High seas, high tech
Gone are the days when going to sea meant being cast adrift with no chance of a decent phone signal, let alone Wifi.
In terms of the digital revolution, ships are catching up with their land-based counterparts, enabling technology fans to cruise the web while cruising across the world’s oceans as internet speeds gather pace and prices for using the internet on board start to come down (or disappear altogether on some lines).
On Thomson ship TUI Discovery 2 guests can take advantage of digital kiosks placed around the ship to navigate their way around, make restaurant reservations and book spa treatments and shore excursions. Good news for introverts and for anyone disinclined to queue up at an information desk or admit that they can’t remember where their cabin is.
And that’s not all. From magical special effects to virtual adventures, cruise ships are riding the crest of the technological wave when it comes to keeping passengers amused and even incorporating the latest advances into stage shows to inject added wow factor.
The latest gizmo that’s going ocean-bound is “wearable technology” – portable gadgets enabling passengers to personalise their cruise; to do what they want, when they want. This intelligent technology will learn the preferences of the individual passenger and actually anticipate their needs.
The high seas are going high-tech and here are some of the best examples:
After ordering via an app you can get your exotic cocktails crafted by two Italian engineered robot bartenders named ‘Shaken’ and ‘Stirred’ as they mechanically mix the perfect tipple, then order another at the Rising Tide Bar – a moving platform which gravitates between decks on Royal Caribbean International ships.
Piracy on the high seas
Shoot to kill swarming armies of zombies, battle with battalions of space pirates, and plunge into a magical world of Harry Potter-style wizardry on a host of fun virtual reality experiences now offered by Norwegian Cruise Line, Thomson Cruises and MSC Cruises. Younger travellers will love the Magic Playfloor on Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream which allows children to engage in group activities like the virtual tilt maze where their movements control the action, and go on virtual trips like flying over London with Peter Pan.
Enjoy views from cabins that don’t even have windows thanks to “virtual” portholes and balconies – special screens showing real-time footage from the ship via external cameras. Disney Cruise Line adds a m
agical twist with guest appearances from a boat-rowing Mickey Mouse, and intergalactic flypasts from Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon.
Surf the seas and oceans on Wifi speeds that can match those on land and download cruise line apps that let you reserve tables in your favourite onboard restaurants, book spa treatments or simply check out what’s happening on board.
Believe your eyes as mystical “Enchanted Art” pictures burst into colourful life when guests approach them on Disney Cruise Line ships; order mouth-watering culinary treats on iPad menus aboard Celebrity Cruises; and watch words magically appear as you paint menus in Royal Caribbean International’s whimsical Wonderland restaurants.
Slip on a high-tech wristband and the world becomes your oyster on Princess Cruises and MSC Cruises as it transforms into your own personal concierge, enabling you to order and pay for drinks, food and pay to play games. It’ll even open your cabin door and enable crew members to anticipate your every need too.
Such devices cleverly rely on Bluetooth and near field communication (NFC) technology to communicate with the ship’s staff and payment systems and do not need to be charged, and using them will be second nature to today’s Apple watch wearers and Fitbit fanatics.
Words: Sarah Glayzer and Sara Macefield