"" Writer's Wanderings: Carnival's New Medallion for Cruising

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Carnival's New Medallion for Cruising

One of the things my husband looks forward to when we come to Florida is that he can get the Miami Herald delivered every day. A real printed newspaper! The delivery system is a little strange. The paper gets placed in a bag with the number of our condo on it and it rides up and down in the elevator until Bob goes out and retrieves it--unlike last year where it got tossed up on the walkway in front of our second story condo. At times there was a stone in the bag so it had enough weight for the toss.

All that detail aside, the Business Monday section this week contained an interesting report on a new innovation coming to the Carnival Corporation. Those of us familiar with cruising know the value of the sea pass that resembles a credit card or hotel key. You use it as your stateroom key and to charge onboard purchases to your account. It is also your pass on and off the ship where it is scanned and matched with your security picture. Get ready for a change to procedure.

Carnival who also owns such lines as Princess, Holland America, Seaborn and Cunard has hired the fellows that engineered the mousebands for Disney vacationers. While I like the idea of the mousebands that are used as room keys, charges to your account and link to an app that allows for making reservations, setting your schedule and several other planning options, this new innovation has me asking some hard questions.

According to the Herald article and several I found online, they have engineered what they call the Ocean Medallion about the size of a quarter that will work with a variety of devices connected to something called the Ocean Compass. Before you cruise the Ocean Compass will ask you to fill out all sorts of information beyond the usual precruise details like your credit card number, dinner reservations, excursions, etc. that are usually done. It will all be programmed into your Ocean Medallion along with suggestions for extras to add on to your cruise experience based on your answers to questions about what you expect from your cruise.

Unlike the mousebands, you will not have to hold your medallion to the door of your stateroom, only stand in front of it. When you pass a monitor on the ship, it will register with suggestions for what you might like to buy in the gift shop. (By the way, there are all sorts of items in the gift shop like a necklace or key chain to keep your medallion in.) Pass the display for photos and you will immediately be up on the electronic board. Want a drink by the pool? Order through your device that's connected to the medallion and you'll never have to leave your deck chair.

The medallion will allow ship personnel to immediately identify you as you pass their devices. Your picture will pop up on their display, your preferences noted and of course the idea being that your every desire will be met. No cherry in that pina colada without being asked. Supposedly you will be able to order your food and it will be ready by the time you get to the dining room.

All of this presupposes that you have noted all of your preferences, desires, and plans on the Ocean Compass. The question is, how much privacy are you giving up and how much information (read commercials) will you be bombarded with? If someone has your medallion can they open the open the door to your stateroom? I realize that we have already given up a lot of privacy with social media and other technologies but, really, a cruise vacation is a chance to get away from all that.

Wouldn't it be more unique to have a cruise where there were no devices allowed? Where people actually interacted face to face? Where crew members actually learned your name? What's next? Robots serving drinks at the pool? Microchipping passengers as they board?

Part of me wants to see this be successful--the part that owns stock in the company and realizes they are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to develop and initiate this. The other part of me says stop messing with my cruise experience.

Here's several links to articles I read:
NY Times
Crusie Critic 
Princess Cruises

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