Princess Cruises is proud of their MedallionClass technology and are pushing it out across their fleet. Newer ships like Enchanted and Discovery are being built exclusively with MedallionClass in mind. This technology has great potential on top of the many things it can already do. But what exactly is MedallionClass and how does it affect your cruise experience? In this article, I’ll break down the different aspects of MedallionClass: what it can do, what works well, and what doesn’t work so well.
What is MedallionClass?
At its most basic, MedallionClass is Princess’ proprietary “internet of things”. That is to say it is Princess’ hardware, supported by their app, underpinned by their internet. Still confused? That’s okay – let’s dig into the details.
The central piece of hardware is the OceanMedallion disc, which is little bigger than a quarter. This disc replaces your cruise key card and is used in all the same ways: scanning on and off the ship, opening your stateroom, and paying for purchases. What differentiates the disc from a key card is that it does all these things from a distance – it unlocks your stateroom door from about 10 feet away as you approach and it tells crew members your information when you order food or drinks, avoiding the need to hand them a card or tell them your stateroom number.
Vendors in various ports are even partnered with Princess to be able to take payment via your OceanMedallion disc. This means you don’t have to carry cash or cards, though it can limit your shopping selection. Princess has recently introduced this feature and offers an onboard credit as “cash back” on your in-port purchases using your OceanMedallion Disc.
The disc also has a locator function. This can be used to find travel mates (no more “let’s meet at the starboard aft entrance to the buffet at noon”), or for crew to find you to deliver food or beverages. One can imagine this could be life-saving in an emergency situation as well, allowing crew to quickly find people anywhere on the ship.
The second piece of hardware guests will regularly interact with are the onboard portals or touchscreens found at the elevator banks around the ships. These portals have a variety of uses, both practical and just-for-fun.
On the practical side, portals display interactive deck plans of the ship. You can browse by deck, or search for specific venues, then tell the portal to give you directions from your location to where you need to go. If you scan your OceanMedallion disc at the portal, you have more personalized options. For example, you can select an option to take you to your stateroom. Other portals display the ship’s activities for the day, with the option of bookmarking those you’re interested in attending. When in port, you can even browse port attractions through the portals.
On the just-for-fun side, you can scan your OceanMedallion disc and play casual games, casino games, or customize your Tagalong, a sea animal avatar. There’s a leaderboard for the casual games so you can compete against other guests for the high score. One game even takes you
on an adventure from portal to portal around the ship, helping to acquaint you with the ship’s layout (or keep the kids occupied for an hour or so).
The MedallionClass App
As cool as it is to unlock your stateroom door from 10 feet away, the heart of MedallionClass technology is the app. With a large majority of the world’s population carrying around smartphones, a robust app to enhance the cruise experience seems like a no-brainer. So, what does the app do, exactly?
Pre-cruise, the app is where you’ll enter in and upload all your travel information and preferences:
● Your passport info, other required documents, personal information, payment preferences, and all other items that you would otherwise fill out on the cruise line’s website. You can also set personal preferences such as dietary restrictions, bed configuration, accessibility options, and favorite activities.
Once aboard the ship, the app’s uses greatly expand:
● Watch the safety briefing video from anywhere, then simply go to your muster station and scan in with your OceanMedallion disc to complete your muster drill.
● Order food or beverages through OceanNow to be delivered directly to your location wherever you are on the ship (with some exceptions such as when dining in a specialty restaurant and ordering off a different restaurant’s menu).
● The app has interactive deck plans, allowing you to find your way from anywhere on the ship to your destination.
● You can view and RSVP to daily activities, creating reminders when it’s time to head to the venue.
● Port guides are available in the app and allow you to book and review shore excursions.
● Check your onboard account and review purchase history, as well as plan for future cruises with Princess.
● Entertainment options are embedded into the app as well. You can watch Princess’ selection of TV or movies right on your mobile device, or play casual games such as trivia or word puzzles.There are also casino games available in the app, allowing real-money wagers from anywhere on board. The app even turns your device into a controller for gameplay in group competition on the Movies Under the Stars screen.
● Finally, if you need assistance, there is a chat function that connects you to the crew. This means you don’t have to wait in line at the Guest Services desk, but instead resolve your issue whilst relaxing in your favorite onboard venue.
Princess is likely to add more functionality to the app as new opportunities arise and more guest feedback is collected, but it is already a powerful tool for streamlining the cruise experience.
How It All Connects
The app and all its functions are supported by MedallionNet, Princess’ internet service. To use the app, guests must connect to MedallionNet using the instructions in each stateroom. This does not mean that guests must purchase an internet package – connecting to MedallionNet is complimentary for all guests in order to use the app, but is restricted to only that function.
What Works Well with MedallionClass Technology
The OceanMedallion disc works brilliantly for all its functions. Scanning on and off the ship is a simple tap, the stateroom door unlocks upon approach, and all purchases on board happen with ease. The disc is also more convenient than the old key card system in that it never has to leave your pocket and can simply reside in one of several wearables that Princess offers such as lanyards, wrist-straps, bracelets, or clip-ons.
The portals work well for wayfinding and for checking in on what is happening around the ship. The touchscreens allow you to expand and rotate deck plans to discern your exact path to your destination or, when viewing daily activities, to scroll through the hours of the day or through the itinerary. The casual games on the portals are easy entertainment while you wait for travel companions to join you for your daily plans.
Some aspects of the app work very well. Ordering food and beverages is convenient for a poolside lunch without having to leave your lounger. The locator function is handy to find travel mates – my husband and I were separated during sailaway but were able to find each other thanks to the app. Along with that, the interactive deck plans are useful for navigation. The app’s ability to turn your device into a game controller for gameplay on the big screen is stunning. I played one game on the pool deck competing with other guests and was surprised at the real-time interaction between everyone’s devices and the game.
What Doesn’t Work So Well
For all its functionality, the app has a long way to go. To be fair, the app has to work across multiple kinds of devices and operating systems which presents a technical challenge. Some guests use an Apple operating system, others an Android OS; some have cutting-edge brand-name devices, while others have a no-frills off-brand device, and everything in between. Engineering the app to work across all these devices is likely an enormous challenge for the Princess IT team.
Be patient when filling out your pre-cruise information and uploading documents. The process (which can only be completed in the app) has glitches. There is poor design of form input fields, form errors are not clearly highlighted (leaving you to guess where you filled out something incorrectly), and form restrictions are too sensitive (eg., accidentally adding a space after my name meant the form field was considered invalid).
The app layout is clunky – rather than simple labels such as “Order Food” or “Play Games”, it uses unhelpful names like “OceanView”, “JourneyView”, or “OceanReady.” Finding what you need can be difficult. There is a steep learning curve.
Functionality is spotty. The interactive deck plans, for example, worked very well for wayfinding, but only worked about half the time. Many times it simply stalled out on a loadscreen.
For all its shortcomings, MedallionClass technology does make the cruise experience more convenient and streamlined and I’m definitely a fan. Whether Princess will be able to fix the bugs remains to be seen. One thing is for certain – MedallionClass is here to stay.