(2:45 p.m. EDT) -- Technological improvements with cruise line smartphone apps, such as the ability to take part in an electronic muster drill and check-in, as well as open cabin doors, will drive return to cruising for most lines that make up the Royal Caribbean Group.
In a news release, the company outlined several of its smartphone initiatives, most of which already had been announced. Taken as a whole, they represent ways to limit contact and crowds during the pandemic era, which would come as welcome improvements to the onboard experience, even if COVID-19 had never happened.
Here's what Royal Caribbean Group says passengers will able to do with its new app technology, which will be released in different combinations across Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara:
Muster 2.0. Announced earlier this year, the electronic mustering capability will allow passengers to do their required safety drills at their own speed, as opposed to forcing people to gather into large groups.
Assigned staggered arrivals. While the lines have given cruise passengers different arrival times before, often designated by stateroom category or loyalty level, the company seems to be putting more emphasis on requiring passengers to stick to their scheduled slots. The move is meant to manage crowds in parking lots, drop-off areas and terminals to allow for physical distancing.
Expedited boarding. Passengers will be able to complete check-in with the app and generate their mobile boarding pass, with features like scanning passport information and uploading a selfie security photo. This isn't a new feature -- the company implemented it on some Celebrity ships as early as 2018 -- but it will have wider availability.
Digital key. The company is introducing a digital key for select ships and staterooms that passengers can use to unlock their cabin doors. While Royal had this as a feature on its wearable WOW bands on a handful of ships, having it on the phone is a step forward for the company. This is also currently available on Celebrity Edge and Celebrity Apex.
Stateroom automation. This feature allows passengers to control elements in their stateroom, such as the TV, lighting, window shades and temperature from their phone. This technology, which was introduced on Celebrity Edge in 2018, limits touchpoints for passengers.
Onboard account. Already in use on most ships, this app feature will allow passengers to view their onboard charges and credits in real time, without having to wait in line at guest services.
Daily planning. This feature, too, is already available on most Royal Caribbean Group apps. It allows passengers to view the daily schedule on their phone, and also make reservations for shows, dining and shore excursions.