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Cruises Go Digital

Hands holding a smart phone on a cruise ship

Getty Images

The big lines are rolling out high-tech ways for passengers to navigate and connect.

The cruise ship of the future will be digitally enhanced: Passengers will be able to use their smartphones, tablets or smartwatches to do everything from tracking their grandkids to ordering a fruity cocktail for delivery anywhere on the ship.

All the major cruise lines — Carnival, Princess, Norwegian and other big names — are in various stages of rolling out apps that will eventually be able to do almost everything a human concierge might do (except perhaps carry your luggage).

Last year MSC Cruises introduced MSC for Me, an app with interactive screens set up throughout the ship. Passengers can use the app to check in, make dinner reservations, schedule activities, get directions around the ship and, if they’re parents or grandparents, find their kids — who are given a trackable bracelet. MSC is also offering a new waterproof wristband that works like the now-standard cruise card; it serves as a kind of ID and can be scanned to pay for drinks or open the stateroom door.

Luca Pronzati, MSC Cruises’ chief innovation officer, says, “Our vision was: How can we simplify the experience as the ships are getting bigger? How can we make it frictionless?”

Frictionless, of course, is the travel industry’s favorite term for "hassle-free."

MSC hopes to add other innovations in the coming years, according to Pronzati, including facial recognition technology that will allow passengers to approach the guest services desk, for instance, and have the crew member know their name, language spoken and favorite beer.

Royal Caribbean Cruises’ app, Excalibur, is similar but also allows passengers to adjust lighting in their cabins and track their luggage from pier to ship. And as long as passengers are carrying their devices with the app, their cabin doors will open automatically when they approach. The technology is in the testing phase, but the line hopes it will be available on all ships by the end of 2019.

Middle aged man holds medallion pin in his hand.

Jeffery Salter/Carnival Cruises

The small circular object is actually a wearable medallion being offered on Carnival and Princess cruises. The new technology can be set up with your personal information and used for onboard purchases.

Carnival, which includes Princess Cruises, also has a new app, plus a wearable medallion that works like MSC’s wristband, holding passenger info and scannable for onboard payments. You can keep it in your pocket or hang it around your neck as a pendant.

Of course, if none of this innovation floats your boat — some people are concerned about privacy or just want to unplug on their vacation — you can always opt out and do things the nontechnical way.  

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