Mobile-First Approaches to Cruise Technology and Payments

The cruise industry has undergone tremendous growth in the past decade alongside the global growth of the overall travel industry, especially in the Asia-Pacific (APAC), Northern Europe and Mediterranean (EMEA) regions. In fact, cruise tourism is the fastest-growing market in leisure travel. Here are a few quick facts about the cruise sector:

  • North America remains dominant in maritime leisure with 35.4% of cruise lines deployed in the Caribbean.
  • Since 2009, the cruise industry has increased passenger volumes by 10 million, and in total 27.2 million passengers are expected to cruise during 2018.
  • Demand for cruising has increased 20.5% in the last five years led by the USA and China, with the biggest European demand coming from Germany and the UK.

Growth and Innovation for the Cruise Industry

The cruise industry has been at the forefront of technology innovation and adapting to new consumer cruising trends, such as the demand for historical and cultural experiences. River cruises are especially suited to provide this type of experience, especially in the historic Mediterranean region which holds 75% of Europe’s cruise itineraries. Specialty cruise lines (adventure travel, expedition cruises to the North and South Poles) have also become more popular, particularly among Millennials.

The major cruise lines, on the other hand, have effectively become floating cities, driven to enhance guests’ personal experience with high tech and an interactive customer and user experience. Even smaller luxury cruises such as Windstar are investing in technology such as Wi-Fi and other support for mobile devices (some cruises provide business centers with personal computers). Other cruise technology trends include:

  • Low-latency, high-speed LEO satellite for voice and text communications onboard the ship
  • Facial recognition (biometrics) for faster and easier boarding
  • Wayfinding guides for passengers to manage their travel experience
  • Robot bartenders and interactive digital menus
  • 4K video on-demand

But beyond the high tech, water slides and fine dining, cruise passengers have more basic needs as travelers for things like booking, payments and travel management.

Mobile Solutions for Cruise Lines and their Passengers

More cruise lines are using mobile technology to enhance the onboard experience while also simplifying operations, making travel easier for guests and increasing revenue and loyalty. One example of this is Carnival, who offers an all-in-one personal concierge service for passengers, called Ocean Medallion, to help them facilitate the things they want to do while on their trip. Many cruise lines are also beginning to add support for alternative payment methods (APMs) that allow passengers to use their preferred payment methods when making onboard purchases, no matter where the passengers are from.

However, before using any of these options, cruisers must actually embark on their trip, which can be an adventure in itself. Cruise lines need to invest in mobile solutions that make life easier for the ‘connected traveler’ before, during and after the cruise, and from port to port – not just proprietary technology that only works onboard the cruise ship. Taking a “mobile-first” approach to cruise technology means focusing on passenger experience as well as ancillary revenue and operational excellence – providing options for passengers to easily get to and from the port and plan their activities during the journey, while using the payment methods they prefer.

Cruise lines will need to continue meeting digital expectations with better-connected voyages that do away with lines and waiting (the bane of all cruisegoers) and increase opportunities for revenue and loyalty in the mobile channel. By leveraging the mobile channel, cruise lines can reach today’s cruisegoers and provide the travel experience they have already come to expect from airlines, hotels, car rentals, online travel agencies and payment providers.

CellPoint Mobile can help your cruise line as a mobile-first payment service provider (PSP) as well as by providing mobile solutions for your direct and indirect sales channels (websites, apps, booking engines). Visit to learn more and enjoy another blog on ferry service providers and the benefits of mobile ticketing and mobile payments.