I have to give them credit: the cruise lines are always at the forefront of the technology train. Flat screens in the cabins, digital images, sea passes. They also have been at the forefront of the customer service train as well. Now it appears that Carnival Corporation has married the two into a gizmo called the Ocean Medallion, which was released at the CES this past week in Las Vegas. I am not sure if it is incredibly cool, incredibly creepy, or a little of both!
John Padgett, who came to Carnival from Disney where he was a primary architect of the brand’s MagicBand, dreamed up the Ocean Medallion. The MagicBand was such a success and made navigating Disney parks and resorts so simple, it makes sense that he was tasked with the same type of solution at Carnival. The Ocean Medallion will make its debut later this year on the Princess brand.
And it does stand to improve the customer experience.
Guests can activate and pre-register online. This will allow them to clear security in the port and immediately walk on the ship and up to their cabin.
The medallion will act as a key card and open your cabin door, as well as allow you to buy merchandise, a shore excursion, or a drink at the bar. The medallion will be easily located if it is lost. It can be carried in a pocket or bag, or it can be pinned or worn as a necklace. In a word, it makes your cruise experience seamless.
But what about the creepy factor?
In addition to the simplicity of it all, the complexity behind the scenes is frightening. With sensors around the ship this will allow crew members to access your profile. You can simply order a drink (via an accompanying app or a screen onboard) and because the ship knows your exact location, it can be delivered. It can know where you browse and how long you are looking at merchandise. It can analyze your spending habits, your eating habits, your drinking habits, and more. Granted, much of this information is already there for Carnival to sift through; but this hands it to them.
As staff members near a guest, their photo, and profile will populate a device they have. Waiters will recognize you by your face. Entertainers will know if you are in the audience or kicking back watching from your cabin—and trained to interact with you. Imagine watching the television and the comedian says “and here’s to John watching from his cabin.” Uhm, no thanks!
Padgett has said that as long as the customer gets an improved experience, they are willing to give up certain expectations of privacy. This is also a play from the Google playbook. When you surf the web, Google tracks your every move to tailor your experience to you. But at what cost?
What does a cruise line know about you after you leave the ship with an Ocean Medallion? They know the demographic stuff of course. But they likely know how much time you spend in the spa, the bar, the pool, and the casino. They know how much you wager at craps, what food you devour, and what you leave behind. They know when you wake, and when you are asleep. They know how you move about the ship and at what times. To me, it seems like you are taking much of the consumer’s choice out of the equation and being fed what the company wants to feed you.
Cruising remains such a hot travel experience, I am sure that Ocean Medallion will be welcomed with open arms and embraced by the masses. Certainly there is a huge upside to the technology; but there is also the downside. And for me, I think I may take a pass and stick with my cruise card the next time I sail.