Allure of the Seas–a ship based on technology

The rock wall on Royal Caribbean’s newest mega-ship Allure of the Seas, kept calling to me. As a guest on a two-day cruise filled with travel industry professionals, my time was scheduled tightly, and I wasn’t sure I could squeeze in a climb.

Waivers for rock climbing now on iPad

But the rock wall opens at 8:00 a.m., which allowed me to tackle its vertical expanse before the first media session of the day–and gave me a look at a new use of technology.  No more paper waivers to sign—it’s all printed on an iPad; just scroll down to the signature line.  It’s quick, maybe too quick, because, there’s virtually no chance guests will read the entire liability waiver.  But it was painless, and signing once also applied to the zip line and FlowRider.

Technology has been  used for a long time to keep track of passengers as they board the ship, go ashore when in port, and return to the ship. But the cruise on Allure of the Seas was the first time our SeaPass cards were used to count heads at the required safety muster prior to sailing.  Instead of staff manually checking off those present,  a quick scan of each card accurately recorded names.

Finding your way around the ship

One of the greatest tech innovations—quick, fun, and easy to use—was the interactive signage found on every deck on the ship.  Don’t know where you are? Check the lighted ship sign on the wall. Don’t know where you want to be? Check the same sign.  Don’t know what activities are available at any given moment? Check again. Want to know about dining availability in specialty restaurants? Get that answer, too.

Just press a button to visually learn about activities, cabins, and choices for any venue (theaters, lounges, sports, etc.).  Find out exactly where you’re located and get directions to the deck and area of the ship—port or starboard, forward or aft—where you’d like to go.  Press a button, and a map shows the exact path via dotted line to your destination.  

On a ship the size of the Allure, there’s no guarantee you won’t get lost, but there’s no excuse for wandering aimlessly. Press a couple of buttons and be on your way. And there’s no need for a paper schedule folded up in your pocket all day.

Technology impacts life onboard in many other ways that almost all guests will use: Make a reservation, set a wake-up call, charge your iPod, connect to the Internet anywhere on board—accomplish almost anything you want by pushing the right buttons.

Captain Zini studies monitors on the ship's bridge

What you don’t see

Technology is imbedded in all operations of a mega-ship like Allure.  On the security side, more than 1200 cameras are stashed around its 16 decks, so all public areas can be viewed constantly by the staff.  Monitors reveal people moving around the ship and help staff know if a guest is in distress.  Security also knows immediately if a smoke alarm goes off in a cabin (can happen if a hairdryer is used too close to the device or if someone tries to sneak a cigarette or light a candle).

Safety officer checks for anything unusual

Who’s driving the ship? Not the captain.  Operation of the Allure is so reliant on computers that Captain Hernan Zini can confidently leave the bridge.  Weather reports, the ship’s course, water displacement in the ocean, speed, direction, and so much more is continually reported on multiple screens. Of course, the captain and crew still interpret the information and use it to make decisions about when, where, and how to maneuver the ship.   But it’s more a matter of analyzing data than hands-on steering.

 Photos by Beverly Burmeier

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