ONBOARD THE CARNIVAL SUNRISE -- A few years ago, a Carnival Cruise Line executive opined that a cruise line's app had to be "intuitive and seamless" to use, since passengers will want to begin using it without training as soon as their vacation begins.
Perhaps they'll use the app before they even connect to the ship's WiFi. The Carnival Hub app, for example, was updated earlier this year with precruise purchasing abilities.
It also provides a quick and easy way for guests to take the daily "Fun Times" planner with them in their pocket; they can see what's happening around the ship, mark events as favorites, and use in-app messaging.
But an app should have a little flair that sets it apart from other similar offerings.
A screen shot of the Carnival Hub app during pizza delivery from Pizzeria del Capitano. A status bar shows when to expect the pie, the location and a photo of the guest, to help the delivery person identify them.
Carnival's solution? Pizza delivery, which is available fleetwide.
Guests can use the app to order from Pizzeria del Capitano for delivery. A few taps and a $5 per-pie fee, and a personal-sized pie is on its way to the pool deck, cabin or wherever you are on the ship.
We tested it out earlier this year on the Carnival Sunrise, when I wanted to eat at the Sunrise's alfresco Guy's Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse but knew my kids wouldn't touch spicy or smoked anything. Pizza for them, barbecue for my husband and me.
The app enabled me via a series of prompts to pinpoint where we were on Deck 10, down to the picnic table. It suggested I take and upload a picture of my husband and me, for identification.
A status bar showed me roughly when to expect delivery. It was prime lunchtime on a sea day, but to my surprise, the pizza came quickly, while I was still collecting the kids from Camp Ocean.
It was waiting with my husband when I returned with the kids to the picnic table. Apparently despite the map and our photo (and my husband's distinctive beard) the delivery guy had a little difficulty finding him in the midst of all the passengers queued up for barbecue.
But in the end, the pizza was indeed delivered to the correct person, and any confusion seemed like a minor snag. To quote former Carnival CEO Bob Dickinson, who once did a stint as a bar waiter on the Imagination for a PBS show and had challenges taking a drink order and then finding the guest later: "Out in the sun, one hairy guy is the same as another."
The food was good (Pizzeria del Capitano makes pies constantly, in several different topping styles, and they're fresh and tasty) and the delivery option was novel, fun and fast. "Intuitive and seamless," I'd say.
Carnival is now rolling out beverage delivery on its ships. Once guests choose their pizza, they're able to order beer, soda or water to accompany it.
Passengers don't have to purchase a Wifi plan to use the Hub app onboard, but the messaging is $5 per person, per cruise.
According to Carnival earlier this summer, the app has been downloaded more than 5.7 million times.