throughout the Allure and Oasis of the Seas. Guests can find out all they need to know about activities and get directions to anywhere on the ship. Sparing a thought for those who haven’t been able to secure a sea view, Disney Cruise Line’s interior staterooms feature a ‘magical porthole’ which offers a real-time view outside the ship, while Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Breeze offers nothing less than a 5D Theatre, where 3D films are further enhanced by vibrating seats and special effects such as bubbles and water.
Some technology is of course, not just beneficial to the cruise line or the cruiser; it can have a positive impact on the environment, too. We’ve all seen solar panels on the roofs of houses and now Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean are introducing such panels on some of their newest ships to power lifts and LED lights. Indeed, a number of cruise lines now feature LED lighting on a number of their vessels, which can drastically reduce the amount of energy consumed on the ship, while shore-side electricity ports mean that ships don’t have to rely on their own diesel engines when docked, thus reducing air pollution.