Celebrity Cruises has pioneered a mobile phone application that enables cruise passengers to get instant translations of foreign phrases while on a ship or out on a shore excursion.
The free app, available since Aug. 5, is the first smartphone translation software customized specifically for cruise passengers, Celebrity said.
Included in the app, called Cruise Lingo, are 56 stock phrases that cruise passengers might need, such as "How do I get back to the port?" and "Is there a nice restaurant in town?"
The app appears to be a hit with Celebrity loyalists. In just two weeks, downloads already exceed the number of downloads all year for another mobile app, called Celebrity Xplorer.
"It's really been going off the shelves," said Tina Alexander, Celebrity's assistant vice president for Web applications. "That's been quite heartening."
Cruise Lingo is a derivation of Trip Lingo, a general translation app launched two years ago. In addition to questions tailored to cruising, it also features a custom-built glossary of cruise terms.
The app is stocked with 11 languages, including French, German, two versions of Spanish (Castilian and Mexican), Hindi and Japanese.
Alexander said the app can help cruisers interact with fellow passengers and crew members as well as being useful on shore excursions, for which it was mainly designed.
The app comes with some intriguing functions. By using a slide bar, passengers can get four different translations of a question that are increasingly less formal. A strict translation is offered, along with "casual," "slang" and "crazy" versions.
In Spanish, "How do I get to the port?" becomes Como hago para regresar al puerto? in casual mode, and Donde esta la lancha pa' mi pueblo? in crazy mode. That's the Mexican translation. The one for Spain is different.
Users can get an explanation of each translation by hitting a "context" button, as well as have an audio version of the phrase in slow, normal or phonetic mode. They can also create lists of custom phrases.
There is a flashcard feature that tests your learning, and a "travel situations" with questions for travel that aren't cruise-specific (e.g., "I'm in a hurry!").
Many of the features have a few basics loaded onto the app, with the option to purchase a language pack that provides much more functionality.
Prices range from $9.99 for one language to $19.99 for three or $49.99 for all.
Perhaps the most useful feature is a translator, which enables you to speak a question in real time and get it translated. The answer can also be reverse-translated.
The app comes with 20 free spoken translations, though an Internet connection is required for that function.
About 80% of the downloads thus far have been for the Apple iOS version of the app, with the balance for the Android operating system. Cruise Lingo is the first Celebrity Cruises app available in an Android version, Alexander said.
The idea for Cruise Lingo came at the PhoCusWright travel innovations summit last November in Scottsdale, Ariz., Alexander said, and it fit with Celebrity's desire to have more mobile functionality.
"People are planning their vacations or on their vacations with more sophisticated phones out there," she said. "Expectations are higher when you're on vacation about what can you do. It all converged."
Other Celebrity apps are focused on destinations or making a cruise purchase, but this one is more practical.
"It's intuitive, it's fun and it's not just about selling them something; it's about giving them something," Alexander said.
Follow Tom Stieghorst on Twitter @tstravelweekly.