Forecasting the Cruise Industry's High-Tech Future

On the new Star Wars area within Disney Dream’s Oceaneer Club (seen here in rendering form), kids will virtually pilot the Millennium Falcon through hyperspace.
On the new Star Wars area within Disney Dream’s Oceaneer Club (seen here in rendering form), kids will virtually pilot the Millennium Falcon through hyperspace.

Virtual Journeys, interactive videos, 4D and IMAX theaters, and sports simulators are among the high-tech touches your cruise clients will see in the near future. At cruise3sixty in April, Travel Agent tested Azamara Club Cruises’ new 360-degree virtual reality destination experience. Using a virtual reality headset and headphone, we watched several of the new experiences created with Oculus Rift Technology — touring the onboard amenities of an Azamara ship, soaring on a zip line through a Costa Rican rainforest and taking a moonlit carriage ride in Cartagena, Colombia. Our take? The experiences were amazingly realistic.

Azamara, who partnered with VERB Interactive and Total Cinema 360 to conceptualize and produce these 3DI virtual journeys, will offer them to travel agents to view at upcoming trade shows and industry events. Agents can direct clients to www.azamara3di.com for a similar experience. Retailers also can share the videos with contacts on social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+). More videos will be added this year.

Other recent cruise industry technological developments? Disney Cruise Line has announced that it will create a new Star Wars area within Disney Dream’s Oceaneer Club (for kids three to 12) during the fall 2015 drydock. Children will virtually pilot the Millennium Falcon through hyperspace and trigger light-speed jumps to different galaxy locations. They’ll also watch episodes of the new Disney XD animated series, “Star Wars Rebels,” on a large screen or join the virtual action at gaming stations.

Also in the Oceaneer Club, Disney will add a high-tech interactive space based on the Disney Infinity video game offering more fun for kids. In the Disney Infinity Toy Box area, children will play together using virtual experiences and immersive activities; it will have an interactive floor. The complete set of Disney Infinity character figures will be on display for creative inspiration and available for gameplay. Kids visiting this special room — found only on the Disney Dream — will be able to unlock exclusive content that they can continue to enjoy when playing Disney Infinity at home.

In April 2016, Carnival Vista will launch with the cruise industry’s first IMAX Theater.
In April 2016, Carnival Vista will launch with the cruise industry’s first IMAX Theater.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) recently launched its own new multimedia platform — CLIA Cruise TV — at videos.cruising.org. This new resource for travel agents features video content on cruise travel. Agents can also expect to see videos showcasing industry leaders and cruise trends. In addition, at the recent cruise3sixty at Port Everglades, FL, CLIA unveiled eight new training and professional development e-learning courses for travel agents. They went live on the CLIA website www.cruising.org in late April. The courses, which allow agents to take e-training 24-7, offer business, niche, geography, sales and professional development content.

If your clients are into big screens, Carnival Cruises Line will have a really big one in April 2016. Its new Carnival Vista will launch with the cruise industry’s first IMAX Theater. Soaring three decks high, this 182-seat venue will show the latest Hollywood blockbusters, family favorites, IMAX classics and IMAX documentary content. It’s part of the Carnival Multiplex, which also includes Thrill Theater, a multi-dimensional experience where seats move back and forth and side to side and viewers are sprayed with water and bubbles to make them feel like they’re part of the movie.

To connect with other guests or learn about all the onboard activities, clients might try Norwegian Cruise Line’s iConcierge. It’s being rolled out fleetwide. The line is also updating its Cruise Norwegian app to make pre-cruise planning more seamless. Electronic touch screens are being added to ships across the fleet (not just on the newest ships), so guests can find their desired venue, view activity schedules, make dinner and show reservations and more. Screens should be in place by spring 2016 across the fleet.

Among onboard techno perks for Costa CruisesCosta Deliziosa are a 4D Cinema and both golf and Grand Prix simulators. The ship is repositioning to Port Everglades, FL, in winter 2015-16 on a 10-night itinerary to the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Honduras and Cozumel or Costa Maya, Mexico.

Technology is also helping agents be more productive in booking cruises. Just launched is MSC Cruises’ robust new booking engine, MSC Book, designed to streamline the booking process. Agents can book a cruise in four steps: selecting the cruise and stateroom (with the ability to select up to five staterooms); finding flights and hotels; adding pre-paid special services such as spa, shore excursions, specialty dining and beverage packages; and checking out.

Costa Cruises’ 2,826-passenger Costa Deliziosa includes a golf simulator.
 
Costa Cruises’ 2,826-passenger Costa Deliziosa includes a golf simulator.

MSC Book can also save clients’ itineraries as favorites so that they can quickly be viewed later. Agents can receive a quick quote or quick option at any point during the booking process. In addition, they can find the best cruise options with a search by price range, destination, departure date or embarkation port.

Users can also search for a client’s MSC Club loyalty status by name or MSC Club number. Agents can compare prices, dates, itineraries and any additional items included in the price for up to three cruises on a single page and print or e-mail to clients.

Want to learn how it all works? A series of 18 roadshows — running through September — will focus on training agents on MSC Book. Cities being visited are: Albany, NY; Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Charlotte, NC; Chicago (Schaumburg, IL); Dallas; Detroit (Troy, MI); Fort Lauderdale; Houston; Nassau County (Long Island, NY); Lancaster, PA; Miami; New Brunswick, NJ; Orlando; Scranton, PA; Tampa and West Palm Beach, FL. For more information, visit msccruisesagent.com/msc-book.

Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara launched their new Espresso reservations system earlier this year. To date, more than 6,000 U.S. and Canadian travel agents have already been trained on Espresso, which is replacing CruiseMatch, the old reservations system.

During the transition phase, agents will still have access to CruiseMatch. However, it’s important agents who sell these brands transition now to Espresso, as after August 3, CruiseMatch will be totally discontinued. You can find out more at www.cruisingpower.com.

For agents and consumers alike, Oceania Cruises has unveiled a new website with a fresh design, simplified navigation, interactive deck plans and faster page loads. Consumers can utilize a My Account area with a new “My Saved Cruises” section detailing all upcoming booked voyages and future cruises under consideration.

The Travel Agent Center tab at www.oceaniacruises.com/agent has a refreshed dashboard filled with helpful tools and additional functionality.

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