What’s Next for the Cruise Industry?


The cruise market has always been at the forefront of introducing the latest technologies in its ever-increasing attempts to heighten and improve guest satisfaction. Driven by a razor sharp competitive environment, these new technological advances — sometimes perceived as gimmicks and gadgets — are not just “nice to have”, but are rapidly becoming a major driver of additional revenue and earnings.

The common denominator for these revolutionary changes can be described in four letters, which have become common language over the past years – RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). What is the one thing that every passenger and crew member has on board or carries with them at all times? Answer: their keycard.

Although the RFID technology has been around for several decades, its revival within the cruise market over the past five years, as a carrier of information, has been unprecedented. So the next time you have the luxury of taking a cruise and you are issued your keycard, which you perceive is just to open your cabin, think again and consider the functionality that has been placed in your hands:

  1. All the features and benefits of online connectivity to the cabin locking system. This technology allows for real time reporting, changing of cabins, remote allocating of passengers or crew, security alerts and alarms, to name only a few of the new features. RFID not only increases security but equally or more importantly, enhances overall safety onboard.

  2. Photoshop: Gone are the days of searching for and hopefully picking out the family photos from an already developed picture board on the ship. Simply place your keycard at the photo-shop digital station and retrieve your photos (only yours) at your leisure. Combining this functionality with biometric “face recognition” makes all of this not only possible but also simple.

  3. Obtain your RFID wristband for the spa area, allowing you access to all the facilities you are entitled to. Use the same RFID wristband to open your locker where you keep all of your belongings, and avoid the unnecessary headache of wondering where to put your keycard.

  4. Convert your normal keycard into a loyalty program card. Extending RFID technology in this direction will reduce the time guests take to check-in, and open the real possibility that repeat loyal passengers can obtain the proper VIP treatment on embarkation.

  5. The ship’s casino can also be operated on the same RFID platform. Load up your RFID keycard and use on all the tables or slot machines.

  6. Pay at the bar: Rapid scanning and payment eliminates long queues.

  7. Scan the RFID keycard quickly and efficiently as you leave and board the vessel at the gangway.

  8. Use RFID on all vending machines in order to purchase smaller snacks and drinks on board, including the self-serving soda dispensers at the pool bar. 

With the introduction of RFID technology onboard, we can see that the systems constituting the infrastructure of the cruise ship, have been moving rapidly to exploit the exciting possibilities made available through this platform.

As registered guest satisfaction indexes continue to increase, enhancing safety, security and indeed efficiency, has remained the central motivating factor in further implementing RFID technology. In addition, it surely can’t hurt that onboard revenues increase, driving growth and profitability; a win-win situation for both ship owner and passenger alike.

One may ask, where will this all end? Imagination is the only limiting factor, and as technology becomes more available and affordable, with a decreasing time for return on investment, continuously improved systems will be developed to meet the needs and pleasures of the cruising public. Active tracking of passengers, purchasing patterns on board, automatic alarms entering restricted areas, man overboard alerts, Cabin Energy Management, baggage tracking, etc. The list can go on, but RFID is here to stay and is destined to pave the way for the future of cruising.

Gerald McMillan
Vice President, VingCard Marine