Comment: The cruise industry sails to the future

Sam Ballard is excited about the new technology that is set to revolutionise cruise, and ensure it is the most forward-thinking part of the travel industry


Late last month, at an event at London’s Gherkin, MSC Cruises revealed more details about Zoe – its much-anticipated voice activated digital assistant, a first at sea. 

The technology, which is powered by a subsidiary of Samsung, will allow guests to ask Zoe basic questions about their cruise, such as entertainment programming and port information. It will mean that 6,000 passengers won’t bombard the switchboard or guest relations desk asking what time disembarkation is every single day, which probably comes as some relief to MSC’s guest relation staff. 

MSC has insisted that the technology isn’t designed to replace guest-crew interaction – but will complement it by allowing staff to spend their time in areas where they can really make a difference.

Zoe is the latest element of MSC for Me – the line’s technology platform built to improve the overall passenger experience. There is also a wearable technology element with wristbands that can be used to track children anywhere on the ship and even open your stateroom door when you are within a certain distance.

The technology being brought in by MSC is part of a wider push by the industry to bring its passenger technology up to date. Carnival Corporation has the much publicised new Ocean Medallion, a small disc which will store passengers’ details such as drinks preferences. It will also include a trackable element, which will mean that passengers will be able to order a drink, through an app, anywhere on the ship – with the waiting staff able to track them down. Each passenger will have a ‘tagalong’ character they can interact with on screens around the ship – they will even be able to race them on the big screen out on deck.

Royal Caribbean is also increasing its own technology with an app that allows users to order shore excursions and book restaurants. They can even use augmented reality on certain pieces of art in the ship to discover new secrets – one is a portal to a live camera on the bridge.

All of this technology is exceptionally impressive and goes some way to cementing the cruise industry’s image as the most forward-looking part of the travel industry. It makes it all the more incredible when you consider the fact that this technology has to work at sea – far away from the infrastructure that land hotels can rely on.  

During this current wave of technological innovation we are seeing an industry that is moving at breakneck speeds make even larger strides. It’s an exciting place to work – and I can’t wait to see what this technology looks like in the flesh. 

Sam Ballard

Sam Ballard is the publisher of CRUISE ADVISER and has been writing about the cruise industry for a number of years. His CV includes the likes of shipping magazine International Cruise & Ferry Review and the digital publication Cruise News. He can be contacted

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