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Ocean Medallion: Can tech really revolutionise the cruise experience?

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“This is something that does not exist anywhere else. We are very excited about where we take this next.”

Those are the words of Princess Cruises’ vice-president UK & Europe, Tony Roberts, when explaining the concept that is Ocean Medallion – a small, wearable device, roughly the same size as a 10p piece, that includes a raft of features intended to improve the passenger experience and personalise each cruise.

From touchless stateroom entry, on-demand services such as drinks, food and retail items, games, a family and friends locator and an interactive voyage timeline, there’s very little that’s hasn’t received the Medallion treatment.

Speaking to agents and assembled media in Southampton on board Crown Princess – the latest ship to be Medallion activated – Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald said: “Medallion evolved from one principle – providing a great experience. We talked a lot about technology and we wanted to make it real.

“Princess Cruises president Jan Swartz was the first to say, ‘I want this innovation’. Medallion is customised, as we want individual travel experiences for all of our guests. It’s their ideal holiday experience and we want to remove all the friction that exists for people when they travel. We are a hospitality business; there’s nothing better than our crew and the technology helps them.”

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Crown Princess

It all sounds great on paper, but after using the device first hand in Southampton on Crown Princess, there’s little doubt that the device – and the technology infrastructure behind it – represents a seismic shift in how passengers travel and interact with their ship.

At its heart, Medallion, which was first announced in 2017, acts as an extension of the passenger, in essence their digital key to access the best of what Princess Cruises has to offer.

It is now live on four ships – Caribbean PrincessRegal Princess, Royal Princess and Crown Princess – and will be rolled out across more over the coming years, with a further seven MedallionClass ships by 2020.

It’s a quick turnaround; it takes approximately 12 days in dry dock to fit the necessary elements, according to John Padgett, Carnival Corporation’s chief experience and innovation officer, who revelled in showing guests how he can simply walk towards his stateroom door and, bingo, it is unlocked.

Padgett – who added that Medallion’s touchless payment system is “far beyond Apple Pay or Amazon Pay” – said that approximately 99.5 per cent of guests are embracing Medallion. There is some hesitancy from guests with pacemakers, however, as the technology can interfere with the system.

There are also legitimate questions to be asked regarding the use of the huge amounts of data the system will capture, but on the whole it is not unlike signing up for social platforms and in today’s world the majority of people have large digital footprints.

In a time where more and more cruise lines are embracing technology in an effort to differentiate their brand, it could be argued that it is Princess Cruises that has taken the biggest plunge.

So far the plaudits have come thick and fast. Time will tell if this is the start of the great cruise technology revolution.

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