Grant Bradley

Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

High tech splash for new breed of cruise ships

The bow of the 167,800 tonne cruise ship Quantum of the Seas - being built for Royal Caribbean at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany. Photo / Grant Bradley
The bow of the 167,800 tonne cruise ship Quantum of the Seas - being built for Royal Caribbean at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany. Photo / Grant Bradley

Hot competition to make the biggest splash in the cruise industry has taken another step with the unveiling of details of what's being billed as the world's smartest ship that features a bionic bartender.

The 167,800 tonne Quantum of the Seas will feature a robotic bartender its owner Royal Caribbean says is based on technology seen in car factories.

Passengers will be able to order drinks via tablets and watch it mix a cocktail.

Royal Caribbean chairman Richard Fain said the robot would have human supervision to make sure kids aren't ordering what they shouldn't.

"Not everybody wants to talk to a robotic bar tender so we will have humans there to help with the process, including checking of ids."

"It's not a humanoid robot it's a single arm, and it will go get the ice, it will get the mints and the lemons, and it will squeeze them and shake them," Fain said.

"What this is is taking cutting edge technology which is tried and true. We're not trying to invent the semi conductor- we're trying to take advantage of the tremendous strides that are out there and that's one example of that."

One of the best features of the bionic bartender - no tips required, for the machine at least.

Other high tech features include wristbands for passengers embedded with radio-frequency identification technology that open their room act as the equivalent of a credit card for onboard charging and help find their way around the 348m-long vessel that has 16 passenger decks.

Quantum of the Seas sister ship Anthem of the Seas in the assembly hall of Meyer Werft shipyard at Papenburg. Photo / Grant Bradley
Quantum of the Seas sister ship Anthem of the Seas in the assembly hall of Meyer Werft shipyard at Papenburg. Photo / Grant Bradley

Quantum of the Seas also will be the first cruise ship with super-fast internet service via new satellites launched by tech partner O3b Networks the company says will allow for broadband speeds that match fast connections onshore. Fain said research showed passengers did want to remain connected on holiday and the service - which will incur additional charges - would allow streaming of movies and video sharing.

Check-in processing will incorporate technology that lets passengers upload an identification photo online and receive digital boarding credentials.

Interior state rooms will have large screens on the wall which will be fed live pictures of what is happening at sea according to where the cabin is situated on the ship. The "Virtual Balconies" use 80-inch LED screens, to convey the sights and sounds of the sea.

The Quantum of the Seas - being built for Royal Caribbean at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany. Photo / Grant Bradley
The Quantum of the Seas - being built for Royal Caribbean at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany. Photo / Grant Bradley

The ship, which will be among the biggest 10 in the world, is nearing completion at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, a small city in north west Germany. The shipyard is one of the builders in Europe and the Quantum of the Seas is the largest cruise ships it has built. Quantum is due to be formally launched at the end of October and sail first to Southampton and then to New York around November 10 when it will set off on its maiden cruise.

After six months it will be based from Shanghai where it will cater for the Chinese market which Fain said had "exploded". Its sister ship Anthem of the Seas, still in the midst of heavy construction at Meyer Werft, will be finished around the middle of next year and serve the north American market.

Fain said there were no plans for Quantum to visit New Zealand.

"Most ships can handle the larger size, our problem is that we have so much demand for our ships that we can't go all the places we'd like to. Right now the Quantum is dedicated to China market and New Zealand is a little too far away but we keep building these ships, we have eight under construction at the moment so who knows what the future brings?"

Cruising is the fastest growing market with New Zealanders taking holidays overseas - 60,000 did last year - and flying to meet ships at overseas ports is the fasted growing segment of that market.

• Grant Bradley travelled to Papenburg courtesy of Royal Caribbean

- NZ Herald

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