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How Royal Caribbean Keeps Customers Connected

Royal Caribbean Cruises is meeting modern customer expectations with wireless connectivity at sea.
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Modern customers demand constant connectivity. In fact, they expect it -- even on a cruise ship floating in the middle of the ocean.

"People want to stay connected today. They want to share," said Bill Martin, CIO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, in his presentation at this week’s InformationWeek Conference. Martin explained how adopting high-speed Internet transformed the customer experience and business model at the world's second-largest cruise company.

The typical Internet capacity on cruise ships is about 1-2 Mbps, a speed that makes it "worse than dial-up," Martin noted, when spread among 3,000 guests. Royal Caribbean needed to broaden its capacity in order to give customers the connectivity they wanted at a reasonable price.

It found a solution to improve Internet capacity through a partnership with O3b, which brings high-speed Internet to people without online access. O3b uses satellites that orbit closer to Earth, which have proven instrumental to Royal Caribbean's strategy. The cruise line found that it could offer customers Internet capacity 300 times greater, and six times faster, than its previous limit.

To test its new connectivity, Royal Caribbean conducted an experiment. For one month, it allowed customers and crew free Internet access without restrictions placed on usage or number of devices. More than 5,000 devices were connected during that time.

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It found that customers primarily used their connectivity for streaming media, which was followed closely by usage of top social media sites Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Traffic increased 450 times to those four platforms, said Martin, and millions of high-resolution photos were shared per week.

The customers' enthusiasm for on-board connectivity led Royal Caribbean to alter its business model. It used to charge a premium for few people to use the Internet; now, it charges little to connect as many people as possible. "It was a major point of guest satisfaction," Martin concluded.

Interop Las Vegas, taking place April 27-May 1 at Mandalay Bay Resort, is the leading independent technology conference and expo series dedicated to providing technology professionals the unbiased information they need to thrive as new technologies transform the enterprise. IT Pros come to Interop to see the future of technology, the outlook for IT, and the possibilities of what it means to be in IT.