Wearable Tech

These cruise ships will deck you out in wearable tech

MSC Cruises is making waves by kitting out its new cruise ships with tech that will take it sailing into the future.

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Sail and surf with MSC.

MSC Cruises

It's anchors aweigh for the cruise industry as it sails full-steam ahead into the world of wearable tech.

MSC Cruises on Wednesday became the second cruise company in 2017 to announce a tech makeover for its cruise ships. This will involve deploying beacon technology in the 11 megaships the company is building over the next 10 years, as well as 12 existing ships.

Key components include a dedicated app accessible on phones and in-cabin TVs, along with sensor-packed wristbands that will, among other things, allow guests to access their cabins using the short-range wireless technologies NFC and RFID. The bracelets will also communicate with up to 16,000 beacons placed around each ship.

MSC is not alone in adopting wearable tech to enhance the experience of travelers. Travel companies of all kinds are experimenting with wearable tech, whether that be virtual reality on flights or sensor-equipped wristbands that open up personalized experiences to guests en masse, such as Disney's MagicBands for use at its parks.

Disney has enjoyed enormous success with its MagicBands since they were introduced in 2014, according to analyst George Jijiashvili from CCS Insight. "It is therefore not surprising that other companies in the hospitality industry are trying to replicate this success," he said. "These types of wearables benefit both visitors and the companies."

Wearable tech gets shipshape

MSC's program bears some resemblance to the wearable Ocean Medallion announced by Carnival Cruises at CES in January, but there are key differences.

All passengers on kitted-out Carnival ships will travel "Medallion Class," meaning they'll be sent their module, which can slot into a range of accessories, ahead of their cruise. The medallion can operate independently of a smartphone to simplify everything from boarding to accessing cabins.

In contrast, MSC passengers will either be given or will be able to buy "MSC for Me" bracelets depending on their class of travel. The sensor-equipped wristband communicates with a companion phone app offering more than 130 different features.

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MSC for Me works across personal devices and on-board screens.

MSC Cruises

Some adults may have to purchase their bands, but all children on MSC cruises will be given a bracelet as soon as they board, allowing their parents to find them on the ship using the "Kid Locator" service on the app.

Even adult guests without their own wristband will be able to take advantage of this feature and a selection of others through the app, including navigation and the ability to check how full bars and restaurants are. They will also be able to organize their schedules and access the concierge, as well as receive personalized recommendations based on the choices they make while on board.

MSC worked with Samsung, HP and Deloitte Digital to bring the tech on board as part of a 9 billion euro investment. "We aren't just planning ships and experiences relevant to our cruise guests in the next few years, but to those we will welcome on board as far out as 2030 and beyond," said MSC Cruises' Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago in a statement.

The tech will debut on new megaship MSC Meraviglia this June and will roll out on MSC Seaside in November.

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