The traditional stereotype of cruises is usually retirees relaxing on deckchairs. However, this is quickly changing and these adventures vessels are rapidly becoming a millennial-friendly environment thanks to new upgrades in technology. Incredibly, younger millennials now account for 25% of passengers at Norwegian Cruise Line and are the company’s fastest-growing segment. 

Nick Kyriakides, Co-founder and COO of netTALK

Nick Kyriakides, Co-founder and COO of netTALK

To get a better idea of what the future might hold for the cruise ship industry, and what industry leaders can do to attract more millennials, we spoke with Nick KyriakidesCo-founder and COO of netTALK, the digital communications startup advancing Norwegian Cruises’ connectivity and technology.

What does the introduction of this new technology mean for guests on these cruise ships?

The service is integrated with the new Cruise Norwegian app that just launched for passengers using iOS and Android.

The service we provide consists of calling and messaging amongst passengers onboard the cruise and calling to shore from the ship with high quality and low pricing. Passengers can communicate (Talk/Messaging) with each other while onboard the ship without having to buy the costly ship internet package. NCL sells the “Communication Package” for $9.95 for the entire cruise.

  1. App to App messaging
  2. App to App calls
  3. App to Cabin calls
  4. Cabin to App calls
  5. Ship hotel/public spaces calls to App
  6. Ship to shore calls

App to App messaging

Passengers can message each other while on-board to keep in touch. They can send instant messages, share pictures of fun memories, and send message audio clips. A great feature is a group chat which is virtually unlimited in size so groups as small as passengers sharing a cabin to large groups. Great way to coordinate amongst large groups of people on these new large ships. If you meet new passengers, they can easily add them to their address book as a friend list so they can stay in touch.

App to App calls

Passengers can call each other while on-board to keep in touch with each other. Passengers in the same cabin are automatically grouped together in the address book so they can easily be reached. Kids can call their parents and vice versa. Groups can coordinate meeting points and meet-ups. Missed calls go to voicemail. If you meet new passengers, they can easily add them to their address book as a friend list so they can stay in touch.

App to Cabin calls / Cabin to App calls

Passengers can use the app to call their cabin, or other passenger cabins (security is preserved bc cabin numbers are not shared). Passengers in the cabin can use the physical cabin phone to call a passenger on their app.

Ship hotel/public spaces calls to App

Certain crew can use their handy phones to get a hold of passengers (for example to confirm reservations etc.). Pursers office can call passengers and vice versa. Passengers can use to app to make reservations for dinner or to inquire about shows / shore excursions etc.

Ship to shore calls

Passengers can use to that to make clear calls to destinations onshore bypassing the expensive legacy systems that usually provided a bad experience from a quality and comfort perspective (needed to use a physical cabin phone).

FYI – the entire fleet will be live by December. We have a lot more really neat functionality being developed for phase II. Stay tuned……

To what extent do you feel connectivity and lagging technology has discouraged younger generations to participate in cruises?

The younger generations have forced cruise lines to build bigger and better ships with an incredible amount of amenities while keeping cruising as one the most affordable vacation options. One thing that lagged until netTALK partnered with NCL was communication technology. netTALK and NCL has taken the “message in a bottle” concept to an entirely new level.

As good as cruises are, we are dealing with the “connected generation”  and being disconnected with the world and further, disconnected with those in your cruising party, is really out of their comfort zone. The last feeling you want while on vacation is to feel outside your comfort zone.

In your opinion, what other forms of technology can cruise ships invest in to advance their services and attract younger customers?

We are working on some really interesting things that will really improve the onboard experience. We haven’t announced them yet. We want to balance the right amount of “connectivity” onboard, but making sure passengers feel disconnected from any stresses at home. NCL believed in our product and have invested capital/infrastructure/personnel for the next gen cruise experience. It takes a new mindset and they have bought into it throughout. Most cruise lines we speak to now believe this was the missing piece to attract the connected generation.

How do you foresee the future of connectivity on cruise ships evolving over the next 5-10 years?

Blazing fast WiFi internet speeds via satellite. Companies will be able to host working events (hackathons!) on board ships knowing their employees will have access to all the tools needed work effectively and of course have a little fun 😉

To what extent do you think this will encourage digital nomads to attend cruises and could cruises become the next top destination for digital nomads?

The cruise lines have been very successful with the “build it and they will come” approach. The new ships are giant and absolutely amazing floating destinations themselves. The actual island destination is not as much of a big deal. So, they did a good job of flipping the destination – now the ship is destination and the port of call is just a value-add. The missing piece is the technology for passengers to use, on the devices they already carry every day to capture memories, and communicate with. This new focus on integrated passenger technology opens up a new market for the digital nomads that need to stay connected 24/7 on their own terms.