Travel insights from Andrea Sedlacek, editor of The Compass and Jenna Buege, associate editor of The Compass

Connecting the Sea with Technology

It’s pretty incredible how cruise lines are evolving these days. From taking steps to attract a younger demographic to doing their part to protect the environment, the cruise landscape today looks pretty different than just a few years ago. And now cruise lines are turning to technology to improve the overall cruise experience.

Online Check-in

Cruise lines are making moves to streamline the check-in process. MSC Cruises is one of many cruise lines that now allows passengers to check in online rather than at the pier. This means passengers can upload their photo and get their boarding information electronically. MSC Cruises also allows passengers to pre-book dining and excursions. Other cruise lines offering an online check-in option include Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line and Princess Cruises, among others.

Celebrity Edge is taking online check-in to another level with its recently debuted selfie check-in, a program within the cruise lines’ app that allows visitors to bypass the boarding line simply by uploading a photo of themselves. Once the picture is uploaded, the company’s facial recognition software will confirm the passenger’s identity and automatically check them in to the cruise.


Nowadays, cruise lines are developing their own apps to enrich the cruise experience for passengers. Royal Caribbean has two apps, one of which works with certain ships and one that works with others. The apps give you maps of the decks, plus provide details on the activities you have planned and make dining reservations. Both apps work onboard, even if you don’t have an internet package.

The Cruise Norwegian app from Norwegian Cruise Line is available for the entire Norwegian fleet and has a “Pre-Cruise” mode that allows you to pre-book you onboard activities, dining reservations, shore excursions and entertainment. You can also view your itinerary and summary before the cruise. This is an industry first, and an exciting feature for NCL to offer cruisers.

Listen for the pop of a champagne cork seconds after giving your phone a shake with Virgin Voyages’ on-demand champagne app, Shake for Champagne. Yep, that’s right, one quick shake and the crew will have a fresh glass of bubbly delivered to you no matter where you’re at or what you’re doing. Ah, the power of technology.

MSC Cruises’ app is great for getting some cruise inspiration. You can use it to browse itineraries, check out fares, browse shore excursions and take virtual tours of the ships, complete with live webcam feeds and photos. One of the coolest features is the ability to see real-time global positioning of all of MSC’s ships.

Another app designed to improve the onboard experience is the Carnival HUB. The newest version of the app now allows you to order pizza to almost anywhere on the ship. There’s a chat feature, deck maps and real-time info on your Sail & Sign shipboard account balance, plus many more features. It’s quite robust.

Wearable Tech

Technology that you wear is everywhere now – how many people do you know who wear a fitness tracker or a smart watch? Cruise lines want in on that, too. Royal Caribbean gives passengers WOWbands, which are ready-to-wear wristbands that allow you to navigate the ship, purchase things onboard and access Royal iQ (Royal Caribbean’s app) and staterooms with just one tap.

Princess Cruises’ Ocean Medallion is one of the most versatile pieces of wearable technology offered by cruise lines. The medallion is about the size of a quarter and can be worn as a wristband, as a pendant, clipped to your clothes or just placed in your pocket. It may be small, but it’s powerful. The most impressive feature is that it unlocks your cabin door as you approach it. It’s also waterproof, so you don’t have to worry about taking it off in the water.

Voice-Activated Service

MSC’s newest ships, the Bellissima and the Grandiosa, are equipped with an onboard voice-activated system named Zoe. Zoe is programed to answer over 800 questions in seven different languages about onboard activities, upcoming destinations and fabulous excursions.

Futuristic Gaming

Experience the immersive world of virtual reality onboard the Norwegian Encore, Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship complete with a 10,000-square foot gaming complex. Royal Caribbean is also hopping on the augmented reality train with an exciting VR gaming experience called Expedition Two70.

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