The tech infrastructure for Holland America ships is being enhanced to help guests stay connected on board and more.
At SeaTrade Cruise Global 2019, TechRepublic Senior Editor Teena Maddox spoke with Jason Grant, vice president of fleet technology at Holland America Group, about how tech infrastructure for Holland America ships is being enhanced to help guests stay connected on board. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.
Teena Maddox: So Jason, tell me what Holland America is doing new with technology these days?
Jason Grant: Holland America is investing a substantial amount in its onboard infrastructure. And this is really laying the foundation for a lot of the guest experience, and allowing our infrastructure to be able to handle the new high-speed internet solutions, as well as a lot of the guest digital solutions that are enabling the guest to stay connected onboard to book show excursions, dining reservations, and a lot of this is happening before they get on board. So now leveraging a mix of the on-ship infrastructure as well as cloud infrastructure, we are allowing the guest to preview, reserve any of these areas before they step foot on the ship. And then, once they get onboard they can avoid lines and other friction points.
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Teena Maddox: How important is good Wi-Fi for passengers on board ships these days?
Jason Grant: Good Wi-Fi along with a good internet are critical, and it's really the guests that have come on board and said, I need to be able to stay connected for board meetings. I need to stay connected with social media and sharing with my family, let them know how I'm doing on board. From a voyage, that's four days to 30, 60-day voyages, guests have an expectation that Wi-Fi is everywhere now, and they expect land-based speeds while they're on board.
Teena Maddox: And what are some of the ways that technology is enhancing your ability to be eco-friendly?
Jason Grant: Through technology, a lot of the cruise lines have focused on measuring and understanding how their engines are operating, how areas of operations are efficient or inefficient. So we collect data on electrical power consumption, fuel consumption, and we aggregate a lot of that to on ship servers, and then bring that back shore-side so we can understand the efficiency across the older ships to the newer ships, and really put that into a data warehouse to allow our teams to understand patterns, to see some efficiency across a fleet versus just looking at it from a single ship perspective.
Teena Maddox: How many access points are on an average ship now, versus in the past?
Jason Grant: In the past, an average ship would, just from a cabling standpoint, you would maybe have a few dozen on the small to mid-size ships. These days we're retrofitting ships and putting in anywhere from 1000 to 2000. I've seen vessels that have upwards of 3000 or more access points, and this is really to cover both the guests and the operations. So the modern ship should not have an area of coverage... Every inch of a ship should be covered these days from a wireless standpoint, supporting both operations and guests.
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Teena Maddox: And tell me a little bit about guest safety, how technology plays a role?
Jason Grant: From a guest safety standpoint, we're leveraging whether they're using RFID or where they are in the embarkation process, we know at any given time whether they've passed the gangway, whether they're offshore, whether they're onshore. We understand whether they've swiped at their cabin, and we understand that it may be occupied. But from a safety standpoint all the way to the electronic mustering, we're leveraging technology to make it a better experience too, whether it's no longer standing for 30 minutes outside for electronic mustering, we're now focusing on the exceptions. You might gather in a public space and then we'll focus on the three out of 100 people that didn't show up because we have that data real time in the hands of the safety and crew managing the mustering drill.
Teena Maddox: So it sounds like new technologies are changing the way cruising is occurring?
Jason Grant: It's for both our crew and for our guests, so guests now have a choice in how much technology they want to consume. Years ago you would put away your tablet smartphone, now guests can operate two, three tablets and a laptop anywhere on a ship, stay connected to their business, stay connected to family. And likewise, our crew anywhere on for two to nine months want to stay connected with home, and through technology, we're allowing them to stay connected and feel connected the entire time.
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