From Selfie Check-Ins to AI Assistants: How Mobile Apps are Redefining Cruise Hospitality

Cruise tourism is evolving rapidly as operators adapt to changing demographics and their desire for unique experiences. Younger generations, especially Millennials and Gen Z, are choosing cruises as their preferred vacation, seeking heightened personalization. 

How mobile technologies help cruise companies meet these demands and stay competitive? Together with Denis Severyuk, CEO and co-founder of HotelFriend, we’ll try to explore the ways mobile apps are transforming the guest experience in the cruise industry.

How Mobile Apps are Redefining Cruise Hospitality
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Mobile Hospitality Takes Center Stage

In today’s digital era, mobile technology is growing in significance within the travel industry. According to Statista, the global revenue of travel apps is projected to increase by 17 percent in 2023, reaching nearly 400 million U.S. dollars. 

Major cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean International, have recognized the power of mobile devices as an indispensable tool for guests. Smartphones are the one device passengers never forget, so top cruise lines refocus their efforts on apps. 

  • Royal Caribbean’s app, equipped with a virtual concierge powered by artificial intelligence, offers a wide range of features. Their app allows passengers to check in with a selfie, lock doors, make payments, and access personalized services. It also helps customers navigate around the ship and give them personalized suggestions on things to do on board.
  • Celebrity Cruises has also embraced mobile technology to revolutionize the guest experience. The Celebrity Edge App, launched on its cutting-edge ship, lets guests use the app to control their room settings, including door access and thermostat adjustments. 

The integration of mobile technology not only enhances the guest’s stay but also sets a new standard for innovation and differentiation within the industry. As the rising role of mobile tech continues to shape the future of cruise tourism, passengers can look forward to seamless interactions and unparalleled convenience on their next cruise adventure.

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Empowering, Delighting, and Creating Brand Advocates

Passengers, especially younger ones, are all digitally connected. They expect instantaneous information access and a high degree of customization while they travel. 

Their main desire is to get a variety of experiences and find ways to make each day unique. What they also expect is connectivity between multiple aspects of their trip, including ground transport, port hotels, and excursions. The influence of hotel industry and other land-based experiences, such as theme parks, contribute to these high requirements.

According to Deloitte’s “Cruise Customer Experience Survey”, there are five key elements influencing passenger experience: Engage Me, Hear Me, Know Me, Empower Me, and Delight Me. These factors are consistent across the travel, leisure, and hospitality industries.  

But when it comes to cruises, Empower Me and Delight Me exert a disproportionate influence. Passengers want to feel empowered to shape their own experiences and be delighted by unique moments that exceed their expectations. 

Experience is the main reason people cruise. Meeting their expectations not just leads to ultimate satisfaction. It also increases the likelihood of passengers becoming voluntary brand ambassadors with positive long-term impacts.

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Connecting all Dots in one App

What’s the easiest and most effective way to bring such a rich experience to the client? Certainly, through the mobile app. This way, it becomes easier to put passengers in charge of their experience, which is crucial for attracting Millenials and Gen Z customers.

But how to do that, exactly? 

  • Deloitte suggests using the mobile app to ask customers what they like. Then, send them recommendations for activities at each stop through the app so that they could plan their own itineraries.
  • Helping passengers connect cruises to other parts of their travel experience, like flights or activities on land, is another great idea. Connected experience leads to a shift to a “very high” passenger satisfaction level and increased cruise frequency.

Integrating digital technology successfully means going beyond self-service apps. Here, the combination of digital and in-person interactions goes a long way. 

Currently, 86% of surveyed passengers are satisfied with the friendliness of the staff, but only 69% feel their needs are well predicted and met. Hybrid interactions let cruise operators improve satisfaction levels and create a better alignment between the two.

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Q&A with the Expert: The CEO of HotelFriend Talks on the Future of Mobile Technology in Cruise Tourism

Denis Severyuk, co-founder and CEO of HotelFriend, has been at the forefront of hotel software development for the past 7 years. His company, established in 2016 in Germany, has been instrumental in helping hoteliers digitize and streamline their operations.

Beyond his primary focus on hotel software, Denis has also engaged in a project with River Advice, a global manager of passenger ships. Collaboration with the company leaders provided him with valuable insights into the future of technology in the cruise industry.

Q: “How do you foresee mobile technology evolving on cruise ships in the near future? What new opportunities will it unlock for both guests and cruise operators?”

We’ll see that mobile technology continues to play a crucial role in enhancing the guest experience on cruise ships. This integration of high-tech cruise apps into the ship’s technological ecosystem brings numerous opportunities for both guests and cruise operators.

By combining mobile apps with, for instance, smart sensors worn by passengers and AI, companies can gather valuable data about guest behaviors. Carnival’s interactive customer experience (“ICX”), is a great example of an integrated approach. From the moment a trip is booked until disembarkation, their system incorporates the Crew Compass app that allows the crew to anticipate and cater to guest preferences.

Mobile technology will also contribute to improved safety on cruise ships. It potentially allows officers to track passengers’ locations during muster drills and even in emergencies. There will be more of that in the future. 

Q: “With the growing demand for personalized experiences, how exactly mobile apps can enhance customization and personalization options for passengers?”

Modern travelers are gravitating towards seeking emotional involvement rather than material things. They want to actively create memorable moments instead of passively participating in pre-packaged activities.

Cruise companies are already seeing this change and embracing the idea of “individual discovery.” They are designing itineraries that allow tourists to engage in authentic experiences connected to the local culture. Mobile technology plays a crucial role in making this level of personalization possible. 

With mobile apps at hand, cruise companies can offer passengers various customization options. Such as personalized recommendations for excursions, dining choices, interactive maps, or onboard services.

Q: “In what ways can the integration of digital technologies, specifically mobile solutions, help address common challenges faced by cruise lines?”

One key aspect where mobile solutions can make a difference is in providing transparency regarding passengers’ movements and activities. With mobile apps and connected devices, cruise companies can track and monitor passenger whereabouts in real-time.

This not only helps in managing safety and security onboard but also facilitates effective control measures for diseases like COVID. Timely access to passenger data helps to identify and promptly respond to any potential health risks.

Plus, mobile solutions allow for coordination between the ship and external stakeholders, such as port authorities, excursion operators, and local attractions. Integration between the app and ship management system helps streamline logistics, optimize scheduling, and ensure a smooth experience for passengers during land excursions and port visits.

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Final Thoughts

Using mobile apps on cruise ships not only improves the guest’s experience but also brings innovation and sets a new benchmark in the industry. Both guests and cruise operators can benefit from the integration of high-tech solutions into the ship’s ecosystem.

With the continuous evolution of mobile technology, we can expect to see a “new norm” in the cruise industry. Artificial intelligence, face recognition, and personalized experiences via mobile apps are some examples of how mobile technology will continue to enhance the guest’s journey and shape the future of cruise tourism.

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