Royal Caribbean has big technology ideas, some close to reality

Royal Caribbean's vision of the inside cabin of the future, with virtual balcony.
Royal Caribbean's vision of the inside cabin of the future, with virtual balcony.

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- On the cruise of the future, check-in counters, guest services desks and in-room phones will be relics, replaced by facial recognition, virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCCL) last week showcased the various ways that passengers on its three brands -- Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises -- will experience technological innovations going forward, some much sooner than others. 

Passengers on some Royal Caribbean cruises this year (the Oasis and the Allure of the Seas) will be able to check in, order drinks and reserve shore excursions and dinner reservations on their smartphones, using the cruise company's new app, which will debut this year on 13% of the line's ships, half of the fleet in 2018 and on 100% of its ships by 2019.

The app, the first consumer-facing piece of the Excalibur technology initiative, is for passengers to do tasks they would normally do at the guest services desk or from their stateroom phone, in addition to checking into the cruise, tracking their luggage, opening cabin doors and texting fellow passengers. 

RCCL also demonstrated the evolution of "smart staterooms," which Royal Caribbean International president Michael Bayley said allows the room to "take care of the guest."

On display was a Sky Suite, one of the cabin categories on the upcoming Celebrity Edge, which will have some of the features of smart speaker systems like Amazon's Alexa. Guests will be able to make some commands, such as having the lights turn off and shades close by simply saying, "Computer, good night," and a "good morning" command in the morning to turn them back on.  Passengers also will be able to control all of the room's lighting, temperature and the shades using their smartphones or a control panel on the wall, including preset options like "movie" which will close the shades and turn down the lights for optimal movie watching.

As the technology gets better, Bayley said, passengers could be lying in bed and announce that they'd like a coffee, which will then be ordered.

Many of the ideas RCCL showcased are still just that, ideas that may or may not make their way onto ships. One is a "virtual restaurant" experience where passengers put on VR masks while they are eating. Diners would enjoy Japanese food while looking at cherry blossoms in Kyoto.

Another is RCCL's vision for the inside cabin of the future, in which high-definition videos create the illusion not only of a real balcony with the ocean going by outside -- complete with the appropriate weather -- but a screen on the floor that shows the sea below and a moon roof ceiling that opens to the "sky."


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