January 7, 2020
(12:45 p.m. EST) -- MSC Cruises has unveiled a detailed "future gazing" report that predicts how cruisers might cruise into 2030.
The report by The Future Laboratory covers everything from mood-sensing cabins to "ultra-personalization," as well as immersive public spaces and an onboard world of virtual reality, artificial intelligence and XVR (mixed virtual reality).
Many of these technologies are already being trialed on MSC's newer ships, as well as other ships including Celebrity Cruises' latest ship, Celebrity Edge, but the report predicts they will become embedded into the cruise experience within 10 years.
"We've commissioned this futures report to uncover how our guests may be cruising with us in 2030 and identify opportunities to further enhance the experience for guests travelling with us now and in the future," MSC Cruises executive chairman, Pierfrancesco Vago, said.
Guest Experiences Will Be "Ultra High Definition"
Using digital technology like apps and wayfinding signs, along with technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality, cruise lines can better tailor their onboard experience to suit the needs of passengers.
A shift towards this level of personalization can already be seen today. Cruise line websites allow passengers to tailor almost every aspect of their voyage pre-cruise, and apps allow passengers to save time onboard by viewing the ship's daily program, signing up for shore excursions, and making dinner reservations -- all without having to stand in the traditional line at Guest Services.
Princess' OceanMedallion program lets cruisers use technology to navigate their cruise ship, order food and drinks and play casino games, all from their cell phones.
This interactivity can also extend to onboard entertainment.
The report states: "Advanced AR, VR and XVR (mixed virtual reality) technologies will facilitate a hyper-personalised entertainment future. VR and AR will become a new lens through which we view the world as we enter an era of everyday XR, a new, extended reality that's part digital, part physical."
While some digital applications are already onboard -- 4D cinemas, laser tag, VR games -- other more real-world applications of this Ultra High Definition theory include a move away from traditional evening shows to more interactive offerings that encourage passenger participation.
Examples include dinner at Eden onboard Celebrity Edge; Virgin Voyages' forthcoming entertainment offering onboard Scarlet Lady; and Cirque at Sea on MSC's Meraviglia class ships, all of which encourage audience participation.
One of the most exciting predictions is how future cruise cabins might look -- or more importantly, feel -- in 2030. The report predicts biometric technology that can monitor stress levels, heart rates and pulse rates, will be commonplace on ships and predicts cabins will adjust depending on a passenger's mood.
"Upon walking into a future cruise cabin, for instance, a modular, real-time control infrastructure, with biosignal sensors that track heart rates and facial expressions, will adjust light and temperature for maximum comfort, self-regulating on the basis of a guest's subsequent activities.
Walls adorned with smart materials, meanwhile, will act like living art, changing to create a visually immersive environment aligned with a guest's emotional state."
The report does not predict however, how the cabin might adjust to an angry, inebriated or seasick passenger.
Engaging Interior Spaces
Traditionally, public rooms onboard cruise ships all served a particular function. A lounge was a place for cocktails and shows. The dining room was a place for meals. The library was a quiet, subdued place dedicated to literary pursuits.
MSC's report states that kind of narrow definition is changing as cruise lines seek to develop spaces that are not only engaging, but also well-suited for a variety of purposes.
"Brands are trying to create reasons for guests to leave their rooms and experience public spaces, whether it's to interact with other guests, to get work done or to relax and have a locally sourced drink, using space in different ways can also enable brands to cater for several distinct customers," said Matthew Woodruff, senior vice president of guest excellence and chief brand partner officer at Hospitality Ventures Management Group, one of the contributors to the report.
This could allow cruise lines to develop spaces that change physically by day or night. A quiet lounge during the daytime, for example, could become a busy cocktail bar in the evening -- again, Edge's Eden space does just that, as does the Two70 lounge on Royal Caribbean's Quantum-class ships.
Enrichment & Wellness Options Will Increase
Based around an eco-spa concept, Spa 2.0 offerings will encompass fitness, nutrition and beauty aspects to create a more holistic package that goes beyond the standard steam room and massage treatments that have been standard until now.
It also puts the onus on cruise lines to offer mindfulness escapes like yoga and meditation, and encourages corporate responsibility.
Cruising in 2030
The report concludes with a reassuringly human note of optimism which cuts through all the babble and noise.
"While this connectivity will improve lives through access and efficiency, it will also lead to a backlash, causing guests to seek human connection once again," said University of London's Naomi Leite, one of the report's authors.
"Despite the fact that we are better connected than ever, people -- whether consciously or not -- are experiencing a kind of dehumanisation. Everything is online, digital, fast and over-saturated with information, and less and less about face-to-face, slow contact with other people.'
As a result, the industry may also see lines embrace more traditional cruising traditions, encouraging passengers to both connect with one another -- and reconnect with themselves.
The "Future of the Guest Experience" report was prepared for MSC by Naomi Leite; lecturer in Social Anthropology at SOAS, University of London; Kameron Durham – vice president of guest experience for the Los Angeles Stadium and Entertainment District at Hollywood Park, and Matthew Woodruff, senior vice president of guest excellence and chief brand partner officer at Hospitality Ventures Management Group.