Carnival Spends Big to Transform Cruising


At this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, cruise giant Carnival Corporation introduced “the world’s first interactive guest experience platform capable of transforming vacation travel into a highly personalized and elevated level of customized service for millions of guests.”

Wow! Or, on second thought: What?

More about the so-called Ocean Medallion: It’s a “first-of-its-kind wearable device that enables a personal concierge by bridging the physical and digital worlds to deliver a new level of personalized service not previously considered possible — including sophisticated wayfinding, food and beverage on demand, an array of interactive gaming, personalized entertainment experiences and more.”

And as for what it is, physically: It’s a quarter-sized, 1.8-ounce disc that “can be accessorized with jewelry, clips, key chains and bands or simply carried in a pocket or pocketbook.”

OK, so you walk around a Carnival cruise ship with this little disk hanging around your neck, and it does… what exactly? The purported benefits are described thusly:

  • Streamline and expedite the port embarkation and disembarkation process
  • Allow guests to access their staterooms as they approach the door (no keycard required)
  • Locate friends and family around the cruise ship
  • Enable guests to purchase merchandise without any transaction, cards or paper
  • Deliver enhanced dining experiences based on food and beverage preferences
  • Power an array of interactive gaming and immersive entertainment experiences
  • Significantly enhance interactions with crew members and guests

Color me underwhelmed; that seems like more fluff than substance. And it’s not clear to me why these functions couldn’t be packaged into a smartphone app, relieving me of the need to add that little round disk to the list of electronic devices I already have to keep on hand and interact with. But maybe I’m just being old school here.

Carnival is the parent company of 10 cruise lines, which together operate more than 100 ships. Ocean Medallion will be rolled out across Princess Cruises ships this year, giving travelers a chance to test-use the new technology. According to a New York Times story, the company has invested hundreds of millions of dollars so far, with further costs yet to be incurred, and expects a substantial positive return on that investment.

Color me skeptical.

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and almost that long writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

This article first appeared on, where Tim is Editor-at-Large.


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