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EDITORIAL

6 Ways Carnival’s New Tech Will Change Cruising

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This week, Carnival Corporation introduced the world to their industry-changing technology – the Ocean Medallion. And while it might sound like something you’d seek on a quest in a video game, it’s actually a small device that promises to have a big impact on the way you cruise. Expected to make its debut aboard Regal Princess this November (Princess is a division of Carnival), the interactive tech will slowly be rolled out across the entire fleet.

What Is It?

Put in the simplest terms, the Ocean Medallion is most similar to the MagicBands which are used by Walt Disney World’s guests, and will essentially help passengers navigate every step of the cruise. In fact, Ocean actually stands for One Cruise Experience Access Network. The device itself is small enough to be carried around in your pocket, although it is expected that many will instead opt to clip it into a wristband. A corporate statement explained that the device would “reveal enhanced services and personalized experiences without guests having to push a button or take any action.”

All of this is sure to leave a whole lotta people asking, “What the heck does that mean?” Well, here are six ways in which the new technology will impact the way you cruise.

1. It’ll allow you to get on the ship faster.

Carnival is dubbing the pre-boarding experience “ocean ready,” because much of the information collected during embarkation will be provided by guests before they even arrive at the terminal.

2. It’ll make the ship easier to navigate.

In conjunction with the medallion, Carnival will introduce Ocean Compass, described as “a personal digital experience concierge accessible by all guests using interactive displays throughout the ship.” Combined the two will not only help passengers find their way around the ship, but you’ll be able to keep track of other members of your party. Want to know where your teenagers are at 2 am? Now, there’s an app for that!

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3. It will help the crew help you.

Want to make reservations at the spa? Need to know where to find the shops? You’ll no longer have to trek to guest services or any other venue to do so, as the interactive devices throughout the ship will make doing so a snap. More importantly, it will also allow members of the crew to have endless amounts of information at their fingertips. According to Carnival, “a bartender or room steward” could now help you make restaurant reservations. (Personally, I can’t help but wonder if passengers constantly asking crew members to take on these types of requests might interfere with them doing the job they are actually being paid to do!)

4. You can pre-order drinks.

By using the There & Then function, you’ll be able to make sure that when you sit down to dinner or a show, a cocktail of your choice will be delivered right to your seat.

5. The medallion will “know” you.

Thanks to information you provide before boarding, the tech will already be aware of many of a passenger’s preferences. Carnival’s statement indicated the medallion will detail your “wants, needs, and desires” to help personalize the vacation experience. When it comes time to decide which restaurants to try or shows to see, it’ll come in handy.

6. Your food will be able to seek you out.

Laying by the pool and wanting a snack? No need to send one of the kids to the buffet, as you’ll now be able to place a food order and have it delivered to wherever you happen to be. “What,” you might ask, “if I get up and move because the sun was too hot where I was sitting?” Never fear, the device will help your server figure out exactly where you are so that you don’t fry and the ice in your drink doesn’t melt.

With the technology not going into effect until at least November, we all have months to discuss, speculate, fret, theorize, and muse on the ways in which this will change the vacations we love. But why not get a head start by leaving your thoughts on this development in the comment section below?

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EDITORIAL

How Cruising Keeps Us Young

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The 80s music was thumping, the lights were flashing, and, as instructed by the cruise director and his staff, folks were waving their hands in the air as if they just didn’t care. Among them was Marjorie, who was celebrating her 86th birthday dancing the night away at Spice H20 aboard the Norwegian Breakaway.

“This is something I’d never, ever do at home!” she told me, shouting to be heard over the music. “This is why I cruise!”

How Millennials Changed Cruising And Cruisers

It wasn’t all that long ago that cruising was thought of as where grandma and grandpa went to shuffle between Bingo games and the buffet, occasionally stopping to nap on the promenade deck. But that was before freestyle dining, free-fall waterslides, surf simulators, robotic bartenders and on-board breweries… you know, all the things that have been added by cruise lines in part to broaden their appeal to a younger demographic.

But a funny thing happened along the way to luring those young folks: Some of us rediscovered things we thought we’d left behind… or discovered them for the first time. Cruise ships seem to have the same effect on older folks as do weddings… we go from being those people who would shout “Turn that music down!” at home to tearing up the dance floor until the wee hours of the morning.

Why sleep when you can dance until dawn at the “silent disco” party on Norwegian Bliss?

During a recent sailing on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, I watched a teen who was scared to try the RipCord flight simulator be convinced to give it a go… by watching his grandfather do it first. And just shy of my own 55th birthday, I recently went speeding around the upper deck of the Norwegian Bliss on a go-kart before throwing myself into an intense round of laser tag. (To be fair, I killed more of my own teammates than I did our opponents, but I had a heck of a good time doing it!)

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Without doubt, this is a win/win for the cruise industry: Not only are more people hitting the high seas than ever before, but the average age of passengers has dropped significantly over the past 20 years. Plus, by continuing to offer the amenities expected by old-school cruisers even as they pump up the thrills to attract the younger generations, an ever-increasing number of multi-generational groups are sailing.

The “Something For Everyone” Factor

Taking a break from the dance floor — more, I suspect, for my sake than hers — Marjorie told me that she and her husband had cruised together for over three decades, and that when he passed away, she assumed she would probably stop sailing. But it was actually her granddaughter who, seeing an ad on TV, suggested the whole family should take a vacation together. The more they looked into the idea, the more even disinterested members of the clan came around as they found out just how much there would be to do, even if they didn’t get off the ship.

Thrills such as the SkyRide on Carnival Vista and Carnival Horizon are designed to attract new and younger cruisers… but they also wind up appealing to adventurers of all ages! Photo by Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Line

This cruise, she says, is unlike any she and her husband had taken in the past. “I’m trying to keep up with the young folks,” she says, adding with a laugh, “and I must be doing okay, because I think they went to bed an hour ago!”

This is where I shamefully admit that Marjorie outlasted me, too. Although we crossed paths again several times during the week, including at a whiskey tasting. “I figured what the heck,” she says, raising a glass to toast. “You only live once!”

Have you done things on a cruise ship you probably wouldn’t do at home? Do you believe that cruising helps keep you young? 

 

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EDITORIAL

How Cruise Lines Celebrate Earth Day Every Day

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As cruisers, there’s little we love more than the ocean. And since oceans cover 71 percent of our planet’s surface, it only makes sense that the cruise lines want to do whatever they can to have a positive impact on both the waterways of the world and the land on which their passengers live. So while people around the world are marking Earth Day, we thought it appropriate to take a moment to acknowledge some of the major moves the cruise industry has made over the past few years to try and help Mother Nature.

  • Changing The Way We Cruise
    Let’s face it: Most of us probably don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about the mechanics of cruising. But the industry as a whole is spending a lot of time and money into ships fueled by Liquefied Nitrogen Gas. In fact, Carnival Cruise Line’s Aida division is about to roll out the first-ever ship to be entirely powered by this more environmentally-friendly fuel source.

The Aida Nova will be the first cruise ship is currently under construction. Rendering by AIDA Cruises 

  • Changing The Way They Operate
    Over the past few months, all of the major cruise lines have announced plans to reduce the amount of single-use plastics… with the help of passengers. Royal Caribbean announced that not only will they be cutting back on items such as straws, but that they will also be looking into other aspects of their business to see how they can make major changes in this area.

Straws will soon be available only by request on most cruise lines… and that’s a good thing.

  • Finding Creative Ways To Recycle
    Proving the environment isn’t something cruise lines are only now thinking about, we reported back in 2015 on the fact that Disney Cruise Line was donating its used cooking oil — we’re talking tens of thousands of gallons — to the Bahamas Waste Management organization so that they can in turn use it to fuel some of their vehicles!
  • Encouraging Passengers To Do Their Part
    Most cruise lines offer their passengers the option to get more than one use out of their bathroom towels. And while this might seem like a rather insignificant move, it actually can have a pretty huge impact. After all, if even 100 passengers on each ship opt to get more use out of their towels, think about how many items that takes out of the laundry stream over the course of a year, thus conserving a whole lot of water!
  • Making Decisions That Aren’t Always Popular
    Not every way in which the cruise lines help the environment is always a big hit with every passenger. To this day, Carnival still gets complaints from people who didn’t approve of the decision to remove table cloths from the Main Dining Rooms during most meal services. But again, the number of items taken out of the laundry cycle (and the amount of water and energy conserved as a result) is downright staggering when looked at over the course of a year.

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    The amount of laundry processed by a cruise ship each day is staggering.

  •  Making Recycling A Priority
    Most cruise lines do everything in their power to separate garbage. On some ships, food scraps are ground up and turned into fish food. On others, room stewards sift through garbage to try and separate recyclable items.
  •  Being A Part Of The Global Community
    Over the years, cruise lines have thrown their financial and even political support behind numerous charitable organizations including the World Wildlife Fund and The Nature Conservancy, making it clear that they care not only about the environments populated by their passengers, but the many creatures with whom we share the planet.

 

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EDITORIAL

Cruiser Suggests Removing Gratuity To Send Message

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Upset that a cruise during which she hoped to relax was disturbed by construction taking place on the ship, a disgruntled passenger took to a message board to vent. It was the type of complaint that pops up from time to time on cruise-related message boards, claiming that a significant number of passengers had complained to guest services about their restful vacation being disrupted by the work being done. And like clockwork, one of the people responding to the original posting offered a suggestion which is made far too often.

“When things like this happen,” he suggested, “everyone should go to guest services and remove the daily gratuities. That will send a powerful message to the cruise line!”

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Except, of course, that it wouldn’t. And worse, it would be punishing the wrong people. Think of it this way: If you go to a restaurant and the waitress works her butt off to give you the best service possible, but the food isn’t very good… should your server be punished via a lousy tip? Or would it make more sense to speak to a manager regarding the chef who prepared the food?

Still not convinced? Imagine it was your child working in that restaurant, doing an absolutely top-notch job and yet being stiffed on tips because the chef prepared bad food.

READ MORE: The Ultimate Guide To Cruise Tipping

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The daily gratuities charged by most cruise lines are a subject of much debate. Personally, I’ve long advocated that the charge should be rolled directly into the price of the cruise (which would also cut back on the inevitable outcry which arises each time they are raised). I also think there should be no circumstances under which they can be removed.

“But what if the service is bad?” some will ask.

“Doesn’t matter,” I will respond. Because even if you do come across a few bad apples during the course of your cruise, the vast majority of the crew members — including many you will never see, let alone acknowledge — work hard to make sure you have the best possible vacation.

“I remove the gratuities,” some will say, “and then individually reward those who provide me with good service.” Again, I will remind them of all the people who work hard behind the scenes and who will never be on the receiving end of their magnanimous dispensing of individual tips.

Personally, I can think of nothing that could ever justify my removing the daily gratuities charge from my bill. Beyond that, however, the notion of removing the tips of hard-working individuals as a way to “send a message” to their bosses is incomprehensible to me.

Want to send a message to the corporate offices? Write a letter. Send an E-mail. Heck, take your business to another cruise line and then write a letter letting the one you’ve left behind exactly why you decided to do so. If you truly believe that money talks, then surely the loss of a loyal customer is going to speak far louder than would the comparative pittance that is the daily gratuity charge.

Under what circumstances would — or have — you removed the daily gratuity fee? Do you think the cruise lines should simply roll the fee into the overall cost of the cruise? 

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