“Technology has no defined boundaries,” Arnold Donald, CEO, Carnival Corporation, told reporters during a Thursday afternoon conference call about the company’s new cutting-edge Ocean Medallion technology program, launching this November on Princess Cruises.
Experts say the new proprietary, patent-pending technology has the potential to revolutionize the guest experience in all of hospitality, not just cruising. Carnival Corp.’s new wearable medallion intuitively personalizes the guest experience, helping the client make the most of every moment onboard a ship and in the specific ways they love.
A small round medallion will be worn around the guest’s neck, or it can be placed in a pocket or purse. It will tap into sensors around the ship and will do everything from opening a stateroom door, to tracking where kids are on the ship, to ordering a favorite drink and having it delivered at a particular time, or to personalizing an entertainment experience.
“It is said that great things come in small packages and that is a claim that Ocean Medallion can absolutely live up to,” noted Donald. While he believes guests are simply going to love it, he said the company wants to see how it resonates with Princess’ guests: “If they do love it, every brand will be clamoring for it.”
Agents can read about the initial announcement and Princess’ announcement here. During a Thursday afternoon Q&A with journalists, Donald, along with Jan Swartz, Princess’ president, and John Padgett, chief innovation and experience officer, Carnival Corp., provided a bit more detail.
Why was Princess selected as a launch brand?: Donald said Princess Cruises was chosen as the launch brand because it was first to request the program. “Jan was the first one in the very, very early stages to know that she wanted Princess to be first,” Donald said, noting that “she stepped up first and she was rewarded first."
“When I first saw the new concept, I completely fell in love with how it will further enhance cruise vacations for our guests, and how it will give our crew a new and powerful way to provide an even higher level of service, ” said Swartz.
Regal Princess will debut the new Ocean Medallion program in November, and Caribbean Princess and Royal Princess will follow early next year.
Can you track people off the ship -- if they're late coming back onboard and about to miss the ship? Or, can it help if they go overboard?
Bottom line, the technology uses sensor based technology so wherever the line has sensors, it can track. Private island destinations, for example, eventually will all have sensors and be able to provide the same experience ashore, Donald said.
But destinations are not so equipped, keeping in mind that this new technology is a sensor-based not GPS system. In addition, Donald said that the technology, while not designed for safety, is possibly another tool for that. But the ships have cameras for “man overboard” and other such situations.
How will you maintain security of guest accounts?
The most important thing about Medallion, unlike hotel magnetic key cards or (still many) credit cards, is that it does not contain any personal information. The Medallion is simply a license plate with a meaningless number. And that meaningless number is encrypted. It’s the highest level of encryption.
On the platform/enterprise side, “we’re very confident this represents the highest level of security of any type of guest engagement platform that exists anywhere in the travel industry,” said Padgett.
In addition, when guests use their medallion, there is “dual factor authentication” at every point. So it’s not just the medallion that utilized, it’s the guest’s security photo, which is matched to the transaction.
What if the medallion is lost or stolen?
Guests will be able to go down to the purser’s desk as they do now to request a new Ocean Medallion, but they also will have other more immediate options like talking to an appropriate crew member who will use the new technology to report that and assist the guest.
The process is expected to be just as quick as replacing a lost or stolen key card is now.
What is the role of the travel advisor, and how will travel agents learn more about the technology?
“We believe this is going to further strengthen our relationship with travel agents and really elevate the level of service we can provide to them,” said Swartz, who added that advisors will be acknowledged throughout the experience and the onboard cruise sales facilities will be at “a whole new level”… with great ease of the guest to rebook.
More than 60 of the company’s top travel partners were on hand in Las Vegas for the big announcement. “They see this as raising [the guest experience] to a new level,” says Donald.
What about the booking process? Any changes? “It will – in some ways – be business as usual [for advisors] in terms of how they actually make the booking with our electronic tools or speaking with someone in our call center,” noted Swartz.
That said, while today, advisors can access a guest’s Cruise Personalizer on behalf of the guests, "they will also be able to access Ocean Compass on behalf of the guest," says Swartz. "It’s going to feel all very similar to today except elevated in a much easier way.”
She said the line plans a “tremendous number of trade Webinars over the next year, sharing examples of Medallion moments,” and helping bring the experience to light in concrete examples.
Plus a Princess Academy course on the technology will help agents understand the process and technological benefits.
Is it mandatory to use the Ocean Medallion?
For guests who may be personally wary of any technology or who have privacy concerns, yes, they can simply opt for the old-fashioned key card approach.
“We’re not forcing it [the medallion] on anyone,” Donald stressed, but having said that, he emphasizes that the company will be surprised after a bit of time if everyone doesn’t prefer the new technology for how it improves the guest experience.
Look for more on the “ins” and “outs” of Ocean Medallion in Monday’s cruise newsletter.