Cruise ship technology: subtle changes to our experience

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I have a lot of friends who love to cruise, and quite often the conversation veers toward onboard technology. Almost invariably, to passengers onboard technology equates to cell phone and internet connectivity, although gimmicky features like robot bartenders are right up there.  But as I thought about technology, I realized there’s a lot more changing on ships than just the speed and price of data packages. Here are four technologies that I see subtly changing cruising. What technologies have you noticed? Comment below!

  1. LED stage lighting and beyond. This technology blows me away. Pioneered largely by Royal Caribbean on their newest Oasis Class ships, you go into a newer ship’s theatre, and gone are most of the old heavy lighting fixtures. In their place are LED fixtures that are motorized to follow performers onstage, can change color almost endlessly. But it’s not just big new ships—older ships are being retorifitted with elements of the technology. Onboard Ruby Princess I was amazed by use of an LED light wall that created entire set backdrops.Of course LED lighting expands well beyond the theatre…that’s just our favorite place for the gayest of reasons. But keep your eyes open around your next cruise and you might spot LED fixtures anywhere from your cabin lamps to the flashing lights of the disco and casino. (For the technically-minded–here’s more on Royal Caribbean’s changes).
    cruise ship technology

    On Ruby Princess, use of LED light wall panels effectively created entire set backdrops for the excellent stage shows. Photo: Randall Shirley

    The benefits of LED are enormous—we personally switched our entire house over to LED recently and watched our power bill drop—and  it’s extremely cool in temperature which improves things both for performers, the audience, and air conditioning needs.
    The gay lens: we’ve always loved good lighting, and as the LED technology has come along to allow this, we’re personally thrilled to see the almost endless uses creative ship designers will come up with.

    cruise ship technology

    Same stage onboard Ruby Princess, just a different scene. Use of modern technology, the LED light panels, allows for a completely “new set” in a flash! Photo: Randall Shirley

  1. Better bedding for couples. Denni and I can both recall cruises in the not-too-distant past where the ridge between the two twin beds was easily felt, and even when the beds seemed to push apart during the night.
    cruise ship technology

    In this shot of an interior stateroom onboard Caribbean Princess, you can clearly see the dividing line of the two twin beds. In our experience onboard sister ship Ruby and several other lines, we can rarely even tell there are two separate beds when sleeping on them. Photo courtesy: Princess Cruises

    On our more recent cruises with Celebrity and Princess we’ve noticed that the mattress toppers cruise lines are using really eliminate all notice of the gap between the two separate bed units.
    The gay lens: we both agreed the most recent ship beds stood up to hotel standards, even through rigorous bedtime activities!

  2. Global phone data packages. Other than on sea days, the data plans now offered by most cell phone carriers allow you to “roam like home” (as Canadian cell giant, Rogers, coined it) for a much smaller price than in the recent past.. The trick is simply to know what your plan offers before you leave home, and make sure you’re registered for the right plan for your destination. Do your calling, texting, emailing, Facebooking, and such during port stops, and put the phone away once the ship sails out of cell tower range. Having data is definitely easier than searching for “free WIFI,” which we recently found almost impossible in Mexico, as we simply couldn’t understand the instructions in places like McDonald’s.
    The gay lens
    : We love having our devices available onboard the ship while in range of cheap data, and have found that it’s a great time to check MMOB messages, as well as Grindr and Scruff—that sexy piano player on the Lido Deck might just want to buy us a drink.
  3. Onboard apps. This one was new to us on our most recent cruise—truly a stealth option in the technology changes onboard. Turned out that we could download the Princess app to our phones, and log on free anytime to check our account, review the daily schedule, review ship maps, and more. But we didn’t discover the kicker until it was too late—the app had an onboard chat system allowing you to effectively text other passengers. It required some setup—you both had to provide information to each other.
    The gay lens
    : once you figure out how to work the shipboard app, it will certainly make it easier to communicate with traveling companions and newfound friends alike. If everyone at the first night LGBT meetup exchanged app info, a whole new world of gay group cruising could instantly begin for the week! No more leaving voice mails that don’t get answered in time for dinner, drinks, etc.

 

all photos: Randall Shirley

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