My second observation is just how much technology is integrated into the customer experience. The company is the first I've seen to adapt touchscreen technology for this purpose and not just to create efficiencies at the point of sale. Every floor of the ship has a 32-inch touchscreen that can give interactive directions to guests' staterooms (they just enter a room number), help them find events sorted by time or type or locate the nearest restroom.
Defendis shows me the technology, then explains how RCL built it:
I note how quickly Royal brought the product to market, as I know of few companies that could develop the expertise on emerging Linux touchscreen technologies, integrate them with a database and have them in production right now. Defendis explains that the company outsources development of new and emerging technologies, then takes over maintenance.
Anything a guest can see or touch needs to be new; the company essentially "rents" expertise to accelerate the development process. The applications that will never be seen by guests, on the other hand, including staff email, the reservation system or the towel check-out, have a lower priority, he says. They need to function, and the cost of maintaining them needs to be stay lower than the cost of a rewrite.
At the end of our tour, we get a few minutes to visit the data center. It's not large-there are perhaps eight racks, each with a half-dozen slots for technology hardware-but it's extremely busy. While I'm there, the company is ripping and replacing its old satellite Internet connection. These are huge, gold-ball-like antennae that go on top of this ship. There's a deadline to meet, too; the ship's itinerary puts it on the island of St. Thomas on Tuesday.
Ritchie Coombs, the company's director of shipboard IT operations, refers to this as "open-heart surgery." The team needs to take out Internet service and replace it without interrupting service long enough for anyone to notice.
I leave Ritchie to his work and head back to land. Tomorrow it's time to visit shore-side IT operations.
Royal Caribbean Gets the Most from Its 20-Year-Old Reservation System
While Royal Caribbean is headquartered in Miami, IT operations are based 30 miles away in Miramar, Fla. The small office complex has a sign out front and a nondescript lobby, expect for the large model of Allure.