Opinion: Don't be afraid of Artificial Intelligence – it can improve your cruise experience

AI is making waves in every industry, and cruise is no different – like it, or not. Lucy Abbott delves into what AI means for the cruise industry and how it could change cruising as you know it

We are all going to die.

That's the contemporary message conveyed by society when talking about Artificial Intelligence. Worse still, those murderous algorithms already lurk within your home, plotting your demise to the feverish chatter of binary calculations.

Of course, in reality, it's nowhere near those screaming visions of Terminator-like apocalypse. Alexa, Google Home and Chat GPT don't appear to be scheming against us. Rather, it's all about selling a service to rake cash revenues through the door.

It's more Bicentennial Man than Robocop.

Artificial intelligence already resides within your everyday appliances – smartphones, computers, televisions – so it comes as no surprise that this technology uprising will soon, as may already be, embedded into your cruise holidays, too.

From AI-assisted route planning for fuel-efficiency, to stateroom automation programmes, exciting plans are in development to ensure each guest experiences cruising perfection.

Ignore the doom mongers. Opulence and relaxation are at the forefront of all these plans. Notions of flaying us alive to make snazzy accessories for Mrs.Terminator's living room are ultimately fictitious.

And, for a rapidly developing sector such as cruise, AI seems like a natural fit. Who wouldn't ask for digital assistance when it comes to streamlining those pesky onboard processes? Which cruise line wouldn't want to therefore free up manpower and focus on more affluent onboard activities?

That doesn't mean WALL-E will scoot across with gratuities, though. You don't have to worry about an unsettlingly human-like robot asking if you'd like a top-up of bubbles. Put away your M-25 Phased Plasma Pulse-Gun.

Most of these AI developments will occur behind the scenes, or through friendly touch-screen services. Embrace the future and your holiday will be richly enhanced, instead of the speculated Matrix-style bloodbath.

Icon of the Seas will utilise AI. Credit: Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean has big plans with AI

Heading the AI cruise revolution, Royal Caribbean has implemented a variety of automations onboard their latest ship – Icon of the Seas.

Debuting early next year, Icon of the Seas will utilise Artificial Intelligence amid other forms of technology to lighten crew members' workloads – with a focus on the stateroom experience.

Royal Caribbean's senior vice president and chief product innovation officer, Jay Schneider, explained that the line's AI automation relies on a "data ecosystem" and that "we spend a lot of time with our crew at sea, understanding how do we generate job function automation that delivers value to them, so they can spend more time with our guests."

Ultimately, the AI goal is for crew to concentrate on passenger experience. By ensuring that guests are satisfied and happy on their cruise then it's job done. And that's without turning passengers into Soylent Green.

Royal Caribbean's stateroom automation is the new programme utilising algorithms to prioritise work and achieve those goals, rather than anything cinematically untoward.

Jay commented: "We learned that crew onboard our ships had access to reports and data on a regular basis that was often latent.

"It was information that we had on our ships in our data centres that we could automate, create algorithms around to help them prioritise work, understand when people weren't on ship in a way that allowed them to spend more time with our guests."

The likes of the Sunset Suites onboard Icon of the Seas will use AI automation. Credit: Royal Caribbean

What's more, air conditioning in cabins is part of the line's AI revolution.

I hear you sigh, but as Jay explains: "If you've ever stayed in a hotel, often your housekeeper moves your stateroom into eco mode, and you return to your room, it's super hot and you're very dissatisfied.

"But it saved that hotel money. It was better for the environment.

"We have data on our ships that know when you get off the ship. And so we connected those two systems to say, well, wait a minute, we know when your whole party gets off the ship, let's have this ship automatically move your room into eco mode.

"And then when you the first person pings back on the ship, we slowly start to bring your room back to the experience level that you expected.

As pointed out by Jay, these ships are big enough that, by the time you return to your cabin, the temperature levels are back to each passenger's preferences. It's the perfect blend of AI-backed environmental responsibility and customer service.

The connection between AI and environmentalism certainly piques our interest. It offers a win-win situation for cruise lines that opens up another question: how can this relationship be developed further?

Expedition cruising will also benefit from AI. Credit: Seabourn

Future predictions for AI

It's an exciting and constantly developing space in regards to future developments. In fact, luxury and expedition cruise specialists, Mundy Cruising, has predicted how the relationship between cruise and AI could develop.

Mundy Cruising stated that AI will "unlock a host of developments in ship design and onboard experience."

The cruise specialists also continue the link between AI and the environment, with predictions that technology will ensure each ship is designed in the most efficient way.

AI will potentially play a key part in navigation, with the technology used to plot the most fuel-efficient route. The only thing terminated in that situation is excess emissions.

In fact, for expedition voyages, AI could also potentially plan routes that maximise the possibilities of wildlife sightings, as well as add another level to onboard education.

Onboard education, you say? Don't panic. Wipe away those beads of sweat. Rather than educating passengers on the new robot overlords, immersive learning about destinations and wildlife will benefit from the use of virtual and augmented AI technology.

Think about it. You could fizzle with the experience of swimming virtually alongside nature's most vicious aquatic life, without the inconvenience of being consumed, or explore the innards of a volcano minus the niggle of becoming a human BBQ.

Mundy Cruising's managing director Edwina Lonsdale said: "AI in the expedition sector is about the enhancement of the human connection rather than simply second-guessing the wants and needs of individuals on the basis of past behaviours.

"This will improve the experience and allow guests to be delighted by authentic interactions, extraordinary surprises and exceptional destinations that take them out of their comfort zone."

Crew will be able to spend more time with guests. Credit: Fred. Olsen

That's all well and good, but will you get the thrill of talking to Artificial Intelligence as a passenger? And will it sound like Pierce Brosnan, à la The Simpsons?

The closest you'll get to ship-based robots walking among us is a little more conservative than waging war against Skynet.

There's talk of an AI-powered virtual concierge, which you'll be able to speak to and quiz about restaurant opening times, shore excursion availability and personal recommendations - 24/7.

What's really impressive are the system responses, replying in what Mundy Cruising describes as 'conversational language'.

Edwina said: "There will be a slew of enhancements brought by AI across all aspects of luxury cruising, from ship design and build to efficiencies in itinerary planning and provisioning, to enhanced guest interaction.

"Importantly, what will come to define the new luxury small ship experience will be personal human interaction, as key to the core of true luxury."

It's clear to see that AI is an exciting development in the cruise industry, but how does that make you feel?

Personally, AI seems to be poised for enhancing the cruise experience. It really is more Row-boat-Cop than Robocop, with nothing to worry about.

Get in touch with us. We'd love to know your thoughts.

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About Lucy Abbott

Lucy is a cruise journalist who has sailed on a variety of ships, from expedition to river – with her favourite being expedition cruising.

Lucy is interested in new sustainable ways to cruise as well as how cruising is becoming accessible for all.

She works together with Kaye Holland to keep the World of Cruising website up to date with all the latest cruise news.