The Voice of the Cruise Industry

How the world of on-board cruise payments is changing

How the world of on-board cruise payments is changing


The management of cruise payments for thousands of passengers has always been a major undertaking, but the increase in on-board entertainment and retail options has made payment management even trickier.

Christopher Gilderson, head of retail and hospitality at PXP Financial, discusses the innovations that will make payments smooth sailing for cruise companies and their passengers.

We’re living in an increasingly cashless society on land, with innovation moving at what feels like the speed of light.

The reality is, however, that it is only just catching up to how the cruise industry has long approached payments, with guests and crew typically pre-registering a credit card before embarking to receive their cashless cruise card.

Wearable devices and AI

Thanks to the proliferation of Fitbits and Apple watches, wearable tech is a common sight and has revolutionised this market.

Royal Caribbean was the first cruise line to take advantage of wearable tech back in 2014 with its WOW Bands, and today there are plenty of operators recognising its potential.

MSC Cruises, for instance, has invested in a multichannel digital experience including an app/wearable tech combo called MSC for Me.

PXP Financial, cruise payments
PXP Financial’s Christopher Gilderson

It combines a near field communication-enabled wristband with an app that can be used for everything from unlocking cabin doors to booking restaurants and shows, as well as making payments on board.

AI is becoming ever-present in all sectors and for the travel industry it is primary being harnessed to improve customer experiences.

When it comes to payments, it’s being used to improve speed and efficiency by reducing the extent to which humans need to be involved.

For example, AI can facilitate straight-through processing of payments by automating workflows, providing decision support and applying image recognition to documents.

Developments in speech recognition technology also mean payment processing can be initiated vocally using a smart phone or smart speaker.

Virtual and augmented reality

Virtual reality (VR) is a hot topic but when it comes to payments it is tricky. After all, the whole point of VR is to immerse the user in a virtual world and nothing snaps people back to reality faster than spending real money.

Semantics aside, payments could work within the VR experience – there are already prototype headsets that transfer the typical payment experience a consumer would have with a terminal into a video game scenario.

Others pair a mobile device to a VR headset so voice can be used to complete a purchase while in-game.

It won’t be long before improved technology, such as more affordable and wireless VR headsets as well as a more integrated and seamless payments experience, will likely help expand VR use cases to the travel industry.

In the meantime, augmented reality (AR) technology has found its way to the high seas, with Royal Caribbean among those investing in AR experiences so passenger can play games.

What’s on the horizon?

From wearable tech to VR payments, payments processors have the potential to keep the cruise industry on course as we head towards an increasingly cashless future.

Advanced providers will be able to offer next-level services – including those available from PXP, such as pre-authorisation of services, to ensuring a seamless check-in service.

The coming months and years are sure to be full of developments that further enhance and streamline the payment experience for passengers, changing the cruise industry forever.

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