Princess Cruises brings digital transformation to the seas

Cruise ships are continuing to get bigger and better each year, increasing the pressure crews to keep passengers updated on things like the status of their bill, what time they disembark and what time to return to the ship.

Social networking and increased connectivity have raised the stakes of customer engagement. Today’s consumers expect easy access to information wherever they are, whenever they want it.

Bringing that connectivity to the middle of the ocean has its own particular challenges, but that didn’t dissuade Princess Cruises from undertaking a massive overhaul of the passenger experience.

With so many passengers, it became challenging to provide a great experience for each passenger. It was essential for Princess to modernise and scale its exceptional cruise experience.

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In order to improve guests’ vacation time, Princess began reimagining how information is delivered and shared onboard, taking its passengers’ travel experience into the future.

It all began in the fall of 2012 when the company was preparing to launch the newest and most advanced ship in their fleet: Royal Princess.

A dramatic evolution in both size and technological innovation from its early “Love Boat” era predecessors, Royal Princess has capacity for 3,600 passengers and more than 1,300 crew members.

Historically, passengers aboard the ships stayed updated through a daily-delivered newsletter, the Princess Patter, which included notices of events and activities, security alerts, and other announcements.

Yet, with guests’ increasing reliance on technology, the guest experience team at Princess Cruises knew it was time to optimise the daily newsletter, making it accessible on a variety of electronic devices including phones, tablets, and computers.

With a complex system for migrating data to and from ships causing new challenges every day, Princess Cruises sought support from digital experience firm Acquia to ensure the process of using Drupal to build its onboard digital platform went smoothly.

The open-source content management platform was chosen for its flexibility and ability to create customised content. Nine months later, the Princess@Sea app was fully developed and accessible on any device, from mobile phones to desktop computers.

Following its initial debut aboard Royal Princess, the app has been deployed across Princess’s entire 17-ship fleet as of November 2015.

The app goes far beyond the information in the outdated Princess Patter. Beyond a list of scheduled onboard activities, like performances and events, users can access their stateroom account portfolio, travel itinerary and port information through just a few clicks. With the growing size of ships, guests can easily find their way on board by pulling up a map of each deck.

Passengers also have information at their fingertips to build out their own schedules with ease. Individuals and travel groups can pull from official ship-run events to create personalised calendars and collaborate on agendas with friends and family members.

When they work up an appetite, app users can browse the menus of onboard dining options and read up on each venue’s details. Behind the scenes, the app’s content can be updated quickly and reliably, and its open-source base allows for multilingual capabilities.

The app has also revolutionised onboard communication for passengers. Before, passengers’ best option for contacting one another may have been a stateroom-to-stateroom call. Now, the app’s messenger feature lets passengers communicate individually and also in group chats to make or change plans.

The experience survey process also got an overhaul, with cruisers now able to leave digital reviews for each of their experiences instead of filling out an email survey following the trip, which previously led to a number of problems.

Translating the multilingual reviews was time consuming, guests often felt less strongly about both their positive and negative experiences after some time had passed, and results did not land in the hands of the crew for months following each passenger's trip.

Now, however, guests are able to review their ship experiences, restaurants and events at the exact moment they happen, and responses are sent directly to ship personnel. This allows cruise staff to respond to problems immediately and helps dictate changes in the overall ship offerings.

The Princess@Sea app is both eco-friendly and efficient. Moving to a digital platform has eliminated the need to print daily copies of the Princess Patter, which required ships to bring several hundreds of reams of paper for each voyage.

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Since its creation, it has been used by more than 30% of guests, allowing Princess Cruises to track data and learn more about what their passengers want. With these achievements completed, the cruise line is looking towards the next iteration of its platform.

Creating the Princess@Sea app has helped passengers have seamless, relaxing vacations by providing them with easily accessible ship information in just a few clicks.

On future models of the app, passengers will have the ability to rate and review restaurants and features of the ship, which is currently a feature only ship staff can see.

App developers also have their sights set on integrating e-commerce features, allowing guests to book on-shore excursions, make dining reservations, and schedule spa appointments with one easy click.


Sourced from Nate Craddock, Subramanian Hariharan and Hillary Neaf, Princess Cruises

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...