Cruising has lagged behind other sectors of travel when it comes to digitization and personalization. A new wave of technology, though, is creating a more seamless experience for cruisers around the world.
Hundreds of the travel industry’s most technology-savvy executives will gather for our second Skift Tech Forum in San Francisco on June 27.
Skift Tech Forum, which will take place at the Fairmont San Francisco Hotel, explores key trends and disruptions that impact revenue and drive the e-commerce and technology strategies that power retailing, distribution, and merchandising decisions in travel. Expect insightful conversations from a broad range of speakers, including CEOs and top executives from Alaska Airlines, Amadeus, Expedia, Google, Uber, Marriott, Carnival, and Oracle.
Cruise lines around the world have embraced technology in recent years, connecting guests with digital tools and reducing friction for cruisers around each vessel.
John Padgett, chief experience and innovation officer at Carnival Corp., has used new technology to provide stronger personalization for passengers while achieving near complete adoption among guests on ships that have been outfitted with Ocean Medallion technology.
By connecting pre- and post-trip content more strongly with the onboard experience, Padgett has helped to enable Carnival’s various brands with more advanced tools to engage passengers.
Padgett will speak on June 27 at Skift Tech Forum in San Francisco.
Skift Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Skift: Cruising at large is going through a process of digitization. How do you think about bringing a more connected experience to an industry that has largely focused on the shipboard experience?
John Padgett: What I champion is a little bit bigger than the cruise experience. My work is all about maximizing guests’ vacation experiences, whether that’s land or sea or anywhere in between. There’s nothing more valuable to people in the world than their vacation time. It’s priceless.
The next evolution of the formula is to not only take out the friction but to maximize the personalization. Personalization is an overused word in all businesses these days, especially in the digital space, but I’m talking about that each and every guest experience is unique to that individual. If that experience is truly unique, it also becomes a priceless experience.
That is the core element that drives our development work and the creation of the Ocean Medallion. The internet of things and all that technology is there for that reason.
Skift: In addition to the ship itself, you have things like shore excursions and the check-in to deal with. Has it been a challenge bringing digital tools to areas of the cruising that haven’t really had them before?
Padgett: Cruising has increasingly isolated itself to the ship experience and where our perspective is strategic that when a guest cruises to go on a cruise vacation, from the consumer mindset that includes anything from home to the destination and heading back home. It’s increasingly getting into the destination. Whatever brand a guest chooses, they are going on a Carnival or Princess or Royal Caribbean vacation.
The consumer mindset is holistic. The challenge in the cruise industry is that the engagement with the guest has not been holistic.
Skift: One would imagine that customers who are more tech-savvy are more into using these tools. How do you look at ensuring all guests are engaged by all this new technology?
Padgett: Our buy-in is huge. On a Medallion-class ship, over 99.5 percent of guests elect into that experience each cruise to have a fully-connected cruise experience, which is unprecedented. Let me draw a distinction, that does not mean every guest uses a mobile phone and our portfolio of digital services.
A mobile phone is an optional tool for the guest to use, and we have a lot of content on there, but none of it is only on the mobile device and none of it is required to have in order to have a personalized vacation experience.
So for the millennials that want to use their devices at a high rate? That’s great. For those who don’t? That’s perfectly fine with us.
Why don’t we use a mobile phone? Since 99.5 percent of guests engage with the Ocean Medallion experience, it requires no charging configure settings no work. There is no barrier to entry so guests can use it with no learning curve. A totally connected experience allows us to democratize elite level guest experience to all guests while I don’t have staff lining up setting up every guest’s devices.
We want everyone included in the experience, thus here is you medallion include with your vacation experience for free. If you want to use your mobile device to enhance your experience, feel free. Our approach guarantees a very inclusive and engaging experience whereas the situation for other cruise lines becomes a ‘haves and have not experience.’
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Photo credit: A promotional image of Carnival Corporation's Ocean Medallion and mobile app. Carnival Corporation