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”.

 

 

Domestic Cruises in the US for 2022

When we think of cruises, our thoughts usually turn to tropical waters and remote islands. However, you can still find many amazing trips without even needing a passport. For these closed-loop cruises, all you need is a boarding pass, a government photo ID, and a US birth certificate. With the pandemic forcing us to be more considerate about international travel, a domestic cruise could be the answer for scratching that itch to go somewhere exotic.

Let’s take a look at some of the best cruise destinations available at your doorstep.

Hawaii

Length: seven nights to 18 nights

Distance: roughly 3,100 nautical miles

Time to go: Between March-September

When it comes to domestic cruises, it’s hard to beat a trip to Hawaii. Hawaii is surrounded by the warm waters of the Pacific ocean and gives tourists the chance to explore the volcanoes, beaches, and waterfalls that span the islands. There are many departure ports across the West Coast — making it easy for you to reach this popular destination.

Most cruises stop off at Honolulu first—where the infamous Waikiki Beach and the Pearl Harbor monument is located. The other main attraction is Lahaina, providing the opportunity to take a helicopter ride and have a bird’s eye view of the dormant volcanoes. 

Alaska

Length: six nights to 30 nights

Distance: roughly 900 nautical miles

Time to go: Between May-September

Alaska undoubtedly has some of the most awe-inspiring scenery in the USA. You can be forgiven for equating a trip to the “last frontier” as going back in time— the historic mining towns and fish markets that have kept the same customs for decades. However, Alaska mixes the old with the new, with plenty of fine-dining and cultural experiences available in cities such as Juneau.

There is more wilderness in Alaska than anywhere else in the USA. All of that wild terrain and rugged beauty is home to fantastic land and sea animals. You can expect to see bears, moose, wolves, eagles, and humpback whales, to name a few. The most popular departure points are Vancouver and Seattle for those wanting to head out from the North-West.

New England

Length: six nights to ten nights

Distance: roughly 600 nautical miles

Time to go: Between May-October

Although it’s perhaps not a destination that would spring to mind for many people when considering a cruise, the Northeastern state represents a great way to combine seeing city landmarks of New York and Boston with natural wonders. One of the best times of year to visit is during early autumn, when the wilting foliage produces an incredible spectrum of colors. The Northeastern coastline is obviously home to spectacular seafood as well—Maine lobster, steamed clams, and oysters are all to die for.

The Boston Freedom Trail is an excellent resource for learning about the American Revolution. Furthermore, you can explore Peggy’s Cove and its lighthouse in Nova Scotia, as well as the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site, a 19th-century military fort with spectacular views of Dartmouth Bay and the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge. Bar Harbor in Maine also has plenty of hiking trails in the surrounding Acadia National Park. The added benefit of a cruise in this part of the US, is the availability of departure locations from the many port cities in the area.

Uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic is not going away anytime soon, so travelers need options closer to home. These cruises mentioned above give you several possibilities that may only require a short drive or flight to get to the departure point. 

To learn more about cruising safely during the pandemic, check out our recent blog on this exact topic!

How Cruises Can Use Ship Technology to Keep Covid-19 at Bay

As the last Covid-19 wave caused by the Omicron variant comes to an end, cruise lines keep taking safety measures to avoid cases from spreading on board. The industry has been seriously hit by the pandemic and companies have been following the steps required to continue operating.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Conditional Sailing Order—a framework of mandatory safety procedures for foreign-flagged ships in U.S. waters—expired on January 15 and is now optional. Nevertheless, so far all U.S. based cruise ships have opted in, according to the CDC dashboard. The organization classifies ships according to their level of vaccinated crew and passengers, as well as the number of reported cases, and sets different rules for each group. 

In this scenario, it seems like the CDC guidelines plus the Healthy Sail Panel best practices are the criteria that cruises will continue to use in order to avoid a new wave of Covid-19 cases. Most of the rules have to do with social distancing, vaccination, and hygiene, such as: 

  • Implement physical distancing of crew members who are not up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations when working or moving through the ship (maintaining at least 6 feet [2 meters] from others).
  • Instruct crew members to properly wear a well-fitting mask when outside of individual cabins.
  • Modify meal service to facilitate physical distancing (e.g., reconfigure dining room seating, stagger mealtimes, encourage in-cabin dining).
  • Discourage handshaking – encourage the use of non-contact methods of greeting.
  • Promote respiratory and hand hygiene and cough etiquette.
  • Place hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol) in multiple locations and in sufficient quantities to encourage hand hygiene.
  • Ensure handwashing facilities are well-stocked with soap and paper towels.
  • Crew should remain up to date with their vaccines, which includes additional doses for individuals who are immunocompromised or booster doses at the appropriate time.

If Covid-19 cases are detected in a cruise ship, passengers infected get isolated and the rules become more strict:

  • Minimize the number of crew sharing a cabin or bathroom to the extent practicable.
  • Instruct crew members to remain in cabins as much as possible during non-working hours.
  • Cancel all face-to-face employee meetings, group events (such as employee trainings), or social gatherings.
  • Close all crew bars, gyms, and other group settings.
  • Close crew indoor smoking areas.
  • Provide all crew members with well-fitting, high-quality masks or respirators, such as KN95s.
  • Expedite contact tracing (including the use of wearable technology, recall surveys, and the onboarding of additional public health staff).

As cases increase, the CDC requires more measures that include massive testing and can even force the cruise ship to return to port immediately or delay the next voyage. For this reason, keeping cases under control is vital for companies. 

How Can Ship Technology Prevent A Covid-19 Outbreak? 

Ship technology is the best ally for cruise companies during the pandemic. From facilitating communications to enabling contact tracing, these services can help keep cases at bay. Let’s take a look at some of them:

Onboard communications and world calling: passengers and crew can text and call as they were inland, keeping in touch with medical services and health authorities, and respecting social distance. 

Contactless technology: passengers can check-in, open the door, turn on the light, adjust the temperature in the room, speak with the front desk, wait in line, and much more just by using an app on their phone.

Contactless Vital-Sign Health Screening: vital signs from passengers and crew are screened by an app installed on their phones. Data from network-enabled, medically approved electronic health-monitoring devices are securely relayed using end-to-end encryption, and the medical team is alerted if abnormal results are detected. This feature comes especially handy to control vital signs from people in quarantine. 

Private and anonymized contact tracing: when a contagious guest or crew member is identified, an app can trace the people that have had close contact for them to be tested and quarantined, if necessary. 

Air filtration: the air is the main vehicle for Covid-19 to spread. For this reason, high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are the best tool to keep the air clean and safe for passengers and crew.

Despite the CDC advising travelers to avoid cruising for considering it a “very high risk of Covid-19” activity, cruise lines have reasons to be hopeful: in a late-January Cruise Critic survey of 1,563 travelers who had taken a cruise in the past 90 days — during the peak of the omicron wave — 96% of respondents said they felt safe onboard and 88% said they would sail again under the same circumstances. 

If companies leverage these technological features to avoid more Covid-19 outbreaks, they will be for sure on their way to recovery. Get more information here.

Top 10 trends in the hospitality industry for 2022

There is no doubt that the hospitality industry was one of the most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Luckily, in 2022 hopes are on the rise – U.S. hotel demand will near full recovery this year, according to the upgraded forecast released by STR and Tourism Economics.

However, the world is not the same and neither are travelers. Hotels, cruise ships, and restaurants will have to adapt to the new tourist’s necessities if they want to take advantage of what will seemingly be a year of recovery. 

Let’s take a look at the top 10 trends in the hospitality industry for 2022:

1- Contactless experiences

Digital and contactless services’ popularity has spiked since the beginning of the pandemic, and by 2022, we can say this is a trend that is here to stay. Mobile check-in, contactless payments, virtual queuing, virtual front desk, voice control, and biometrics will be a must.

2- Heath diagnostic technology

Technology will also be a powerful partner to prevent the spread of coronavirus. This is the case of health technology apps that allow checking passengers’ and staff’s vital signs, and the response to health questionnaires. Using the smartphone front-facing camera, these apps capture vital signs that can then be seamlessly shared with medical staff during a video call. When a contagious guest or staff member is identified, this technology can also perform contact tracing to identify other people who may have had significant contact with that person so they can also be tested and quarantined, if necessary.

3- Remote work and leisure travel 

The Covid-19 pandemic forced companies to embrace remote work from one day to another. Two years later, it seems like this will be more than a passing trend: high-profile companies such as Twitter and Facebook have announced that they will remain remote even after the pandemic or adopt a hybrid and more flexible approach.

 

This change in the way of working plus the increasing blending of business and leisure travel creates a perfect opportunity for hotels and cruise ships, which should adapt to this new panorama by adding plug sockets, providing high-speed WIFI, and having comfortable workspaces. In the case of cruise ships, it will be fundamental to provide access to ship VoIP calling, maritime instant messaging, as well as ship PBX.

4- Personalization

According to Business Wire, 80% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that show they understand them. For this reason, it is important to personalize services like never before, from communications and marketing to rooms and entertainment. 

5- Solo travel

In the age of mindfulness and meditation, people are venturing to travel more on their own. For this reason, hotels have started to build more “homey” environments and offer better accommodations for solo travelers. Some cruise ships, for example, are offering discounts and sales, as traveling solo is usually more expensive than sharing the room with somebody else. 

6- Sustainability

According to Booking.com’s 2021 Sustainable Travel Report, 83% of global travelers think sustainable travel is vital, with 61% saying the pandemic has made them want to travel more sustainably in the future. In consequence, hotels are taking actions like eliminating single-use toiletry bottles, adding recycling bins to guestrooms, and using compostable to-go containers and utensils. The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), on the other hand, has committed to pursuing net carbon neutral cruising by 2050.

7- Virtual reality and gamification

Attractive visual content is the key to success these days, so hotels should take advantage of virtual and augmented reality to build virtual tours of their accommodations, and even features that can be used by guests to create their own content. Also, gamification helps make promotions, loyalty programs, and staff training more engaging. 

8- Goodbye to self-service buffets

In order to accommodate safety and distance, hotels, restaurants, and some cruise ships are replacing self-service buffets with takeaway and service to the table. They are also including healthier options, as well as menus that can accommodate guests and passengers with different kinds of diets. 

9- Educational experiences 

People want to learn and be entertained. Painting and cooking classes, trivia nights, wine-tasting, conferences, and one-on-one sessions with storytellers are popular new offerings at many venues. 

10- Minimalism and meaning

Travelers have changed their mindset regarding the way they spend their money and time. Instead of choosing luxurious accommodations, they prefer to spend wisely, purposefully, and make a positive impact on the world.

 

Finally, the hospitality industry has the opportunity to get back on track after two difficult years. If businesses act on what travelers need, their success will be almost guaranteed.