By Victor Ng, 24 March 2000
With 10 cruise ships already Internet-enabled, one currently being installed and another debuting - Internet-ready, of course - in October 2000, the number of guests enjoying Internet access on board will grow to more than 26,000 weekly.
The first royal caribbean online center was installed last August on one of its cruise ships. "We received an overwhelming response to our first royal caribbean online center, and quickly realized the need to provide Internet access on more ships," said Jack Williams, president of Royal Caribbean International.
"Communication, specifically digital communication, is part of our daily life, and being on vacation doesn't change that," he added. The technology partner for royal caribbean online centers is IBM.
Open 24 hours a day, each online center provides access to e-mail and the World Wide Web, with instant connections to favorite sites for stocks, sports and entertainment updates. Virtual postcards featuring the user's own photographs can be sent worldwide at a click of the mouse button.
The online centers are built using the IBM PC 300 PL desktop computer, sleek IBM T55A flat-panel monitor equipped with digital camera, and IBM Preferred Keyboard and Sleek Mouse.
Charge it to my room
Payment of US$0.50 per minute of usage and US$4.95 per digital postcard is charged to the guest's cabin room. To access the Internet, a guest simply swipes his or her magnetic-strip keycard on the keycard reader built into the computer keyboard and is automatically logged in.
Plans are underway to upgrade the current system, including the addition of four languages (German, French, Italian and Portuguese), access via notebook PCs and digital-video postcards. The current system offers only English and Spanish interfaces.
Said Carolyn Viens, IBM's Singapore-based global marketing manager for Travel and Transportation: "Royal Caribbean's wide deployment of its online Internet Centers is a great example of the value that companies and holiday makers place on having instant access to information through the Internet."
Cruise lines represent one of the fastest-growing sectors in the holiday market, and as travelers make increasing use of the Internet for their information and communication needs, cruise line operators are finding that their traditional role is changing.
According to Carolyn, 70% of cellular phones sold today are Web-enabled and 80% of information appliances, such as palmtops, are already Web-enabled. As the mean age of the typical cruise guest tends downwards, Internet access and increased efficiencies through the use of technology become very important.
Not just Preferred Keyboard and Sleek Mouse
IBM is also working with the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines on point-of-sales terminals used on board ships for retail, food and beverage transactions.
The company's corporate e-mail, sales and workflow applications run on Lotus Notes, which is also used for corporate ship-to-shore communications via satellite.
Core business applications such as reservations and accounting run on IBM AS/400 systems, and travel agents can connect to these systems via the Internet to make bookings.
IBM also provides PCs on board the cruise liners and data storage technology for various critical applications.
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