How netTALK Maritime Revolutionized the Cruise Ship Telecom Game

In the so-called post-Covid era, tourists, travelers, and cruise ship passengers have grown accustomed to digital and ‘contactless’ services. They aren’t new to the hospitality, tourism, and travel industries but were pushed to the fore during and immediately after the pandemic. The ‘human touch’ in customer service is now viewed by many as a risk of exposure to Coronavirus, and it’s a risk that increasing numbers of cruise ship passengers were not willing to take.

Amid this backdrop, the popularity of the contactless experience skyrocketed. Face-to-face interaction will likely decline in many areas in favor of mobile app check-ins, contactless payments, virtual queuing, virtual front desk services, and biometric access. In the hospitality industry, the contactless experience has become synonymous with safety and security.

But what happens to the contactless experience when a cruise ship is out on the high seas, and internet access – and indeed intra-ship communications – is spotty at best? In general, cruise ships can suffer from all manner of communication problems while on the open ocean, especially when it comes to a strong, stable internet connection that is open to all passengers and crew.

On most cruise ships, the internet connection, internet-based communications, and telephone calls must make the journey to space to ping off an orbiting satellite, then head back to earth – a cell tower on land, to be exact – before finally being sent back to the ship. With such inefficient communication, even sending a simple text message between two people on board the ship can be costly, assuming the message goes through. With so many factors in play, there is a lot that can go wrong.

We live in an interconnected world, and cruise ship passengers expect to be able to video chat, email, share photos, and videos, make calls and send and receive text messages, even if they’re on a large moving vessel on the high seas. When maritime communication doesn’t live up to their expectations, cruise ship passengers can become anxious and feel as though they are cut off from their friends and family back on land.

Additionally, intermittent ship-wide communication can negatively impact a crucial revenue stream. Cruise lines need to communicate with their passengers wherever they are on the ship, not just in their rooms. If operators don’t have a reliable connection, the opportunity to upsell and offer in-app purchases to their guests is lost.

The netTALK Maritime Difference

It was for these reasons that Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) approached netTALK Maritime in the hopes of solving these issues. netTALK Maritime, a telecommunications company specializing in maritime communications, presented a solution to help NCL improve their ship- and worldwide connectivity while out at sea.

netTALK Maritime’s telecommunications technology was built into NCL’s Cruise Norwegian mobile phone application, which allowed passengers of the Norwegian Bliss cruise ship to automatically connect to the ship’s onboard wifi network. With the solution in place, the ship’s guests could stay in touch with their friends and family on board, and make in-app purchases and dining reservations, and sign up for on-ship events, entertainment, and book short onshore excursions. Through the NCL app, guests on board the Bliss could pay a nominal fee to make outbound calls to both landline and mobile phones in nearly every country in the world.

As a result of the solution, NCL saw passenger communications package sales shoot up by 26 percent. The cruise lines mobile app with embedded netTALK Maritime technology was such a success that NCL decided to deploy the solution to its entire fleet of 17 ships. In 2018, it was estimated that at least 1.5 million NCL passengers were engaging with the app each year. That number has only grown in successive years.

To learn more about netTALK Maritime’s telecommunications solutions, visit our homepage by clicking here

Wearable Tech: Moving from Health Tracking to a Better Cruise Experience

We all know the heavy toll that the Covid-19 pandemic took on the travel and tourism industry in general, and the cruise ship industry in particular. The cruise industry took a hit in terms of revenue, and the negative health impacts it had on both passengers and hospitality employees. But thankfully, things are finally turning a corner. Bookings have seen a resurgence, and so have the share prices of some of the biggest cruise operators.  

The worst of the pandemic is behind us, but the Covid-19 virus continues to be a problem, especially in places where people tend to congregate. Vaccinations have helped, but it is still incumbent upon cruise lines to manage the risk of a potential outbreak on their cruise ships by enhancing health protocols.

The industry has been at the forefront of leveraging the latest contact-tracing solutions, most notably in wearable technology. With this solution in place, health authorities aboard cruise ships are able to monitor Covid-19 outbreaks much better. Ship officials can issue notifications to guests who may have had contact with an infected person, allowing them to isolate themselves in their rooms without the entire ship having to endure a vacation-ruining lockdown.

For such a health protocol to be effective, each passenger and crew member must have a wearable device – like a smart wristband, for example – while on board a cruise ship. The wearable device keeps track of a person’s movements and their contacts with others in a certain area at a certain time. If someone falls ill with Covid-19-like symptoms, the data that their wearable device has collected helps health authorities narrow down who might have been exposed to the virus as well. These devices, used in conjunction with video surveillance and analytics software, can be deployed to enhance the effectiveness of contact tracing.

From Health Tracking to Enhancing UX

Wearable technology on cruise lines goes far beyond health screening and contact tracing. It’s also being leveraged to enhance the passenger experience. Some cruise lines have outfitted their ships with thousands of sensors that operate over next-gen Near Field Communication (NFC) networks. Guests are offered NFC-connected smart wristbands (usually at a cost of $5) that allow them to make onboard payments, access areas reserved for exclusive members/VIPs, keep tabs on their family members’ location, and unlock their cabin doors.

Anyone who’s taken a cruise knows what a hassle the pre-boarding process can be. To mitigate the long lines and wait times at terminals, many cruise lines now offer a ‘mobile boarding’ feature via their smartphone app. This allows for a smoother boarding process, eliminates the need for an army of reception staff, and allows cruise ship employees to focus on other tasks. 

Wearable technology has long been used in hospitals but has only begun to reach its full potential in the hospitality industry. Aside from being a location analytics tool and digital wallet/keycard, some smart wristbands are being deployed to meet other needs, such as onboard communication. A few major cruise lines use our technology as a depository of a passenger’s medical records, and an instant messaging device, so cruise operators can send wireless communications at sea to all passengers.

Wearable technology has had a big impact on the cruise line industry, and is likely to become more ubiquitous across the hospitality, travel, and tourism sectors as customers demand more convenience and a personalized experience. So what’s next in the world of wearable tech? We can expect the big cruise operators to explore new ways to leverage technology to engage with their passengers, as they aim to add value and heighten satisfaction in the cruise vacation experience.

 

Telehealth Technologies For The Maritime Industry

It has always been challenging to offer adequate healthcare to those who work aboard ships because of the natural challenges posed by a huge moving vessel. Due to the absence of medical personnel on board, their lack of medical expertise, and the scarcity of medical supplies, seafarers are particularly vulnerable compared to those back on shore.

One of the strongest allies for the cruise industry during the pandemic has been contact-tracing technology. These services can help prevent incidents by providing contact tracking and streamlining conversations. By simply utilizing an app on their phone, travelers have been able to check-in, open doors, turn on lights, control room temperature, communicate with front desk staff, wait in line, and much more. And that’s not all—the same app can track those who have had close contact with a contagious visitor or crew member so that they can be tested and isolated if required.

With the COVID-19 pandemic no longer at the very forefront of cruise ships’ minds, other technologies are receiving the attention of cruise operators. Effective use of contemporary communication and remote medical technologies is essential for mariners. Expert medical systems are one of the technologies with the quickest growth in the field of information and communication technology (ICT). A Telemedical Maritime Assistance Service (TMAS) is one of the most important evolving technologies to ensure that crew and passengers can be properly attended to. 

Let’s dive into two burgeoning technologies which could be crucial in attending to the healthcare needs of guests and crew members.

Contactless vital-sign health screening

netTALK Maritime recently released a mobile app that can be downloaded on the phones of the crew and passengers to monitor their vital signs. It uses end-to-end encryption to securely transmit data from network-enabled, medically authorized electronic health monitoring devices, and notifies the medical team in the presence of abnormal results. This function is handy for managing vital signs from quarantined individuals.

A digital onboard screening process can aid in monitoring the following:

  • Heart rate – noninvasive pulse reading and rhythm
  • Breathing rate – noninvasive respiration rate and rhythm
  • Body temperature – core temperature fever detection
  • Blood oxygen – SpO2 oxygen saturation

How does a TMAS system work?

Due to their potentially inadequate medical understanding, ship captains or officers in charge of providing onboard medical aid often find it challenging to accurately characterize their crew’s symptoms or injuries. Thanks to technological improvements, a TMAS doctor may now do an evaluation in person while not aboard. The TMAS doctor would ask various questions to get a preliminary diagnosis that will be used to select the best course of action. Digital tools elevate telemedicine to a new level by being able to take photographs of the skin, ears, and eyes, observe exterior lesions, monitor progress, and record vital signs.

The reality is that even though cruise ships designed for hospitality will have medically-trained doctors on board, this is not always the case for other ships. Although there may be crew members on board with first aid or healthcare training, their medical skills may also be limited. With TMAS’ being in place, crew members can perform any clinical efforts over the watchful eye of a qualified doctor.

To learn more about telehealth screening and onboard services, head over to netTALK Maritime’s homepage, where graphics outline exactly how the process works.

 

Could China Overtake the US in The Cruising Market?

China’s burgeoning cruise ship market is no secret—huge cruise companies such as Carnival Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, and other cruise lines have spent the last ten years trying to break into The Red Dragon’s market. Those efforts paid off big time, with passenger loads quickly increasing until the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe, halting the business. However, it has also leveled the playing field—the US cruise ship market declined from 13 billion US dollars to around one billion from 2019 to 2021.

Furthermore, In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the United States’ GDP declined by 2.3% in 2020, while China’s expanded by almost exactly the same amount. And according to experts, the disparity indicates China will overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy a few years sooner than expected. Considering China’s general economic strength and its thriving cruise ship development, it makes a heady cocktail that could challenge other global superpowers in the sector.

With the development of the world’s longest high-speed railway network and a home-built jumbo aircraft, China has made great strides in transport development. The government is now looking at huge cruise ships as the next step in its high-end manufacturing plans. Let’s examine how they plan to do this and what it means for the rest of the world.

State-of-the-art voyages

In October last year, the state-owned China Merchants Group sent out a 930-passenger ship on a unique voyage—it was the first-ever five-star luxury ship dedicated solely to the Chinese market. This marked a clear statement of intent to harness the public’s growing interest in cruise ship travel. 

Despite intermittent lockdowns, the government also opened up inland waterways for cruises throughout the pandemic. Cruises in the Yangtze River have proved popular among national tourists with no option for international travel. In the first half of 2021, just over 2000 cruises went down the river, and with ticket prices surging to match the demand, they have been a very successful venture.

Emerging technologies

As a result of the successful deployment of multiple cruises along the Yangtze River, a 100-meter-long, electric cruise ship was launched along the same river earlier this year. The cruise ship, dubbed “Yangtze River Three Gorges 1”, can haul 1,300 passengers and is entirely powered by 7.500 kWh of batteries—the equivalent of roughly 100 electronic vehicles. The manufacturers claim it is the first ship of its kind because it is charged using hydropower from the Three Gorges Dam, meaning it is supposedly the first truly “zero-emissions” cruise ship in the world. 

From the initial voyage, the range was relatively short—only around 100km. So clearly, there is a long way to go before we can see electric cruises taking many passengers on international vacations. However, the 100km accounts for just the equivalent of 530 tons of fuel which would amount to 1,660 fewer tons of emissions each year.

China’s top-level government’s dedication to developing new and innovative cruise ships has allowed state-owned enterprises to make huge strides. With investments from some of the biggest players in the industry (Carnival and Royal Caribbean) and a growing economy, China can expect to maintain its challenge to the US in the cruise industry in the coming years.

For more analysis of current cruise ship trends, check our other netTALK Maritime blogs!

 

Basics of Marine Communications

Contrary to popular belief, the cruising industry is not slow to embrace new technologies. And the improvement of marine communications over the years is a testament to that. As early as 1899, ships were able to send wireless messages to shore via radio. In those days, ship-to-shore messages were sent using morse code. The 1970s ushered in the era of satellite communications for shipping, and there have been lots of developments in marine communications ever since.

While there’s a lot to unravel, this post explains the basics of marine communications and the journey from the past to the present.

Systems and Networks: The Satellite Story

The marine industry embraced satellite technology immediately so it could meet the unique demands of the sector. Before then, the industry relied on radio for marine communications. While satellite and radio communications are pretty similar, satellite technology enables data transmission from a ship to the other party in any part of the globe. Radio communications have a limited range.

While many big names compete in the marine communications space, they are not fighting it out in the same market segment. There are three main satellite systems, and the players are evenly distributed across all.

Geo networks, located in orbit 35,668 km above the earth’s surface, are the most powerful type of satellite. Since they cover a wide area with their large beams, fewer GEO networks are needed to cover the same area as LEO and MEO networks.

At 800km to 1,600km above the earth’s surface, LEO networks are the closest to earth. They are small, meaning a constellation is needed to cover a wide area. LEO networks are ideal for newcomers since they are less costly. Occupying space between 5,000 and 12,000km, MEO satellites orbit at a higher altitude than LEO and lower than GEO. A constellation of 8-20 MEO satellites is needed to cover the Earth.

Regulatory Communications: GMDSS and Others

Shortly after the development of maritime communications using morse code, the maritime world saw that the solution was not perfect enough for sending a distress signal. The transmission used lights, which were not clear enough to understand the exact emergency onboard ships. That ushered in the Global Maritime Distress Safety System

GMDSS is an internationally agreed distress and radio communication safety system. It is an automated ship-to-shore communication system that uses satellites. Ships are obliged to use modern communication systems for safety purposes under GMDSS, even if they don’t use the infrastructure for welfare and commercial reasons. Today, ships rely on GMDSS to send distress signals to shore.

There are a few other regulatory communications to ensure navigational safety like AIS & LRIT, Ship Security alert system, Maritime Single Windows, etc.

Commercial Communications

Using morse code was expensive, especially because every letter was transmitted individually. To cut the expenses, the use of the Boe Code, which transmits five letters at once, was embraced. The five letters stood for sentences, and few people could decipher them.

Today, marine communications costs have dropped, and the industry has seen more reasons to communicate. That requires big data transmission and more flexible communication, leading to the popularity of commercial communications. Commercial Communications can be placed in two main categories: voyage and operational. Voyage communications handle voyage instructions, prompt of arrival contact with ports, etc. In contrast, operational communications deal more with ship-to-shore interactions like safety management, performance monitoring, etc.

With the Internet of Things, ships are getting more connected. We now have smart ships, research and training vessels, oceanographic exploration, etc. Maritime communication is experiencing a digital transformation, and there is high demand for marine-specific digital services. At the forefront of the digital shift is commercial communications.

Are you willing to get ahead of the curve by maximizing a technologically-advanced communication solution onboard? netTALK MARITIME has some solutions for you.

Innovations As Services That The Hospitality Industry Needs To Implement Right Away

Technological advancement has raised the standard across all industries, and consumers are starting to demand more than what was previously sufficient. One of the most affected industries is the hospitality sector, where users now demand more than just fully air-conditioned rooms and yummy foods. Modern hotels, for example, are appealing to customers in different ways, including having a futuristic design, increasing guest satisfaction, and hotel technology.

By leveraging innovation, the hospitality industry can meet more expectations. This post explains some of the best innovations as services that can help hotels grow with the change and get set for the future.

Utilizing Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning

AI and Machine Learning are fast becoming an integral part of the hospitality industry. Artificial Intelligence (AI) helps hotels to understand customers’ preferences and deliver tailor-made services to them. For example, AI-powered chatbots can improve customer support by providing swift solutions at all times of the day. Hotels also do not need to hire interpreters since AI-driven chatbots can be configured to communicate in different languages.

The size of the global industrial robotics market was estimated at around $55b in 2020. Some of these robots are AI-powered, and they are reshaping the hospitality industry. Beyond welcoming guests and providing tourist information, some AI-driven hotel robots can engage in activities like vacuum cleaning and luggage transportation.

Generally, AI-powered solutions are likely to change many things in the hospitality industry in the not-so-distant future. And hotels that start utilizing them now will have a headstart by then.

Biometrics Technology For Security And More

The global biometric authentication and identification market is expected to reach almost $100b by 2027. That does not come as a surprise since many industries rely on biometric technology for improved security and efficiency. In the hospitality industry, using face recognition and fingerprint ID will improve not only security but also customer experience.

By using biometric technology, hotels can implement a fast check-in process. This makes it possible for guests to book a room on their mobile app and get access to it by scanning their faces upon arrival. Also, this innovation can improve keyless entry, solving the headache of lost or deactivated key cards. What about a contactless biometric payment terminal? A solution that registers the guest’s face after the first payment and remembers their preferences for more personalized services.

Virtual Reality Tours

While augmented reality and virtual reality may still be in their infancy, the hospitality industry is already incorporating them into daily processes. Hotels can create augmented environments using augmented reality, giving staff members everything they need to manage guests effectively. Also, AR can be incorporated into the rooms by placing maps for additional information when users point a smartphone at them.

One of the most common uses of VR is virtual tours. Best experienced through headsets, potential guests can walk around the hotel and even take a look at their hotel room before booking. If made available on a hotel website, it could be what influences potential guests to book rooms.

Offering Cutting-edge Payment Solutions

Guests do not want to spend up to a minute making payments anymore. Therefore the hospitality industry has started implementing faster and safer payment methods. Perhaps the most debated is blockchain technology for payments. Through blockchain technology, payments are encrypted and processed in real-time. Not only does it prevent data theft, but it offers seamless integration between tax, payment, and accounting.

Furthermore, COVID 19 changed the demands of many consumers. Guests want to avoid contact with people and objects as much as possible. Implementing contactless payment solutions will make guests feel safer and happier.

5G is becoming a blessing to the hospitality industry. With superfast websites and software, the industry can deliver better services to guests. By implementing faster payment methods, virtual tours, AI-powered personalization, etc., guests will get more satisfaction, and the hospitality industry will grow bigger.

Are you willing to get ahead of the curve by maximizing a technologically-advanced communication solution onboard? netTALK MARITIME has some solutions for you.

How Wearable Technology Can Help Your Business in an Emergency

More businesses worldwide are beginning to understand how wearable technology can make the workplace safer. The growing appetite has led to more demand, taking the global shipments of wearables to about 533.6 million units in 2021. In addition to improving efficiency and productivity, some wearables can become lifelines during emergencies. Many industries with frontline and field workers like logistics, emergency services, and healthcare are quickly adopting assisted reality smart glasses and other wearables. 

 

The cruise industry is also quickly embracing wearable solutions thanks to COVID-19 (strange as it is to say this!). This post explains how wearable technology can increase safety measures and help your business in an emergency.

What’s Wrong With A Manual Process?

Businesses that have yet to maximize wearable technology for safety resort to manual processes when there is an emergency. Since things happen quickly during an emergency, every employee must know what is required to ensure their safety. Usually, this means businesses have to conduct fire drills where everyone must learn how to evacuate the premises and where to meet up in an emergency. 

 

These drills require a designated person to do a headcount of everyone in a department to ensure safety. While fire drills are a great way to prepare for an emergency, doing a manual headcount during an emergency is prone to mistakes. A miscount, which is not unlikely, during an actual emergency may be tragic. Therefore, many businesses are embracing wearable technology for safety.

Wearable Technology In The Workplace

Although COVID-19 forced many workplaces to shut down and adopt better safety measures before reopening, a recent survey reveals that 68% of workers do not feel completely safe at work. Beyond creating improved ventilation systems, enforcing social distancing and mask-wearing, etc., workers want to be assured that they are safe in an emergency. It is the employer’s responsibility to keep employees safe and healthy when at work, and one of the best ways to ensure that is by maximizing wearable technology.

 

Today, wearables are more than just accessories. They can become valuable tools that take employees’ vital signs and guide them through potentially dangerous tasks. Wearables could be something as simple as fitness trackers or devices that collect and track health data to analyze how workers react to their immediate environment.

 

In the event of an emergency, wearables can become real-time locating systems, detecting and indicating the current location of all employees and showing those that might be close to the dangerous areas. Integrating software that offers the above makes it easy for the employer to know if any worker is still inside the building during an emergency. Emergency personnel can be told where to go to assist them.

 

Not all emergencies require all workers to evacuate the premises. Individuals may fall or have serious health issues. Sometimes, they may not be able to call for help. Fortunately, wearables can be configured to notify a designated department in the event of a fall or life-threatening situation. Features like step trackers, ECG tests, fall detection, etc., can pick irregularities and alert people nearby.

 

The emergency services sector is also in the wearable discussion. Beyond sending out an emergency alert to the emergency services, wearables can send vital patient information from the workplace to the emergency team waiting to treat the employee. Usually, paramedics have to log the details manually, which is time-consuming.

A Simulation Of Wearable Technology In Action: The Cruise Industry 

Following a No Sail Order issued in 2019, CDC allowed cruise ships to resume operations in 2021. Travelers showed renewed interest in cruising, but they were also interested in the safety measures and how cruise lines can handle a coronavirus outbreak onboard. Cruise operators provided several answers, wearable technology being the most convincing. 

 

In an onboard outbreak, an onboard contact-tracing system can swing into action to manage the situation. If each person onboard has a wearable that records their recent whereabouts, it becomes easy to identify people who may have had significant contact with an infected person. Such people can be immediately tested and quarantined if required. 

 

Do you want a mission-critical technology that offers contact tracing and other crucial solutions during an emergency? NetTALK MARITIME has some solutions for you.

Seemingly Promising: A Prediction Of The 2022 Summer Cruising Season

When the pandemic hit the world in 2020, the cruise industry was one of the most affected. Thousands of passengers were preparing to revel in the sun and visit amazing ports of call, but passenger cruise ship travel was canceled. In 2021, the industry made deliberate efforts to get back on track by putting safety measures in place, yet cruises still faced some disruptions. With the 2022 summer cruising season set to be underway, business operators and travel enthusiasts are keeping a close eye on signals for how the season may turn out.

While it is difficult to predict what the world will look like in a few months, there is growing optimism that the cruise industry will make a comeback in 2022, and people will have the chance to explore their dreams once again. The cruise industry is cooperating with the CDC to have an uninterrupted year, cruise operators are reporting high demands for cruises, and new cruise ships are ready to set sail. With the fate of the 2022 season unknown, this post examines the position of the CDC on the omicron wave of COVID-19, the demands of travelers, top destinations, and other necessary factors to have a near-accurate prediction of the 2022 summer cruising season.

 The CDC and Safety Concerns

After increasing the risk level for cruise ship travel to its highest level late in December 2021, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised everyone to avoid cruising regardless of vaccination status. Many travel advisors were convinced that the announcement would disrupt the 2022 summer cruising season, but things changed quickly. A few weeks after the announcement, the CDC lifted the Conditioning Sailing Order, giving everyone in the industry optimism.

The quick changes make it difficult to say what will happen this season, but the latter development means cruise lines are getting set for the 2022 showdown, and there is an increase in passenger flows. Cruise lines are taking safety measures seriously. In addition to reporting the daily number of coronavirus cases, companies on the cutting edge are utilizing innovative solutions like the netTALK Maritime cruise technology for shipboard passenger and crew health monitoring and real-time communication of issues onboard.

 Demands Are High

There are reports that demand for cruising in 2022 is high. For example, a cruise operator, Uncruise Adventures, has reported robust demand for cruises to Southeast Alaska this year. Dan Blanchard, the CEO of Uncruise Adventures, suggests that people want to go out and travel, but not at the expense of their health.

The world’s largest cruise company, Carnival, reported that it had recorded more bookings for the first half of 2022 than in 2019. The CEO explained that despite the extended pause in operations, minimal advertising efforts, and negative global news, the demand for cruising is robust, and travelers will stop at nothing to explore different parts of the world this year.

Early in 2022, AIDA joins the cruise lines to express optimism after reporting that bookings are developing “very positively .”Like other cruise lines, AIDA is putting everything in place to meet the needs of travelers.

The growing pent-up demand for cruising in 2022 can be credited to a few reasons. Perhaps, the most significant being many people see cruise ships as one of the safest vacation environments due to the strict vaccine requirements and rigorous testing protocols.

 Technology To The Rescue

Due to the pandemic, touchless solutions are penetrating all industries, including the cruise market. Turbo-charged by the pandemic, the use of technology onboard will increase, and cruise operators that successfully maximize the latest technology are likely to attract more customers than others.

Passengers will not be willing to walk to the reception desk for every inquiry; therefore, cruise operators may need to incorporate in-cabin voice-activated artificial intelligence. Also, passengers will be hoping they can track their relatives and communicate with them in real-time. In this case, netTALK Maritime communication solutions is one of the most technologically-advanced tools to utilize.

Cruise operators are already offering digital daily planners, giving passengers access on the phone. Stay glued to the paper daily planner left on the bed at your own peril.

Are you willing to get ahead of the curve by maximizing a technologically-advanced communication solution onboard? netTALK MARITIME has some solutions for you.

A Chinese Takeover: Predicting The Not-So-Distant Future Of The Cruise Market

The global travel industry is growing, and cruises are a significant part of its success. Although it started with small beginnings, with an annual growth rate of 5.4% since 2009, the cruise market has evolved dramatically. The cruise industry is predicted to reach up to $34.1billion by 2025, and market researchers are confident that China has the potential to take over the reins from the U.S to become the world’s largest cruise market.

A One-Second Peek into the Past

In 2019, the U.S led the global cruise market, and about 48% of cruise passengers worldwide were from the United States. The difference between the U.S and other countries that followed was so much that the U.S cruise market was four times bigger than Germany’s at second. U.K and China followed respectively in third and fourth place. Although the pandemic hit the cruise industry hard in 2020, the U.S continued taking the lead, and that is the situation at the time of this writing. But why is China (at fourth place) predicted to go straight to the top?

An Intentional Government

Many years ago, cruising in China meant getting on a fishing boat or serving in the military. Tourist-oriented cruising never became popular until the 1990s, when an influx of foreign tourists influenced the development of luxury river cruises. The world’s largest cruise line started operating in China in 2006, offering trips from Shanghai to Japan and South Korea. However, there were lots of challenges. The Chinese government knew that the country didn’t have the infrastructure for large cruise ships, and foreigners dominated the Chinese cruise industry.

The government saw the cruise industry’s potential to be a tremendous economic multiplier and, in 2008, issued guidelines for the development of the industry.

The efforts of the Chinese government paid off on Oct. 1, 2021, when the 930-passenger Zhao Shang Yidun, a cruise ship jointly operated by state-owned China Merchants Group and Viking Cruises Ltd., set sail on an eight-day trip from Shenzhen. The five-star luxury cruise ship’s first voyage results from the government’s 15-year consistent development of the cruise industry. The Chinese government is not stopping there. It plans to raise tourism revenue and build international cruise terminals.

Speaking to Xinhua, Arnold Donald, the CEO of Carnival Corp, explained that:

“China, someday, will be the largest cruise market in the world.”

He also added, “It’s in their five-year plan, so if cruising is in their five-year plan, they’re going to make it happen.”

Inspired People

Like the state, the public is also interested in cruise travel. There were 87,000 cruise passengers from China in 2011, but the growing interest meant an increased number in subsequent years. In 2018, the number had risen to 2.4 million, making China the leader of the Asia cruise market. China contributed over 70% of Asia’s 4.24 million cruise passengers with this number.

Part of the reason for the growing enthusiasm among the public is that international travel is a new experience for many Chinese, and cruising is an easy entry point. Also, many Chinese find the chance to explore the world as a group appealing. As a result, 50% of all Chinese travelers in 2018 were on group tours.

Although COVID-19 affected China’s cruise industry, it didn’t stop the desire for cruising. As soon as cruise ships resumed operation, tickets prices surged, and many people were ready to travel again.

Dominant Market Players

International market players are also part of the force behind China’s move to the top of the cruise market. Since they have seen the government’s deliberate actions to improve the economy by utilizing cruising, many cruise operators are creating a more substantial presence in the country.

In March 2019, Costa Cruises, an Italian cruise line, completed the acquisition of Costa Venezia, a cruise ship exclusively designed for the Chinese market. With a capacity of about 5,200 guests, 135,500 tons, and 323 meters in length, it became the largest ship the Italian cruise line introduced to the Chinese market.

About four months before Costa Cruises’ move, Carnival Corp had announced its partnership with China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC). Part of the agreement required acquiring two new cruise ships, which would be built in Shanghai, and the first one delivered in 2023.

 The ministries are cooperating with cruise operators, and the people are ready to travel around the world. By 2030, China is likely to lead the global cruise market.

Are you willing to get ahead of the curve by maximizing a technologically-advanced communication solution onboard? netTALK MARITIME has some solutions for you.

A Guide to Future Maritime Communications

High-speed communication is already commonplace in many different sectors opening up incredible opportunities—and particularly so in the world of cruise ships.

Many cargo ships have already moved beyond traditional direct satellite communication to ‘voice over IP’ for communications that run on the data network of the satellite. These Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites provide workers on the ships with almost the same communication tools available to office workers, which is a remarkable feat.

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed through other recent changes. Contactless technology, for example, can allow passengers to speak with a cruise ship’s reception, or other passengers, by using an app on their phone. Elsewhere, electronic health-monitoring devices keep track of vital signs for those who may have to quarantine on a cruise ship.

Let’s dig deeper to find out where these innovations could lead to in the future of maritime communications.

Remote Operations and Assistance

As things stand, there are not many systems available on ships that could reliably run without crew intervention. However, there have been some promising experiments in the last few years which could lead to remote control becoming the norm. At Carnival’s fleet operations center, the team recently conducted a remote trial using bespoke monitoring and analytics systems, which could be extremely helpful in the future should cruise ship staff fall ill or face exceptional circumstances.

In the years leading up to the COVID pandemic, remote monitoring and equipment support were making steady gains in the marine industry, and according to Carnival’s example, it appears that now more operators are eager to engage. The capacity to use 4G/5G technology on a cell phone in ports, along with improved off-shore network capabilities, has undoubtedly helped. Furthermore, technology such as augmented reality could make some headway in the industry. In 2020, Samsung Heavy Industries managed to move a tugboat via a 360-degree view of the ship with the aid of AR.

We are still a long way from a sea of autonomous cruise ships, as they are too complex to be unmanned—almost all emergency gear steering still uses manpower. The development of propulsion technology could allow a less complicated autonomous ship to function, but it is still a huge risk at this point. Communication links between the vessel and shore would need both abundant bandwidth and a completely failsafe system if a connection were to go down.

Safety and Warnings

Under international regulations, all ships have specific equipment to alert authorities in case of an emergency. This system is called the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS). It allows ships to provide position details, enabling search and rescue services to find them as quickly as possible. A 10-year review from the IMO recently concluded that more satellite providers, aside from just Inmarsat, should be available to ships that need alternative safety systems.

Some of these suppliers will soon act as coordinating centers that contact selected personnel immediately when they receive an alert. At least one of these suppliers has developed an app for smartphones that will give all the information to designated staff whenever an alert is made. Regulators are also moving to minimize the environmental impact of ships moving forward. Warnings about emissions and directives on fuel use may dominate communication systems and networks. 

For more information about future communication possibilities check out our blog on “Where is satellite communication heading to in the next 10 years”.