Having just disembarked from the Carnival Splendor in Miami, I am feeling both excited about the amazing things I have seen - stunningly gorgeous stingrays amongst the clearest blue water and white sand in Grand Cayman and Jamaica - and a little excited to be away from the crowds and have my own space again.
I have a feeling that after a busy Christmas cruising season, many of you might feel the same way. Cruising is amazing in so many ways, but can be a bit frustrating at times when things do not run efficiently. On a relaxing holiday, I think we'd all like to avoid the long queues and get straight into the good stuff.
That is why I am especially intrigued about the latest gadget in cruising to be unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last week in Las Vegas.
The Ocean Medallion created by Carnival Cruise Line is a coin-sized disk that can be worn as a necklace or around your wrist and is designed to make your whole cruising experience a little more convenient. It connects with the paired Ocean Compass portal via thousands of sensors and screens that work with the system throughout the ship, signalling information in order to improve all aspects of your cruise.
From well before you board the boat, your particular preferences can be recorded and ready for staff to access via the Medallion, digitally signaling to your hosts who you are and just what kind of experience you would like to have. It is intended to make embarkation and navigation easier and faster, as well as provide a more convenient way to shop, eat, work out, gamble and communicate on the ship.
You will be able to pre-order drinks and food direct to your location on the ship and your waiter will know if you always start your meal off with a glass of Pinot Grigio. Without swiping a card, your stateroom will unlock as you come close to it and even turn on the air conditioning, allowing fuss free movement wherever you go.
The Ocean Medallion will be given free to each passenger and promises to go above and beyond the limitations of WOW bands, Royal Caribbean's version of a wearable smart device in the form of a wristband that thus far only allows for easy embark and disembarkation, room entry and payments (still a major improvement on the current card system).
Carnival Cruise Line is debuting the technology on its Princess Cruises fleet, keeping in mind the logistical challenge posed by fitting out enormous ships with thousands of sensors, and training staff on the new software. The â€œOcean Medallion Classâ€ ships will take some time to roll out, with the Regal Princess in November to be the first, followed by the Royal Princess and Caribbean Princess in 2018.
Modeled after Disney's Magic Band, the new system is an attempt to revolutionise an aspect of cruising that has largely been run the same way for many years - with that same age-old problem of providing fast and efficient service to thousands of passengers who have different preferences.
Of course with personalised service comes the question of privacy - how much do we really want these companies to know about us? And will telling a computer that I prefer Pepsi to Coke really help save me that much time? How sophisticated will this app get?
Chief Experience and Innovation Officer for Carnival Cruise Line John Padgett assures cruisers that each Ocean Medallion is tokenized and encrypted - with an encryption quality that tops industry standards. Additionally, the disk only signals to the cloud-based system that you are there, and doesn't actually transmit data (unlike credit cards which transmit data using the magnetic strip).
We can only wait and see how this plays out in reality, but I am optimistic that it's a promising start in moving towards a more efficient system. Time is a precious commodity and if it
saves a couple of vacation hours and general sanity from waiting in lines, you can sign me up.
What do you think? Will you get onboard an â€œOcean Medallion Classâ€ ship?