Major cruise lines serve the same connected travelers that land-based hotels do: guests who want to watch or eat what they want, when they want and where they want. They expect ease of access and want to bring their own personal content with them. They also expect exceptional, immersive experiences they can’t get at home — the wow factor.
Cruise lines must meet all those expectations far from traditional land-based digital infrastructure. That’s why Princess Cruises is in the process of upgrading connectivity throughout its fleet.
“It’s a really dynamic, evolving challenge,” says Derrin Brown, Manager of Production Operations for Princess Cruises. “We want to provide the platforms and availability for people to use their personal technology on our cruise ships, seamlessly.”
While people on cruises expect connectivity, they are really looking for much more. Where Princess can deliver exceptional experiences that create that wow factor is in the entertainment venues on board — in theatrical spaces, music venues and on giant LED walls placed strategically throughout its ships. And that’s where Princess is investing in the most advanced, spectacular audiovisual technology.
Bigger, brighter, sharper imagery is a must
“Each ship has many different venues within a larger space,” says Brown. “Inside are small atriums and large piazzas, configured as entertainment venues, food and beverage spaces, information points and front desk experiences. And then we have all the external information and entertainment on the pool decks during the day and the giant Movies Under the Stars experience at night.”
On the Princess Diamond, the focal point of the ship’s main theater is a giant 4K video wall – the fleet’s first. This 4K video wall technology has proven to deliver such a wow factor that it will soon be rolled out across the ship and fleet; by end of 2018, the fleet’s 4K video technology will have grown exponentially.
3D sound that revolves around every listener
Princess understands that great entertainment is more than stunning imagery. For this reason, the company is focused on 360-degree, immersive audio that processes sound to give each listener a three-dimensional sense of depth.
“It’s a real game-changer,” says Brown. “Let’s take the piazza atrium, the biggest space on each ship, as an example. The old infrastructure for audio is based on a front presentation, left-right sound experience, like the stage you would find at a music concert. There are good seats and not-so-good seats.
“Now we’re taking every audio track, including music and sound design, and processing it out to a 360-degree output within a three-dimensional space, creating a unique experience, no matter where you are. It’s very exciting.”
Audio is part of the whole cruise experience, whether it’s spectacular sound for entertainment or crystal-clear sound for passenger information.
“For announcements in the corridors, which highlight activities, we process the audio for unmistakable clarity and spend a lot of time making sure the levels are correct,” Brown says.
Princess also customizes lighting for each of the different restaurants and venues, with changing settings throughout the day, depending on the time and event.
A lunch setting is different than a dinner atmosphere or evening cocktail ambiance. Specially selected background music is chosen to work with the lighting to complete an integrated and pleasurable experience.
Making the cruise your own
For passengers faced with a plethora of activity choices, Princess has developed a proprietary customization and wayfinding system it calls Ocean Medallion. Regal Princess has already been retrofitted with this platform, the most interactive, integrated and passenger-friendly experience available.
Brown says, “We want to make passengers aware of what is available to them for their multiple options, and then guide them, through digital platforms, to their chosen venues, because these ships are massive.
“Ocean Medallion is a proprietary technology that delivers interactive location information. Wherever you are on the vessel, the Ocean Medallion platform knows your preferences for food and beverages or music, for example, based on what you inputted to the platform before the cruise. It also learns from your feedback during the cruise, and gives you evolving options and choices to make your experience more seamless.”
Princess wanted to get away from apps, so it developed an actual medallion, like a thick coin, worn as a necklace, broach or wristband. Each of the 4K displays and screens around the vessel, including passengers’ own smartphones, interact with the medallion and feed them targeted information.
“You get it in the mail before the cruise,” says Brown. “You go to a webpage and add it to your cruise booking information. You can choose light, medium or intense interaction. For 100-percent participation, you can put in very specific preferences like ‘I really love hamburgers, I want to go to 7:00 shows and I want to go on adventure excursions,’ and it will keep feeding relevant information to you.”
If you choose a light level of interaction, it will just open doors for you without you even having to touch a handle. For example, when you get to your cabin, your door will open automatically. When you go to the restaurant or the bar, staff will know your name.
It all adds up to quality
“Whatever we’re doing, we’re doing it with an absolute sense of quality,” says Brown. “We’re partnered with Broadway and Hollywood legend Stephen Schwartz to create new production shows and we’re moving into the realms of more detailed storytelling, which is very exciting. The main goal is to provide options and variety of quality.”
Right now, Princess Cruises is upgrading the fleet to the best technology that is currently available, which is 4K video with 360-degree audio and Ocean Medallion wayfinding. But technology never rests, so in the future, it will be 8K or 16K, when- ever the content is available. For Princess Cruises, the quest for better and better experiences is never-ending. Derrin Brown sums it up with an old example: “You’re finished painting the bridge and you have to start again. The whole journey is exciting.”