Carnival Corp. occupied the south end of Times Square on
Thursday, owning the dominant real estate on that side’s giant video screens
for two hours as well as occupying a physical (and temporary) two-story tower.
The takeover was to call attention to the line’s new high-speed WiFi, demo new mobile gaming apps and promote the line’s television
shows and other media branded with the words “medallion” and “ocean.”
In an interview with Travel Weekly atop the second level of
the wall-less structure, CEO Arnold Donald connected the dots among its spate
of technology-driven announcements.
“It all works towards the core intent to exceed guest
expectations,” he said.
And to exceed a guest’s expectation, you need to have guests
on ships. That’s where video comes in, he said. “The television shows (“Ocean
Treks,” “The Voyager,” “Vacation Creation,” “Good
Spirits,” “Go” and “Local Eyes”) provide inspiration,”
he said, noting that interest in cruising rises 50-70% after viewing one of the
The two most recently added, “Go” and “Local
Eyes,” can only be streamed, and are available on Amazon Prime, Apple TV
Internet programming is a nod to shifts in consumer viewing
habits but it must compete against many other viewing choices.
Donald was confident Carnival shows would find a sizeable
audience. “We’ve got 12 million sets of eyeballs on ships” every
year, hearing about and seeing the videos. “We have more than 40 million
names in our databases. That’s a lot of opportunity for exposure.”
The incremental cost of adding to the existing library of
media is not significant versus the potential upside, he said. “That’s
what our scale brings.”
Although it would be possible to capture viewer data through
interactive television, and there’s further potential to have access to
consumer data from Amazon and Apple, Donald said that’s not the focus, for now.
“We’ll have lots of data, but it’s not our intention to
mine and mash data. We’d rather use data in real-time to improve customer
experience” via the Ocean Medallion platform.
A key benefit of the company’s attention to all things tech
is what they have learned along the way, Donald said. “So much has evolved
out of the innovation process. Mapping on top of machine learning. And if we
listen carefully, guests will tell us what to do.”
They’ve sharpened their understanding of preventative
maintenance in guest-facing technology, Donald added. “For instance, we’ve
gotten better in predicting when televisions are going to fail,” he said. “If
we stay on top of that, the guest doesn’t have to experience the TV not working
properly, then have to stand in a line at guest services. And we don’t have to
send up an engineer to fix it.”
Alan Buckelew, who returned from China last spring to become
Carnival Corp.’s chief information officer, said the company is betting that the
focus on enriching customer experience through technology will replace industrywide
habits revolving around the sale of excess inventory.
As an example of how Medallion technology can impact guest
experience, he said that if a guest’s preferences are known, they can get an
alert via Ocean Medallion that a yoga class is going to start soon. “For a
long time, most innovation was in hardware,” he said. “We’re more
focused on experience.”
Michael Jungen, Carnival Corp.’s senior vice president of guest
experience design and technology, said it’s no coincidence that the word “ocean”
is prominent in many of the recent announcements. “It’s connected to our
business, guests’ experience and culture. It’s the unifier,” he said.
The new casino gaming app, dubbed PlayOcean, can be played with
or without gambling, by oneself or socially with others onboard.
Could one play socially with others across the Carnival
Corp. fleet? “It’s possible,” Buckelew said. “We have the scale to do
these things. But for now, no.”
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