This week, our top story is about digital innovations in the cruise industry.

A sector once known mostly for slow, expensive Wi-Fi has been shaking things up in recent months, as cruise companies look to offer customers more on-board digital amenities and better connectivity. A recent keynote speech by Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain highlights some of the ways the industry is trying to adapt to the digital age, including new mobile apps to speed security screenings at check-in and features like on-board payment systems powered by Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). Will the moves convince more tech-savvy customers to come on board?

Royal Caribbean CEO Discusses Challenges of Company’s Digital Shakeup
The cruise industry hasn’t had the best reputation in recent years when it comes to on-board digital amenities. But as Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain noted in a recent keynote speech, the cruise line is trying to transform its on-board digital experience for guests. Among the features Fain highlighted are a passenger mobile app that reduces the wait-time for security at check-in and the ability to pay for drinks on board using RFID-enabled wristbands. “I’m not prepared to say that we’re a digital business,” said Fain. “But I would say that it has made a total difference in the way that we produce our product.” Read more

Thomson Cruises Uses “Sneaky” Social Campaign to Dispel Cruising Myths
Despite tireless efforts by the cruise industry to win them over, there’s a segment of the travel-going public that simply refuses to consider cruise vacations as a viable trip option. Despite the difficulties, one cruise company, Thomson Cruises, thinks it may have found a way to persuade such travelers. The company’s recent social campaign engaged a group of 12 photographers, bloggers and vloggers to post Instagram content that made it seem as though the participants were not on a cruise using the hashtag #notforme. The campaign hopes to dispel common misconceptions that keep away travelers. Read more

What Hotels Need to Know About Google Local Search Results
TripAdvisor may get much of the attention from hoteliers when it comes to marketing and reputation management, but Google’s local search results can also have an equally important impact on driving bookings and walk-ins. Those hotel owners and marketers looking to boost their property’s ranking on local results should check out Google’s recent blog post on the topic, which highlights the importance of relevance, proximity and prominence in how the search engine ranks results. Read more

Rise of International Premium Economy Signals Airline Industry Shakeup
This past December’s announcement by American Airlines introducing a new premium economy class on international flights was just the latest in a string of airlines adding the service to their offering. What the move signals however, is a reflection of larger shifts in passenger mindset. More airlines increasingly appear to be catering to this group of passengers, which includes cost-cutting business travelers and budget-conscious fliers who are willing to splurge for more comfort at the right price point. Read more

Google Redesigns AdWords Layout for Desktop Search Results
Google paid search buyers, take note: the company recently revised the way it displays text ads in search results for desktop users. Whereas in the past these results appeared on a side bar, moving forward text ads will appear at the top and bottom of the page. The move is said to be a reaction to the increasing reliance of search users on mobile devices to conduct queries. While it’s still too early to know how this will impact AdWords costs, industry experts suspect it might increase cost-per-click (CPC) prices due to restricted supply. Read more

JetBlue Launches Redesigned App Experience for iPad, Apple Watch
JetBlue has been in the midst of a recent PR campaign to position itself as a cutting-edge airline for tech-savvy guests. As part of that effort, this week JetBlue announced the launch of a revamped app experience for both its tablet and smartwatch offerings. Among the new features the company is touting are a new iPad-specific native booking feature that lets users search for flights and save results without creating an account, and an Apple Watch “complication” that allows users to view flight status details from the watch’s home screen. Read more

Photo Credit: Robotic cocktail making machines aboard Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas ship. Anthony Quintano / Flickr