Cruise ships have grown to, essentially, floating cities, the home to 6,000 paying passengers. Royal Caribbean is the owner of the world’s 3 largest passenger ships and has invested heavily to make these vessels “smart ships,” wired from stem to stern to enhance the customer experience and deliver on the brand promise: “We push the limits of the imagination….We call it the Royal AdvantageSM…the most innovative ships, exciting worldwide destinations and best personalized service to each and every guest.” 
There is one additional—often caricatured—piece to RC’s brand promise: endless indulgence. While RC never baldly states its intention to ply its guests with food and drink, its technology choices make clear that access to comestibles is of top importance.
Indeed, as waistlines and ship lengths expand, technology has allowed RC to deliver highly efficient service and, at its best, personalized magic.
Each ship has 2,000 crewmembers, and RC uses digital systems to coordinate and manage this workforce, finding efficiencies along the way.
The size of RC’s ships is a challenge. With upwards of 16 floors and lengths topping 4 football fields , walking from cabins to central control areas to workstations can take 15-30 minutes per crewmember, time which could be better spent helping guests, cooking shrimp, or swabbing decks. That’s why RC overhauled and decentralized its shift processes, installing an integrated IT solution and arming its staff with computerized workstations and tablets. Whereas crewmembers used to “punch in” at the start of their shifts and pick-up work orders at a single central office, they can now head straight to their work areas, track time electronically, receive work orders, report completions, and move to their next tasks independently. 
The greatest efficiencies have been in food safety proceses. RC complies with standards set out by the U.S. Public Health Service Act, which aims at preventing food-borne illness. The industry is well-known for—and extremely damaged by—horror stories of norovirus infecting ships, so delivering safe food is a priority.
Traditionally, the process was labor-intensive: employees had to use a thermometer to manually check the temperature of food and storage areas, with one full round of inspections clocking in at 5 hours. RC partnered with tech firms to adopt handheld monitoring devices that measure temperature and integrate with software to create compliance reports. Employees can also easily check previously-recorded temperatures of coolers, and receive an automatic alert and suggested actions when coolers breakdown.
These digital solutions have reduced food safety checklisting time from 5 to 2 hours. 
“Limits of Imagination”
RC has deployed technology to make the guest’s logistical experience as painless as possible. Using an app called Royal iQ, guests can track their luggage arrival, book dinner reservations, and navigate the activity schedule. 
RC has also introduced the use of “WOWbands,” silicon bracelets that use radio-frequency technology to let passengers unlock cabins, purchase drinks and merchandise, and confirm reservations with a simple tap. These tech wearables aim to replace the too-easy-to-lose hotel keycards. 
Further, RC has cleverly deployed technology to deliver magical experiences—the Royal Advantage—for its guests. While the company employs the usual grab bag of Big Brother tricks—distributing food inventory based on head-counting cameras in the ceilings of dining rooms , for example—it also invests heavily in attractions guests will see nowhere else. RC built the world’s first Bionic Bar—robots that take orders by iPad and produce 2 mixed drinks per minute . If guests prefer a little more autonomy, there’s the $65/day “Ultimate” beverage: each “Ultimate” guest receives a cup with a radio-frequency chip in its base, which activates a self-serve drink machine that gives access to a hundred different soft-drink combinations and flavorings from across the world. The machine also automatically orders refills for itself when flavorings run low. 
Perhaps most impressively, RC has created “virtual balconies” for rooms without a view: floor-to-ceiling LED screens feature live footage from around the ship and speakers pipe in “natural sounds” so guests buried deep in the bowels of these behemoth boats can take in the surrounding ocean. 
RC should use technology to expose guests to the engineering achievements of the very ships they are on. Guests would love to know more about the advanced technology that go into the navigation and running of such a huge operation, and “virtual balconies” could let guests experience what it’s like to stand at the helm.
Operationally, RC could mandate all cross-trained service workers to wear real-time trackers so that they can be redistributed if there is a surge in guests wishing to dine at one particular restaurant or to take in one attraction. Long waits or limited reservations could become a thing of the past with a such flexible, mobile, and trackable workforce.
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 Royal Caribbean, “The Royal Advantage.” http://www.royalcaribbean.com/contentSitelet.do?pagename=royal_advantage_main
 USA Today, “Five Facts About Cruise Ships.”
 Microsoft, “Customer Stories: Royal Caribbean.”
 Royal Caribbean, “Previewing Harmony of the Seas: Technology.”
 Royal Caribbean, “Royal Caribbean WOWbands: What You Need to Know.”
 Conde Nast Traveler, “How Does Mega Cruise Ship Source, Store, and Prepare All That Food?”
 Royal Caribbean, “Bionic Bar Powered by Makr Shakr.”
 New Yorker, “Floating Feasts.”