The new Ocean Medallion smart device being introduced on Carnival Corporation ships to replace key cards is not some kind of ‘Big Brother’ technology, Princess Cruises’ vice president for UK and Europe said tonight.
Answering questions at a press conference, Tony Roberts said the wearable disc – which allows guests to stroll through check-in, open cabin doors and pay for drinks – would not be used to invade passengers’ privacy as they are automatically tracked around the ship.
The medallion, which works with onboard kiosks, stateroom TVs and crew tablet computers, also lets users make restaurant and spa reservations, book shore excursions, view photographs, find their way around, and locate family members and friends.
Mr Roberts said it was ‘a great innovation that doesn’t exist anywhere else’ and ‘the future of the holiday experience’. It will debut on Regal Princess on November 13 this year before being rolled out to other Princess Cruises ships then fellow Carnival Corp brands.
Here were his answers to some of the key questions that have arisen since news of the device broke this week:
Is this some sort of Big Brother attempt to track what passengers are doing every minute of the day?
‘Guests can set the medallion in a safe mode that allows paying for goods, keyless entry into the rooms and entry on to the ship in the same way that a cruise card would today, without that personal data-gathering process.’
What will Carnival Corp do with the marketing data it receives?
‘It will work in exactly the same way as marketing data does today. If people opt out, or set their preferences that they don’t want to be marketed to, of course we’ll respect that. But we want to use the information about the guest experience to serve them better.’
Will guests have the option not to have a medallion?
‘You need to have a medallion but you can operate it in safety mode.’
How will Carnival Corp recoup the investment in this new system?
‘We want, by exceeding guest expectations, to grow the market for cruise holidays. Once people learn about this guest experience, the personalisation on offer, the ability it gives them to maximise their holiday time, I think there will be high demand for cruises that offer this.’
Will children get their own medallions?
‘Yes – and it will help parents keep an eye on what they are up to. It’s a great bit of technology.’
What if guests don’t want to be tracked by their friends and family?
‘The ability to locate people is one of the safety features, it’s an interesting scenario that someone wouldn’t want to be found but ultimately people [in their family] will be able to see where they are. I’m not sure we’ll be able to disable that, but perhaps that is something we should check.’
Will the crew be made to carry medallions to track what they are doing?
Will passengers receive a new medallion for every cruise?
‘The medallion will be particular to that cruise and have the cruise date and the ship etched into it. It will arrive before and you will be able to keep it after the cruise. If you book another cruise you will get a new medallion.’
What happens if you lose it during a cruise?
‘It will be replaced in the same way as a cruise card is.’
You say it is free but how much are the wristbands and pendants?
‘The bit that everybody gets, and is included in their cruise price, is the medallion itself. Guests will have the option to select the accessories they want, such as a wristband or key chain. There will be a charge for those things or they’ll be able to buy them on board. But I don’t have the information yet on how much they will cost.’
How quick will check-in be now?
‘The idea is that you do all the admin at home – scan your passport and add the information we normally collect at check-in and then the guest can walk up, be greeted by a crew member carrying a tablet computer, and walk on board the ship. Of course, there will still be security desks and bag checks but the check-in will be a simple greeting.’
How will the medallion be used to enter staterooms?
‘You will simply need to have the medallion in your pocket. There’s no waving it around over a sensor or anything like that.’
What happens if the system fails and people can’t get into their rooms?
‘We have failsafes and back-ups which allow us to manage those things manually.’
Will there still be key cards to operate cabin lights?
‘No, the cabin will know you are there.’
What about older people and those who are unfamiliar with technology?
‘You don’t need to have your own tablet or your own personal device to access this, the crew can help you with it while you’re on board and help you buy and book things. You’ll also be able to use the system via the TV screen in your cabin and the interactive portals around the ship.’
How will it affect safety and evacuation?
‘We will know, without doing roll calls, if people have attended muster, if there are still people on board in their cabins, and that sort of thing.’
Will it detract from the personal service guests expect from crew, who will now know their names and preferences without having to remember them?
‘What we hope is that it will give the crew more time to do what they do best, which is serve the guests.’
When will other Carnival Corp brands such as P&O Cruises and Cunard be converted to medallions?
‘I would expect other Princess ships to be fitted out within the next three years. There are no firm plans yet for the other brands.’
To read my original story about the medallions, please click here