Lonely Planet Writer

See the staterooms of the future on board Royal Caribbean

Shipping line Royal Caribbean has revealed innovative plans that include epic ‘staterooms of the future’. Guests on their luxury Caribbean liners will soon be able to gain access to their rooms using smartphone or even facial recognition, while enjoying a host of immersive VR experiences during their stay. The suites will be similarly futuristic, with screens moving at the touch of a button to reveal virtual scenes that blend seamlessly with the views outside. Similarly, if the weather’s not great, grey skies could easily be replaced with a sunrise.

Royal Caribbean cruise ship unloading passengers in Martinique. Image by martypatch/Getty Images

“Consumers are buying experiences now, not things,” says Richard D. Fain, RCL’s chairman and CEO. “Guests will be able to indulge in VR and AR experiences that transform ship spaces into virtual environments and interactive games, where stateroom ceilings might be replaced by starry skies, the walls of a restaurant can transform into the sights and sounds of an outdoor café, and digital signs challenge you to play an arcade game.”

A concept for future staterooms imagines floors, ceilings and walls that can
change. Image by Diane Bondareff/ Invision for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd./AP Images

Royal Caribbean also sees technology improving the way guests avail of ship services. “We’re finding ways to eliminate friction and frustration”, says Jay Schneider, the company’s senior vice-president. “For example, guests will be able to board ships in the time it takes to order fries from the drive-through, skipping check-in lines thanks to facial recognition technology that knows who they are on arrival. They can also sign up for shore excursions, order drinks and make dinner reservations without ever leaving their chairs by the pool, thanks to an intuitive app on a device most of them already have – a smartphone.”

Demo screens are shown to a live audience. Image by Diane Bondareff/ Invision for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd./AP Images

An initial release of the cruise’s app is available already on selected ships in the company’s fleet. “RCL will continue to refine the app”, says Schneider, “adding new ship-specific features and capabilities, with each subsequent release. Our aim is to have the app enabled on about 15% of our fleet by the end of this year, and more than double that by the end of 2018.”