Princess Cruises hosted agents and media for a tour of its newly OceanMedallion-enabled ship Crown Princess in Southampton, the first UK-based vessel to gain the technology. TTG senior reporter Tom Parry went along to see the gadget in action.
“The technology on this ship is the most advanced by far of any cruise ship in the world and, quite honestly, any type of land-based vacation experience I have ever seen.”
It is a rather big statement from John Padgett, Carnival Corporation’s chief experience and innovation officer and mastermind behind OceanMedallion, to begin our day onboard Crown Princess, but he radiates an equally strong confidence in his creation to match it.
The wearable technology – first revealed by Carnival chief executive Arnold Donald in January 2017 – is now available to ex-UK customers onboard Crown, based in Southampton this summer.
“Medallion offers all of those things you never knew you needed but you will miss them when they are not there and it really does enhance your experience,” Tony Roberts, vice-president UK and Europe, tells me ahead of our tour.
“All the things that we have come to expect around personalisation from the likes of Netflix and Amazon, Medallion works in a similar way – it gets to know your preferences and tailors things to how you like them.”
He estimates by this time next year, following the launch of Medallion-enabled new ships Sky Princess and Enchanted Princess (the latter in Southampton next June), the number of agents to have experienced OceanMedallion will be “in the thousands”.
“John’s right – this is probably the most technically advanced ship in the world right now,” Roberts adds. “We have the best Wi-Fi at sea – but it is not just the technology. It is a whole ecosystem and lots of elements around service that are woven together.”
With excitement high, we begin a roughly two-hour tour which takes us to different areas of the ship and demonstrates Medallion's various innovations.
In the Wheelhouse Bar we are given a taste (figuratively speaking) of one of the platform's more heavily publicised features – food and drink delivery.
We watch a mock-up scenario as a “customer” chooses a drink through Medallion's Ocean Now service and, after seeing how within just a handful of minutes the beverage is selected, ordered and delivered, it's easy to understand why Padgett describes the function as "Uber-style service".
Even from a short demonstration you see how the service would go down a storm with guests – and a certain TTG journalist – who may not be keen to leave their lounger to queue at a busy bar.
Medallion's Guest View programme also helps crew to “almost instantly” know a guest's preferences based on the digital profile they have created.
Next up, we receive a demonstration of one of the many interactive wall portals onboard – which you imagine will help to usher in an end to reams of printed paper to compile cruising's traditional cruise compass.
Using the screens, guests can choose different activities and events happening throughout their cruise and bookmark them to form a more personalised programme.
The screens can also be used to play games, should the mood take you.
Next to the portal is one of the ship's Ocean Compass screens – making it easier to locate family and friends through real-time tracking and a 3D deck plan.
In a stateroom, Padgett shows us how, through your TV, guests can do everything from ordering a drink to being able to access the line's range of “Ocean Original” programmes – and there's a nifty extra feature too.
Guests using platforms such as Apple TV can even watch a programme in their home, pause it and board their ship, and later resume the show onboard at the exact point they reached while sitting on their own sofa.
While inside a cabin we are also shown another handy tool for crew – allowing stateroom attendants to see which passengers are in their rooms and cut out any unnecessary disturbances or awkward moments.
It‘s on the ship‘s bridge where another, perhaps less talked-about but hugely important, aspect of OceanMedallion is shown to us – how the technology can help enhance safety procedures.
Captain Domenico Lubrano shows how, in the event of an emergency, his crew will know exactly where all guests are and their proximities to the correct muster stations, as well as who is in the right lifeboat if they are needed all through a state-of-the-art system utilising OceanMedallion's tracking technology.
“It will really help us to optimise the time of any situation and gives us more opportunity to reduce the chance of a potentially dangerous situation from escalating – you can find out what the problem is quicker and deal with it more efficiently,” he tells us.
“I have been at sea since 1981 and this is the most amazing thing I have seen.”
Despite OceanMedallion only currently being active onboard a handful of Princess ships, it is clearly already becoming an important part of the experience, as Roberts informs me.
“We are seeing people seeking out cruises that have OceanMedallion activated and we are seeing people come back again and again to use it.
“When I was onboard Caribbean Princess earlier this year I spoke to a couple who had booked seven further cruises for that ship. I asked if OceanMedallion was the reason they had decided to come back.
“They said it wasn’t the only reason but now they have tried it, if they didn’t have it on their next cruise, they would really miss it.”
After a highly impressive introduction to the world of OceanMedallion, you feel it won't be too long until this becomes a trend.