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Royal Caribbean Embarks On An IT Upgrade

Cruise line will update its ERP and HR systems and automate customer paperwork
Despite a softening worldwide travel market, Royal Caribbean International is launching three IT projects to simplify and automate purchasing, employee-tracking, and customer-information processes.

CIO Tom Murphy last week got the green light to upgrade from J.D. Edwards & Co.'s World enterprise resource planning software to the vendor's OneWorld package. Royal Caribbean's goal: to automate the shoreside purchasing process that supplies 21 of the Miami company's ships at ports around the world.

Royal Caribbean also plans an August upgrade of the PeopleSoft Inc. human-resources system the cruise line installed in December. The Web-enabled version will give ships at sea real-time access via satellite connections and provide ship officers access to the training, licensing, and background history of thousands of employees. "Today that's all paper-based, and it's very difficult to have it all follow the employees from ship to ship," Murphy says.

The third project will focus on the most important part of the operation: customers. Royal Caribbean is working on a paperless embarkation project to let passengers file all key paperwork--passport, visa, and credit-card information--as well as choose dining times and sign up for shore excursions long before they board the ship. "It's amazing how much we need to know about our customers and crew," Murphy says.

Once on board, passengers can stay in touch with the mainland through Internet cafes. For in-room use, the cruise line is offering CyberCabin boxes that link to the Internet through the ship's satellite-based telephone system. "It's not elegant," Murphy concedes, "but it's functional." With only about 30 CyberCabin boxes per ship, Royal Caribbean is having a hard time keeping up with the demand, he says, despite a $100-a-week rental fee, plus phone charges.

When it comes to using IT, Royal Caribbean is "ahead of the pack," says Lorraine Sileo, a PhoCusWright analyst. Among other initiatives, she says the cruise line "quickly identified the Web as a vehicle for filling ever-bigger ships with new consumers who have never tried cruising. That will be increasingly important, she adds, as lots of new ships--including two from Royal Caribbean itself--come online this year in a softening market.

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