Inside a clandestine Carnival Corporation complex here, two former Disney executives have been plotting a drastic cruise industry overhaul.
Their mission: Take lessons learned at Walt Disney World, where they helped bring about a $1 billion vacation management system involving Fitbit-style bracelets that link to personal information, and apply them to cruises. The result: Millions of passengers on Carnival ships will soon be using a similar but more advanced system that allows travelers to do everything from plan vacations to open stateroom doors to order poolside cocktails.
“As long as bigger, newer, cooler ships have kept coming, the cruise industry has treated guest liabilities — standing in long lines, having a frustrating embarkation experience — as acceptable,” said John Padgett, who joined Carnival in 2014 as chief experience and innovation officer after 18 years at Disney. “That thinking stops now.”
Carnival, which operates more than 100 ships worldwide under 10 brands, will unveil its ambitious technology initiative on Thursday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. In a keynote speech, Arnold W. Donald, Carnival’s chief executive, intends to announce that the system — an app called Ocean Compass paired with a quarter-size so-called smart medallion that can be carried in a pocket or worn as jewelry — will arrive on the company’s Princess Cruises fleet this year.
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