Cruise tourism is an essential contributor to economies around the world, and the impact of the suspension of cruising in 2020 due to the pandemic had far-reaching effects across the cruise community from ports and destinations to service providers and tour operators.
However, Cruise Lines International Association’s (CLIA) State of the Cruise Industry Report 2022 highlights the industry’s resolve. This year the industry is bouncing back, with over 20 new cruise ships to be delivered in 2022 – a figure on par with the years before the pandemic.
The 2022 CLIA report also highlights that millennials are the most enthusiastic cruisers of the future - 85% of millennial cruise passengers, and 75% of Gen Z passengers, say they plan to cruise again. With the demographic of cruise passengers changing, the industry needs to adapt with it.
Beyond these tech-savvy groups, guests of all ages are increasingly wanting access to social media, video calls and streamed content. And no, as the trend in smaller ship expedition cruising grows creating new and non-traditional routes including the Arctic and catering to the ultra-luxury market, they cannot afford to compromise guests’ high demands and connectivity needs while travelling in remote areas.
Inevitably, expectations will only increase for both entertainment and connectivity during holidays at sea. So, as guests become more hands-on with their devices, they will expect the same quality of experience at sea that they have on land.
An e-driven experience
But that is just one of the demands for personal connectivity. As a result of the pandemic, many communal digital interfaces onboard will be replaced by the equivalent service offered via personal devices – it’ll be hands-off for bookings, ordering, paying and, it could even be that way for opening doors. The pandemic has also highlighted how critical telemedicine services are for supplementing onboard medical teams and for adapting the way that services are accessed. For example, it helps to prioritise in person care to those who need it most and mitigates risk by enabling those with minor issues or standard care to book appointment or be seen remotely from their cabin.
The challenge is that current, traditional satellite connectivity is often not fast or reliable enough on its own to serve the growing demand for bespoke applications and instant access that today’s passengers want and operators, need. With an average of 3,000 passengers onboard a cruise ship, online systems and applications will require solutions than incorporate terrestrial-grade speed and low latency.
OneWeb is poised to offer low latency, fast and resilient services, enabling significantly more advanced and reliable service offerings. Data speeds will be up to 10x faster than those provided by GEO solutions. Its services are well positioned to enhance existing networks to boost speeds and reliable coverage when and where it’s needed most for cruise ships.
Crew welfare, environmental and commercial progress
This next generation connectivity solution will also play a key role in improving crew wellbeing. New digital platforms are being used across the industry to support seafarer wellbeing with online courses or access to digital support networks. In addition, fast and reliable internet is essential to enable the provision of e-learning to enhance training onboard, further improving vessel safety. As vessel operations change, ensuring that new and returning crew have access up to date training content, seamlessly both from home and onboard ships, will enable crew to adapt to new requirements and develop their careers.
Then comes the behind-the-scenes connectivity used to ensure the safety of ships at sea and their optimal use of energy and resources. As CLIA’s Kelly Craighead says: “Our members are looking ahead, leading the way in responsible tourism and maritime practices, investing in new ships, and pursuing the goal of net carbon neutral cruising by 2050.”
New levels of data processing will enable cruise lines to measure and minimise emissions in port and at sea. They will be able to boost the operational efficiency of their vessels – with decisions being made either onboard or from shore – as they fully utilise smart technologies that support real time automation and predictive maintenance, while providing end-to-end cyber protection of critical systems.
These emerging demands, and those in the future, are underpinned by the ability to record, analyse and share data in innovative ways – all of which is reliant on internet services that are both fit for purpose and resilient.
Collaborating to scale faster
From OneWeb’s perspective, we believe that collaborating with partners with proven expertise in the market will help to scale change more quickly and effectively. Whether this is being part of hybrid connectivity solutions or working with other industry partners to pioneer tech-driven maritime initiatives, there is significant potential to support the cruise industry’s evolution at this pivotal time. We look forward to deepening our relationships and creating solutions to provide cruise operators with the tools needed to offer returning customers the best possible onboard experience from enhanced safety to onboard entertainment. Also, for operators, LEO connectivity will finally help to unlock the benefits of many technologies that can enable them to improve their environmental footprint, manage performance, support seafarers and drive profitability. It’s about putting in strong digital foundations now, to build a more connected and thriving future.
Carole Plessy is Head of Maritime and Energy for OneWeb, the global communications company that is revolutionizing satellite networks to bring much needed connectivity to rural and remote places, and greater connectivity to existing markets.
Carole has extensive knowledge of the satcom sector based on her previous role at Inmarsat, where she was Senior Director of Digital Products and, prior to that, Director of Maritime Product Development, responsible for new product delivery from concept to launch.
Carole has an MSC in Aeronautics and Telecommunications from the Ecole Nationale de L’Aviation Civile, and a doctoral program degree from the University Paul Sabatier.