This time it is Edgar Moore, Professor of Music at San Jacinto College in Houston, TX. Edgar’s interests are varied; he is music director and conductor of the Sons of Orpheus men’s chorus, and he enjoys rebuilding classic cars in his spare time. Today we have his thoughts on technology in cruise travel.
“My wife Gretchen (who wrote about soprano singing in this guest series) got me hooked on cruising. She and her mother had taken a Western Caribbean cruise out of the port of Galveston and reported a great time. She started cajoling me to join her on a cruise to other ports of the Caribbean. Cruise lines have made it so easy to visualize the experience with virtual tours (as in picture below of a solarium deck) and to reserve via their web sites, specialized travel agents and even airline sites. Still, a whole week at sea sounded like an awfully long time to be away from the comforts of home, so we compromised on a five-day cruise out of Fort Lauderdale.
I’ll admit I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed that first cruise. The onboard Internet café made it easy for me to stay in touch with the departmental chair at the college, and the cell phone connectivity gave us the peace of mind knowing that we could check in with the dog sitter periodically while we were away. Onboard the ship, the theatre where the main stage shows were presented seemed well-equipped with the latest in sound and lighting technology, and we enjoyed the evening shows featuring singers and dancers in musical revues, comics, and sleight-of-hand artists.
Gretchen had showed me how we can look up the shore excursions available at each port on the cruise itinerary. In addition, there are a lot of cruise discussion boards, such as those on Frommers.com, where cruisers post their feedback on what to see and do when in port. So even the time away from the ship was enjoyable.
Back on land I was in awe of all the technology on and around these floating islands – and every cruise we have taken since has raised my curiosity about what makes these giants tick. I am far from being a technologist but have some sense of the satellites and routers which would allow us to stay connected while at sea. I can only imagine the sophisticated gear the captain utilizes to keep ship from harm’s way from weather and increasingly, pirates. Cruise lines aimed at families likely have far more digital entertainment than we would know what to do with. The Disney cruise ship (photo below) has an interactive play space—a scaled replica of the ship's bridge—which lets children steer a virtual ship, play videogames and a bunch of other stuff.Bet they become cruise fans for life!
The environmental and sanitation systems work flawlessly most of the time – bad PR around that would travel too fast. The kitchen and restaurant systems allow cruise lines to provide an amazingly customized set of meals – twenty years ago, the most choice was around dinner sitting times! And increasingly, there is emphasis on “green” – so next-generation waste treatment, more efficient heating/cooling. And so much other operational technology patrons are blissfully unaware of.
Last month, we took a Mediterranean cruise, sailing from the port of Venice, Italy, which called on ports in Croatia and Greece. We had completed our check-in forms online before leaving home, and the on-boarding process at the Venezia Passegieri Terminale went very smoothly as a result. We were out of there and on our way to lunch on the ship before Gretchen could even finish the glass of prosecco and canapé she’d been offered in the Preferred Customer exclusive check-in area.
I wonder how easy it would be check into the new Oasis of the Seas (see video below). with her 16 decks and ability to carry up to 5,400 guests. Can you imagine the architectural technology which went into designing the themed areas on the ship mimicking Central Park, the Boardwalk, and the Royal Promenade?
On our recent cruise, I noticed more passengers than ever taking advantage of the Wi-Fi hot spots on the ship. We did not bring a lap top with us, but we had no problems checking email or updating Facebook and Twitter at the onboard Internet café. One slight glitch was that the CPUs on the onboard computers were in locked cabinets, so USB ports were not accessible. When the ship docked at Mykonos, Gretchen had to go ashore and find an Internet café in order to upload a photo from her digital camera to an online personalized post card service she had read about, HazelMail.com. I suspect that she will buy one of those small netbook computers before we sail from San Juan next May.
Yes, we have already booked our next cruise! We booked it with the “Loyalty Ambassador” onboard the ship. His computer had access to our entire cruise history, so he could see the kind of cabin we like to book, the dinner seating and table size we prefer, and our member numbers and status levels in the frequent cruiser club. Having all of that information made it easy for him to get us booked in one quick appointment. He had a confirmation of the booking and credit card deposit sent to our cabin the next day, and we were set.
And after that cruise? I know that, having conquered the rock wall on the last cruise, Gretchen is eager to try the onboard zip-lines offered on some of the newer ships - The Oasis described above has one 9 decks high.
Brave lady - I will stick to mini-golf!
You can safely bet that the cruise lines will continue to bring new technologies - adventuresome and less intense - to the world of cruising to enhance the customers’ vacation experiences and bring them back for more.”