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Remember when you turned up at the bar of your regular small ship line, and the barman reached for your favourite beer and asked: “Same again?” You arrived at breakfast, and the Maitre’d shook your hand and asked: “Eggs over easy, right?”

Right! It was all part of the magic of cruise ships. You could dine out on the stories of how crew members seemed to have photographic memories all year.

Well, now it won’t be the crew who remembers. It will be the ship.

Technology is recreating one of the wonders of the small ship market, and putting it aboard the biggest vessels.

Carnival Corp CEO Arnold Donald unveiled a wearable token called the Ocean Medallion that performs a range of ordinary-sounding functions, from room key to onboard currency.

But wait – there’s more. Much more. And some find the Medallion’s abilities decidedly confronting.

“Cool…or creepy?” asked one US columnist after hearing how it works.

The Medallion looks not much different to Royal Caribbean’s wrist hand, which can pay for your drinks, open your stateroom door and act like a cruise card.

But the Medallion has many more smarts. Sensors follow its movement through the ship so that, for instance, guests’ cabin lights and air conditioning will turn on as Bluetooth sensors track their progress down a hallway toward their room.

Waiters will access your photo and can find you anywhere on the ship, delivering your order seamlessly wherever you are.

It’s all about improving service and passenger experience, of course. Privacy concerns don’t, for the moment, appear to be a major issue for consumers. The medallion itself contains no data, and if there is a privacy concern, guests can opt out of the program.

Princess Cruises, one of Australia’s favourites, will debut Medallion here next year.

Princess president Jan Swartz told Travel Weekly if you and your partner are watching a sunset at a railing and suddenly decide Champagne would be nice, the Medallion can order it up from the deck.

And, of course, the Medallion will allow the line to analyse the data.

Next time you turn up at the railings at sunset, don’t be surprised if there is a water with a wine cooler and half a dozen glasses.

Princess ships in Australia will get the quarter-sized discs in the summer of 2018. It will be available first on Regal Princess in November, 2017, followed by Royal Princess and Caribbean Princess.

The 1.8-ounce disc has no on/off button, needs no charging or instructions, and can be accessorised with jewellery, clips, key chains and bands, or simply carried in a pocket.

The Medallion contains Near Field Communication (NFC) and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) communication capabilities that interact with thousands of sensors, kiosks, interactive surfaces and smart devices infused throughout the ships and ports.

Some of the Ocean Medallion’s benefits include:

  • streamline port embarkation and disembarkation process,
  • Guests can access their staterooms as they approach the door – no keycard is required
  • locate friends and family around the cruise ship,
  • deliver on-demand dining experiences based on food and beverage preferences.

It’s a brave new world, and will undoubtedly lead to a much improved cruise experience.

What else can it offer? Only time will tell…

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