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Quantum to offer six times faster Internet than other cruise ships, allows streaming video, use of Facetime, Skype

Internet connection has been a problem, with new technology will allow six times faster connection than on any cruise ship in service at the moment. This will allow passengers to use Skype, Facetime, to stream video etc. while on the cruise, said Richard Fain, Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCCL), in a webcast presentation from the Meyer shipyard in Germany.

Internet will still be charged form, but the service will be faster and the rates lower than so far. All cruise members, 40,000 in all,  on all Royal Caribbean International ships will receive their own Windows tablet as the fast connection will be introduced on all ships of the company for the use of both passengers and crew. 

The smokestack of Quantum of the Seas can be lowered to allow passage under e.g. the Verrazano Bridge in New York to allow the ship to pass under it and with Smart Check in, the first inclination was to make it easer, but it was decided to eliminate it altogether. You can prepare all the boarding documents, including loading a selfie for embarkation documents, 

With the new technology on the Quantum class, the first day of the cruise will not involve long queues at check in, but to ensure boarding in 10 minutes from arrival to terminal to boarding.

However, the old system will be retained to those that feel uncomfortable to e.g. download their photo to the documents, Fain said.

Passengers will have an option to use Royal Caribbean app to follow the seven steps that their check in luggage goes through from delivery to staff at terminal to delivery to the cabin. The app will also allow passengers to manage their dining, spa booking etc other arrangements.

 

Quantum of the Seas to introduce robotic entertainment, eliminates check in counter in host of high tech firsts at sea

Tech-savvy modern travelers will be wowed by Royal Caribbean International's newest ship, Quantum of the Seas, which incorporates unprecedented levels of technology to amp up the vacation experience, the company said in a statement.

“Cruise vacations have a romantic past – but they also have a lively, adventurous, state-of-the-art future,” said Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd.  “We were determined to take the best advances in modern technology, turn them into shipboard WOWs, and take the frustration out of the vacation.  This ship’s combination of ease and flexibility would make a yoga instructor proud.”

Boatloads of bandwidth keep guests connected; easy-to-use systems expand guest choices and simplify schedules; and RFID technology speeds the boarding process and allows guests to keep track of their luggage every step of the way.

Altogether, customer-centered technology makes Quantum of the Sea six kinds of SMART:

SMART Check-In:  From sidewalk to ship in record time

A Quantum vacation begins at home, where guests can generate boarding documents online, upload their own ID photo, and receive digital boarding credentials.  By the time they arrive at the cruise terminal for departure, Royal Caribbean guests can go from “sidewalk to ship” in 10 minutes with no check-in counter, no forms to fill out and no lines to stand in. 

Guests will be able to track luggage in real time on their smartphones.  Luggage will be tagged curbside with RFID technology at drop-off, and guests can monitor their bags’ progress through key points en route to the stateroom.  On departure, the process is reversed.   

SMART Concierge: Flexibility at your fingertips

Quantum of the Seas will offer new RFID WOWband wristbands, which require only a simple tap to quickly navigate the ship, make onboard purchases, serve as the room key and more. 

Simplicity and efficiency are also at the heart of two new apps that put guests in charge of their cruise choices: Cruise Planner, which allows guests to research and book dining reservations, shore excursions, spa appointments and more before their vacation begins; and Royal iQ, available as a downloadable app and provided at freestanding iQ stations around the ship.

Royal iQ allows guests to manage details during the cruise, includes a convenient calendar that provides at-a-glance views of their program, and keep in touch with one another and home via phone and text capabilities.

“Every vacation minute counts, especially on Quantum of the Seas where there is so much to see and do,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Executive Vice President, Operations, Royal Caribbean International. “Guests can now tailor everything about their cruise in advance, so they can start enjoying their vacation the minute they step onboard.  In essence, they get back the first day of their cruise.” 

Taken together, these features take the company’s time-saving efforts to a new level,” Lutoff-Perlo said. “Every minute we can save our guests is another minute of their vacation they have to enjoy.”

SMART Connect: Downloads at the speed of modern life

Quantum of the Seas will operate with unprecedented bandwidth using satellites launched by tech partner O3b Networks.  With speeds that match fast broadband connections onshore, guests can be online 24/7, no matter what personal device they bring onboard.  Guests can watch streaming video, check email, share images on social media and enjoy face-to-face video conversations – even in the middle of the ocean.

“Even when they are getting away from it all on vacation, people want to be able to connect,” said Lutoff-Perlo.  “Our satellite network will make things possible at sea that could never have been done before, and will make all the difference in the way guests share their Royal Caribbean experience.”

In addition, Quantum’s connectivity makes it possible for one of the SeaPods in SeaPlex to become a live global video gaming suite where guests can enjoy Xbox Live and compete with other gamers worldwide. 

SMART Experiences: Shaking martinis and spinning screens

Technology also powers surprise-and-delight elements on Quantum of the Seas.  A brand new venue, Bionic Bar, is set to make waves with robots at center stage.  Guests place orders via tablets and then have fun watching robotic bartenders hard at work mixing cocktails.  

Robots drive another entertaining feature on Quantum of the Seas.  Two70 is home to a playful and agile troupe of six Roboscreens that stage surprise performances during every cruise, creating scenes while soaring and twisting solo, or uniting as one.  Guests will also experience Vistarama, floor-to-ceiling glass walls that transform into an expansive ambient surface that projects any scene, real or imagined, including the multidimensional performance spectacle, Starwater.

Quantum of the Seas will take advantage of technology in functional forms as well.  Guest staterooms are equipped with device-charging USB outlets, as well as energy efficient and environmentally friendly lighting systems. Interior accommodations are outfitted with Virtual Balconies that display real-time sights and sounds of the sea through 80-inch LED screens, ensuring every stateroom has a view.

SMART Service: Crew can connect better with guests – and with home.

The technology benefits of Quantum of the Seas extend to the ship’s crew.  Custom apps will allow crew members to keep better track of guests’ tastes and preferences, allowing staff to tailor their already remarkably personalized service to an even higher degree.  Whether a guest prefers gluten-free dining, early show seating, or shiatsu massage, the features of the smart ship allow crew members to anticipate every need.

And the ship’s remarkable capabilities give the company an opportunity to make life better for crew members too, since Royal Caribbean will present every crew member on Quantum of the Seas with a free, personal Microsoft tablet, with a suite of services and apps, that is theirs to keep. 

And as technology upgrades are made across the company’s fleet, every shipboard employee in the entire Royal Caribbean International fleet will also receive their own tablet – a total of 40,000 tablets.  

“The Royal Caribbean men and women who provide such great vacations are the real heroes of our fleet and these gifts demonstrate our appreciation in a tangible way,” Fain said. “This technology isn't only about giving our guests a better vacation – it’s also about giving our crew and their families a closer connection than we’ve ever been able to.” 

SMART Sustainability: Cleaner and greener

Technology has even played a part in making the ship more environmentally friendly.  Sophisticated computer modeling was used to reduce the vessel’s energy consumption with efficient hull configuration, engine design and energy saving devices. 

The ship has eliminated the use of incandescent bulbs; all lighting will be provided by low-energy LED or fluorescents.  Motion sensors even dim hallway lighting when no one is present. 

Cruise Business Commentary - Persistent perception problem highlights inadequacy of supply driven business model

“Clearly the hardware alone won’t be enough to dispel the myths of cruising," Stuart Leven, UK director of Royal Caribbean International was quoted by Travel Weekly as saying.

The cruise sector will be under increasing pressure to fill capacity unless consumers start considering a holiday at sea as on a par with regular land-based holidays, added Ben Bouldin, sales director of the same company in the UK, according to the same source.

We think this is hugely important.

When Cruise Business Review was launched almost a quarter of a century ago - the first issue came out in 1991 - this was the message we frequently heard: the industry needs to shrug off a dusty image of old ladies snoozing in libraries, wearing silly flowery hats. Thanks to some TV "reality" programmes, this may now have been confused further by an other extreme, with features on board life that few might called civilised. After all, the television in general and that in the UK in particular, seems to just want to "shock" its viewers.

However, that's beside the point.

The point, we think, is what Leven said, about hardware. That it alone is not enough to dispel myths about cruising.

We think that is probably the first admission, albeit an indirect one, by a senior industry executive in a very long that the industry's supply driven business model is due for a critical look. Talk to any senior cruise industry official and they will say that new ships will not cannibalise sales of cruising on their existing ships. But talk to a travel agent and you will hear a different story: "Everybody just wants to book on the latest ship," said one travel agent at an industry event.

However, we do not imply that the cruise executives are lying. Simply, we question whether older ships command the same yields as the latest one; after all, pricing is an efficient tool in triggering business.

However, when Susan Hooper was head of Royal Caribbean group's UK operations, she told an industry event that in her opinion, instead of using a supply driven business model, cruise lines should create the demand first and build the ships to meet that demand.

A report produced by Odo Maritime Research in cooperation with Cruise Business Review shows that both Carnival Corp & plc group and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCCL) had not, by the end of 2013, reached net yields seen before the financial crisis; that their combined net profits were down by almost half since the peak and only a fraction above the level of 2003. Yet they carried 77% more passengers in 2013 than a decade earlier - and the two groups control almost two thirds of all lower berths in the industry.

Obviously, factors beyond the control of the industry affect these figures too, such as the economic downturn that emerged in 2008 and from which source markets are recovering at varying paces. The Costa Concordia accident should not be forgotten either. However, the fact that the two leading cruise industry groups have been able to grow volumes but not profits in recent years support the view that new ships alone are not enough to remedy the industry's ills.

We think that the industry is in need of serious soul searching: it is building ever larger vessels, many of which are innovative and exciting.It is not, however, building anything that caters for those that prefer smaller ships with a quieter atmosphere than the giants, apart from the luxury end of the market. This is, in our opinion, seriously limiting the scope of products the industry can offer in the future, as many of the smaller ships currently in service are becoming old and have limited life left. A danger looms that cruising will soon be perceived as Benidorm-at-Sea, with reference to a crowded, mass market resort in Spain.

Finally, we think that the industry's heavy reliance on travel agents in retail feeds price driven purchasing - it is in their interest to obtain a commission, but from whom it comes is of lesser importance to them. They are also keen to offer deals. All this dilutes strength of brands and again drives commodisation of cruising: it would be detrimental to the cruise industry if price became virtually the only factor affecting consumer choice. This development, however, appears to be well on its way and it already is largely the case with airlines.

Changing conceptions will not happen by introducing new ships alone, no matter how innovative they might be. In our opinion, Royal Caribbean officials should be congratulated for making the admissions Travel Weekly reported; now the industry should launch a soul searching programme to work out how to put things right!

UK cruise sector “under pressure to fill capacity” unless conceptions change - report

The cruise sector will be under increasing pressure to fill capacity unless consumers start considering a holiday at sea as on a par with regular land-based holidays, a senior industry executive in the UK was quoted as saying.

Royal Caribbean International sales director Ben Bouldin issued the warning just days before taking trade partners to the shipyard in Germany where the line’s three new ships are being built, according to a daily news bulletin of Travel Weekly.

“Over the last few years the industry has struggled to grow the [UK] cruise market beyond 1.7 million people. This has to change if every line is to fulfill its aspirations – Royal Caribbean included – or else we’ll be really up against it.”

Industry challenges do not seem to be limited to the UK alone, however.

The combined 2013 net profits of Carnival Corp & plc and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCCL), parent company of Royal Caribbean International, were only slightly higher than the figure they reached in 2003 and down by almost half from the peak year 2007, according to Odo Maritime Research report on the cruise industry.

The total number of passengers the two groups carried was 77% higher in 2013 compared to 2003 and the two majors control about two thirds of all berths in the industry.

Norwegian Cruise Line, the industry’s number three, achieved net yields in 2013 that exceeded those it reached any time in the 10 year review period, while both Carnival group and RCCL still had not caught up with pre-crisis levels, the figures gathered by Odo Maritime Research show.

Royal Caribbean International is preparing to launch Quantum of the Seas in November, followed by sister ship Anthem of the Seas in spring 2015. The last named vessel will replace Independence of the Seas as the line’s principal ship in the UK next year

The line claims the two new vessels will begin to “change people’s perceptions of cruising” due to their technical and entertainment advances. But, taking a sideswipe at Princess Cruises, which recently allowed one of its ships to be featured in a reality TV show, Stuart Leven, Royal Caribbean UK director, cautioned.

“Clearly the hardware alone won’t be enough to dispel the myths of cruising, which unfortunately continue to be reconfirmed by others, if we’re to really open up our products to the broader land-based marketplace – the 28.3 million outside of those who cruise regularly,” he was quoted by Travel Weekly as saying.

Leven added: “We’ll be approaching things quite differently. We worked the social space hard during the recent Princess fly-on-the-wall documentary with the message ‘Cruising doesn’t have to be this way!’, and this is really just the start.”

Bouldin said: “Our two new ships will provide holidays like no other and, as such, the strapline we’re using for Anthem is ‘This changes everything’. There is no aspect of our business we are not reviewing to improve for both our trade partners and our consumers.”

Tallink issues profit warning after sharp deterioration in second quarter and first half results

AS Tallink Grupp, the Estonian cruise ferry company, has warned that its full year results would be weaker than those in 2013 on competition and demand woes.

“Due to increased competition and continuously weak Nordic economic environment the Management expects the results to be weaker for the 2014 financial year compared to the last year,” the company said in a statement. 

Tallink unveiled a second quarter net profit of €6.1 million, down from €9.3 million in the same period last year. Revenue fell to €246.4 million from €249.0 million. For the first half of 2014, the group’s net loss widened to €17.3 million from €8.3 million on revenues of €434.7 million, down from €439.6 million a year earlier.

In the full year 2013, the group made a net profit of €43.3 million on revenues of €941.8 million.

“In the second quarter the Estonia-Finland route showed a slight decline with passengers numbers decreasing by 2.7%, cargo units transported increased by 6.6%, the sales numbers remained on the last year’s level,” the company said.

Tallink’s operations were affected by the shuttle vessel Star being out of operation for 68 trips in April, undergoing car deck ramp repairs. The ship was only partially replaced during that time. In the same time the competitors on the route have increased the number of departures.

“In the second quarter the segment result for the Finland-Sweden segment was €4.9 million lower than last year. The decline came from the Turku-Stockholm route, where revenue decreased due to the vessels Galaxy and Baltic Princess being out of operations for scheduled maintenance works and passengers’ spending showing weaknesses in an overall weak macroeconomic development,” Tallink ststed.

Meanwhile the recently upgraded cruise ferry Silja Serenade on the Helsinki- Stockholm route has delivered positive developments. Higher customer satisfaction and on-board spending levels are confirming that the investment was successful and has a positive effect to the business in the longer run.

The group’s vessels carried nearly 2.4 million passengers,which is 0.5% more compared to the same period last year. The number of cargo units transported decreased by 1.0% and the number of passenger vehicles transported increased by 0.7% for the same period as last year.

Viking Star