Princess Cruises Ocean Medallion – Hand’s on review

I’ve wanted to try out Princess Cruises’ Ocean Medallion for some time now.

Ocean is a new piece of technology that is being rolled out across the Princess fleet (and soon other Carnival brands too).  It aims to provide a seamless guest experience, whether that’s through check-in, ordering drinks or making tailor-made suggestions based on your likes and activities.

So how does this work?  Replacing your cruise card, you have a ten-piece piece, or medallion, which can be put in your pocket or work in a variety of ways.  The medallion replaces the room key entirely and also acts as your identity on board using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi interactivity, alongside a phone-based app.  It stores all your preferences, so staff are able to tailor suggestions based on your likes and dislikes, or for instance any allergies.  You can also use it to pay for items on board, and excitingly it allows a seamless and paperwork free embarkation process.  On paper it’s a remarkable piece of kit and I’ve really wanted to see it for a long time.

Recently I joined Crown Princess of a 4-day cruise from Southampton to Liverpool to experience everything Ocean Medallion has to offer.  Let’s take a look at this marvellous piece of tech.

Check-in / pre-cruise

Check-in for each cruise line varies so much.  Many are now trying to front-load the experience so that you can literally just walk onto the ship.  One of Ocean’s key features is to do just that.

In order to check-in using the Medallion system (which is still optional), you need to download the new Ocean Medallion Class App onto your phone.

Once downloaded you go through a series of steps, including your booking number and creating a profile for yourself.  Once done, all you need do is go through a simple step-by-step process to get ‘OceanReady’.   I have to say, I’ve checked-in with a lot of cruise lines, but this was by far the easiest and simplest I have ever done (and that’s saying a lot). I was really impressed.

Once done, the app creates a QR barcode which is scanned at the ship to allow access the first time.

Arriving at the ship

In the USA, your Ocean Medallion is delivered to your home, so when you arrive to the ship you can walk straight on board.  This hasn’t happened in the UK (yet), but the process is just as easy in honesty.  Upon arrival at the cruise terminal you present your QR code and passport and your medallion is given straight to you – There’s no queuing or faffing about.  Nothing more is required, and we were on the ship (including security) within 10 minutes. It was the most painless embarkation I’ve ever done.

As you walk on to the ship, similarly with a cruise card, you present your medallion to a member of staff and you are registered on board.  All you pre-cruise details are already preloaded onto the system (so profile photo, credit card details, etc), so you can crack-on enjoying your holiday.

On board experience

When on board, the ship senses where passengers are through a series of antennas.  These interact with the medallions and the apps depending on what you want to do. On top of this, there are digital screens everywhere that sense you and can provide a lot of real-time information.  Let’s take a look at these features.

MedallionNet

Keeping connected while on holiday is becoming more and more important.  Cruise lines are responding by upgrading their Wi-fi.  MedallionNet is the Princess Cruises’ answer to this, and in fact is setting the industry standard for speeds and bandwidth. It’s also not that expensive when compared to some lines, with an individual device costing from $9.99 a day for unlimited internet.

So, hand’s on, how did it perform?  I was actually really impressed with the speeds and connectivity on board.  Whether that was accessing social media, surfing the web, streaming shows and films or video-chatting, it performed better than I’ve seen on any other ship.

Accessing your cabin

Now, picture the situation.  You’re heading back to your cabin with your hands full.  Maybe it’s lots of bags or some drinks to enjoy in the room.  You have to fumble to find your room key, possibly dropping everything in the process – that’s happened to me in the past and it’s an eternal bug bear.

The medallion makes this a thing of the past, and perhaps it’s my favourite feature of the entire system.  As you approach your room sensors detect you and the door unlocks, and you can easily access the cabin.  It’s such a simple idea yet works so well.

OceanNow

Perhaps the most exciting feature of the Medallion is OceanNow.   This on-demand system allows you to order drinks, food and other services via the Medallion App.

Depending on where you are on the ship, a variety of items are available to you.  You simply place an order in the app and within a few minutes a member of staff will deliver it to you.  What makes this special is that as the medallion provides your location in real-time, so if you order a mojito by the pool and head to Slice for a nice piece of pizza pie, staff can find you and deliver the drink to wherever you end up.  We had a lot of fun on board testing the system and I can testify just how clever it is.  Even in ordering food, it is delivered hot and fresh.  It also takes room service to a whole new level as everything is available through the cabin TV.

Being practical, sometimes it could be quicker to just go to a bar and order a drink.  However, I can see the beauty of the system if you were say in the Caribbean on a busy sea day when bars can typically be busy.  Or before a show in the theatre and you wanted to be located easily by staff.  There’s some really interesting possibilities and the app is so easy to use.

OceanCompass

This element of Medallion will arguably be used the most.  Incorporating wayfinding, messaging and activities on board.

A key part of this is JourneyView.  Between the Medallion app and the large interactive screens found everywhere you can plan all aspects of your journey, navigate to other parts of the ship and tell you what’s happening on board, or for instance where the nearest toilet is.  Even better, this is a personalised system where you can add daily activities to your own personal schedule, so you’ll never miss out on the action.

The interface itself is also very good, easy to use and elegant in its simplicity – both on the app and the screens.  You can easily scroll through the day to see what’s going on, where the ship is and navigate to where you need to be.  One of my favourite features is that there is a picture of the ship, showing whether it’s at sea, or in a port (with famous landmarks shown), as well as it being day and night.  It’s a small touch but realty adds to the experience.

Then there’s the ability to message and locate those travelling in your party (and you can add other cabins too).  Like the rest of the app, this is easy to use.   The app clearly shows where people are located, and don’t worry you can turn off this feature in your preferences if you don’t want others finding you.

 

PlayOcean

With PlayOcean, the ship literally becomes your playground.

First, create your OceanTagalong, a digital companion which will appear an interact with you as you approach the digital portals across the ship.  This is a lot of fun, and you can spend ages creating your avatar, which comes in the shape of a turtle, a seahorse or a fish.

Using your companion, you can play a number of games on the apps and portals on the ship.  Even better, you can play location-based scavenger hunts across the ship.  Or why not play Games Under the Stars, using the giant poolside screen on board.  Alas we didn’t try this out, but I’m really keen the next time I’m on board a Princess ship.

Finally, OceanCasino is a virtual casino where you can play slots, poker, bingo, roulette and other games anywhere on board.

Service

While the Medallion clearly improves the guest experience in a number of ways, perhaps the most important is how it enables staff to ensure you have the best possible holiday.  So, for instance, when you walk up to a bar or interact with staff, devices tell them who you are, your preferences and other data. It enables them to elevate and personalise the service easily – I love it.

And this is the tip of the iceberg.  With all the data and information, it will help staff, crew and designers really tailor ships and cruise holidays in the future.  I spoke recently with Rai Caluori, EVP Guest Experience & Product Development for Princess, on this and he was very excited at just how popular the product is on board by guests, together with the potential for Medallion in the future in how it can continue to improve the guest experience. I can really see why.

Accessories and the future

When you get your medallion is comes within a small lanyard that it’s attached to.  Most people seem to stick with this, but there’s a whole host of accessories to put your medallion in – from clips, to bracelets and necklaces.  You can purchase these at special locations when on board.  These locations also act as hubs to learn about the technology and its capabilities.

So, what’s next for Medallion?  All eyes are on the two newest ships for Princess Cruises, Sky and Enchanted Princess. Both of these ships are the first to have been built from the ground up with Medallion in mind.  So, expect even more functionality in the future.

Princess has been the testbed for the Ocean Medallion, and honestly, it’s really something.  I cannot wait to see what they do with it in the future and how it will evolve for the other brands of Carnival and it continues to be rolled out.  P&O Cruises Australia will benefit from the technology next.

Stay tuned for a full ship review of Crown Princess and the destinations we visited in UK and Ireland. Coming soon.

For more information visit the Princess Cruises website – here.