Smart Building

What it Takes to Enable Today’s Cruise Ship Technology

Wil Boyd

Technology doesn’t escape cruise ships just because most of their business happens on the water. Like any on-shore entertainment venue, these vessels need to offer immersive guest experiences, wireless connectivity and system convergence onto ship networks.

Just as people expect connectivity at home, at work and on the go, they also expect it on vacation. Cruise ships are turning into mini connected smart cities.


Here are some of today’s latest cruise ship technology trends – and a look at the cabling and connectivity infrastructure required to support them.


Convergence and Increasing Numbers of Devices

People are taking their devices with them everywhere – including on cruise ships.


On some of its newest ships, for example, Carnival Cruise Line can accommodate approximately 4,700 active devices, including those of guests and crew members.


On today’s cruise lines, interactive displays guide guests to personalized, on-board destinations on each floor. Facial-recognition cameras may assist with check-in. Digital screens let guests place custom drink orders from wherever they are.


Some cruise lines are also adopting wearable technology (like medallions, necklaces and bracelets) that contain travel and personal details, let guests automatically unlock cabin doors upon arrival, help find on-board amenities, pinpoint the location of fellow travelers and order food and beverages.


As you can imagine, all of this cruise ship technology connects to the ship’s on-board network.


Carnival Cruise Installation


Wireless Access Points in Every Room

Whether guests are in their rooms, relaxing by the pool, sitting at the spa or eating in the main dining room, they want to stay connected: stream movies and music, connect with friends and family, post videos and pictures, log into VPNs to get work done and keep up to date on news.


Because guests now expect excellent wireless connectivity everywhere they go, eliminating patchy (and pricey) wireless experiences will lead to higher guest satisfaction levels. To make reliable, 24/7 wireless a possibility, cruise ships are increasing the number of wireless access points being installed. Some cruise lines, such as Carnival, are deploying wireless access points in every guest room to keep up with – and stay ahead of – demand.


Just like the IoT devices we mentioned earlier, these wireless access points are also connecting to the ship’s on-board network.


On-Board Data Centers

Because of the number of devices now connecting to ship networks, resiliency and redundancy are necessary for quality service.


Using Carnival Cruise Line as an example, each of its ships has its own data center. For redundancy purposes, two of the cruise line’s newest ships actually host two data centers with connectivity in between (separated by fire zones). If something happens to the power, cooling or network equipment in one of those data centers, guests and employees will notice minimal impact as it goes offline and the other data center picks up to provide the same level of service.


Cruise Line Apps

Many cruise lines are now creating custom apps that guests can download before (or while) they board.


Although each app offers different experiences and features, guests can often use them to book dining reservations and short excursions, reserve time at the spa, view and upload photos, chat with other on-board guests and control cabin temperature and lighting – all from wherever they happen to be within the ship.


Cabling Infrastructure to Support Cruise Ship Technology

Carnival Cruise InstallationTo support all of these emerging applications and new technologies, many cruise ships are incorporating two Category 6A horizontal cable drops per guestroom, as well as Power over Ethernet cable to power things like wireless access points and on-board IP phones.


Solutions like Belden’s OM4 fiber cable and 10GX Category 6A cable provide the infrastructure needed to support things like wireless access points in cabins and public spaces, as well as the thousands of active devices on board. Belden cabling and connectivity also ensure reliable, high-performance connectivity of apps and devices.