CES 2017: Carnival Introduces First Smart Cruise Experience

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Carnival CES 2017

Carnival, the world’s largest leisure travel company with 10 global cruise line brands, is about to unveil the first smart ship at CES 2017.

It’s a first for CES and the travel industry as Carnival CEO Arnold Donald delivers a keynote address introducing the newest member of the fleet, the Ocean Medallion, a system powered by wearable technology that serves as a virtual concierge for every part of a cruise.

Carnival Cruise Ocean Medallion digital concierge

Carnival’s Experience Innovation Operating System—aka xiOS—is a proprietary, guest-centric, Internet of Things approach to maximizing personalization on-board. Cruise guests receive a small disk that stores information a passenger provides online and real time and can be worn on the wrist, in a pocket or around the neck as a pendant.

The wearable tech, reminiscent of Disney’s MagicBand digital sherpa for guests at its parks, includes the names of each guest and ship and is powered by Bluetooth and NFC technology to communicate and for payments. Never needing to be charged or turned off (or on), it can be customized for guests selecting athletic or luxury preferences, for example.

Carnival Cruises Ocean Medallion digital kiosk

The device syncs with Carnival’s Ocean Compass smartphone app and can be used at on-board digital kiosks or via in-room TVs. Passengers can shop for products, book shore excursions, spa treatments, photos and more from any registered device. They can also order food delivered to poolside, cabin, the ship’s theater or casino. 

Carnival CES 2017

Carnival Cruises Ocean digital kiosk logo“With this interactive technology platform, we are poised to have our global cruise line brands at the vanguard of forever changing the guest experience paradigm—not just in the cruise industry but in the larger vacation market and potentially other industries,” said Donald in a press release.

“Our focus is on exceeding guest expectations every single day and consistently delivering great experiences, and we do that extremely well,” he added. “Now we are in prime position to take the guest experience to a level never before considered possible and build on cruising’s popularity and value as the fastest-growing segment of the vacation sector.”

“The Ocean Medallion creates an elevated level of service that’s made possible by technology but doesn’t feel like technology,” said John Padgett, chief experience and innovation officer for Carnival Corporation. “Our mission is to help our guests make the most out of every minute of their vacation.”

Carnival CES 2017

On-board Wi-Fi will also be optimized on ships with the Ocean Medallion, and no extra fees will be charged to passengers using personal devices that are part of the network. Benefits also include streamlined embarkation and debarkation, easy location of friends and family throughout the ship and better interaction with connected crew members.

Carnival CES 2017

Much credit goes to Padgett, who spent 18 years at Disney and helped launch the MagicBand, the colorful (and customizable) wristband for Disney park guests to book rides, buy food, merchandise, store photos and access hotel rooms.

Carnival debuted the technology on its Regal Princess ship in November and the platform will be made available on two more ships in 2018 and eventually roll out to the fleet of 101 ships. The Regal Princess was retrofitted with 75 miles of cable and 7,000 sensors to ready it for the medallion system.

Carnival CES 2017

“This isn’t a new gadget for techies,” notes USA Today. “There’s no screen, no buttons, and nothing to get confused by, it just works without you even having to think about it…If it’s lost or stolen, the owner or any crew member can deactivate it or replace it instantly.”

Cruising the high seas just smarter as digital tech comes on-board. Donald’s CES keynote will be live-streamed on Thursday, January 5.

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