There is a belief in the cruise industry that guests on the ship are looking to escape technology, to voyage onto the sea and leave the annoyances of the modern world behind. It’s a belief that has roots in good intentions, but in practice is deeply flawed.
Guests on a cruise ship today are looking for the same things they have for years; and it’s true that they desire an escape from the mundane in a relaxing, high-service environment. But this does not mean that a cruise passenger is looking to be transported back 50 years to a sub-par technology experience. To the contrary, a vacation is an excuse to indulge in the luxury and convenience of connected technology without the burdens of work getting in the way.
Most of us are familiar with how technology impacts our working lives. We have mobile phones that now allow us to read email and write messages at every hour of the day wherever we are. We have smart calendars that remind us of the conference calls we need to be on and the appointments we’re late for. We have document sharing, online video conferencing, testing tools, digital expense reports and online time cards. This technology makes our working lives easier or more frustrating depending on your mood of the moment, but technology isn’t limited to a work-centric environment. Technology is an enabler that can create any experience its applied to.
Put another way, to people in the technology industry a vacation may only feel relaxing if you can get away from the technology that is your daily grind. But the majority of the world doesn’t work in the tech industry and the concept of a “technology-free” vacation is far from desirable unless you are actively trying to create that environment. But a cruise vacation that highlights luxury, service and world-class experiences shouldn’t feel like camping.
Guests staying in a luxury cruise ship have the expectation that the experience is “bigger than life” and will provide them with one-of-a-kind moments and memories that they can’t get at home. While technology is not expected to be the overt centerpiece for the cruise ship, it should be the backbone or underpinning of the experience that creates a fluid and seamless adventure. Something as mundane as the in-cabin television should be bigger and more immersive than what can be found at home; it should become a window and companion for the voyage ahead. Watching Live TV may give way to on-demand binge watching of the series you always wanted to try but never had time for. Browsing stunning photography from the day’s excursions, playing a multi-player game against other travelers or ordering room service from your bed can be delivered to the TV and will create that “bigger than what you get at home” experience that enhances the natural elegance and high service of the ship.
The opportunities to use technology to enhance and expand the guest experience are near limitless. It’s easy to imagine how it can make the embarkation and disembarkation experience better, transforming what is a typically painful experience into an enjoyable one. It’s also easy to imagine how technology can be applied to ship services, dining, spa and shore excursions. There are also plenty of examples of how technology is being applied to make onboard theatre presentations more amazing and engaging, truly transforming the productions into shows worthy of Cirque du Soleil.
But perhaps the most powerful case for technology impacting the guest experience is in the subtle ways it can transform the cruise ship into delivering the very experience that most technology detractors desire: an immersive, transformative experience that creates a new and stunning world for its guests. There is perhaps no better environment than a cruise ship -which is by its very nature a self-contained world- where technology can deliver a one of a kind experience. Rather than disrupt with the mundane, technology can pivot to remove distractions of the world left behind, enhance the service to unparalleled levels and safely create a timeless atmosphere without sacrificing quality.
Technology is relentlessly advancing into our daily lives. In less than a decade the mobile phone has become one of the most vital attachments most people own. With innovation it is common that distraction, frustration and chaos are also created; but this does not mean that technology should be avoided in areas of relaxation. For the cruise industry its something that should be embraced, directed and ultimately enjoyed.