Royal Caribbean's Misplaced Priorities: Fast Internet, Virtual Balconies But No Automatic Man-Overboard Systems

Today I read an article by a popular cruise blogger that Royal Caribbean was on track to deliver a fast land-based internet experience to its guests.

The article went on to say that "cruise lines are working overtime, trying to enable passenger use of their electronic devices at sea just as they might at home."

I suppose this is of some interest to the cruising public, knowing that they can surf the internet on the high seas just as fast as they can at home.

Virtual Balcony Another article which caught my eye was in Wired magazine entitled "Cruise Ship’s 80-Inch ‘Virtual Balconies’ Livestream the High Seas." 

The article explains that on Royal Caribbean' Navigator of the Seas, the cruise line has installed, in 81 interior staterooms, floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall screens which display a live feed of the bow and stern video cameras. Those passengers "stuck" in interior, view-less cabins will be able to enjoy clear, beautiful images of the Caribbean waters.

The article explains that the high-tech video gear is marine compliant and can handle all of the sun, heat, salt, and water "that comes with being at sea." Further, "fiber-optic cable carries the video to a server, then to a set-top box that decodes and processes the video before it’s displayed on the screen." 

Consultants from MIT and Harvard were involved in the project in order to bring the best technology to the cruise ship. 

All of this technology is coming from the cruise line which prides itself in "Delivering the Wow!" to its guests. When it comes to designing cruise ships which incorporate the newest entertainment gadgets for its passengers to enjoy, Royal Caribbean is the best. This is the cruise line which will introduce the Quantum of the Seas later this year, filled with all types of technological marvels like simulated sky-diving and a gee-whiz" Jetson-family-like futuristic mechanical arm that magically transports passengers high above the ocean in a glass capsule called the "North Star."

But one thing which the Quantum of the Seas will be lacking is an automatic man-overboard (MOB) system which will signal the bridge when a passenger or crew member goes over the rails and into the sea. Such devices were required by the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act. But Royal Caribbean, like most cruise lines, has not bothered to install such systems onto its fleet of cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean has experienced the most passengers and crew going overboard in the last two months. In all cases there is no mention of the required MOB systems. In some cases its does not even appear that the ships were even equipped with a sufficient number of surveillance systems to determine how and why the guest or employee disappeared from the ship.

The cruise industry claims that technology doesn't exist to detect when people go overboard. Cruise lines also claim that salt deposits from the sea spray can obscure the view of the MOB cameras.

North StarWhen it comes to why it has not complied with the life-saving safety law, Royal Caribbean has a boat load of excuses. It is still using old school, outdated technology. It can't even figure out how to keep an exterior camera clean.

But when it comes to the technology for its gadgets like cameras for its live-streaming, virtual balconies, it involved experts from MIT and Harvard to design the best cameras for the marine environment.    

The difference is that Royal Caribbean can generate significant profits by selling higher speed internet and charging more for an interior cabin if it has a virtual balcony. Royal Caribbean will charge a premium fare for the Quantum of the Seas with its "North Star" ride in the sky.  

But a CVSSA-compliant MOB system creates more costs and no profits. You will hear nothing about Royal Caribbean involving experts from MIT and Harvard to create "gee-whiz" safety devices. Yes, crew members and passengers will continue to disappear at sea but, in the cruise line's view, they are both easily replaceable.

 

Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean / Royal Caribbean via Wired

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Comments (7) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
max - February 12, 2014 3:38 PM

That and lifeguards at the pool. How dumb and careless can they get!

John Nelson - February 14, 2014 2:27 PM

To have anybody go overboard from any ship is a tragedy and very hard to deal with, both for family, friends and the ship's crew.
Funny how easy it is to blame the cruise lines for people jumping overboard. Anybody who has been on a ship realizes the following:
1. It is virtually impossible to accidentally fall overboard.
2. You have to either want to go over the side, or
3. Somebody "helps' you over the side, or
4. You do something really stupid and become the winner of "The Darwin Award"
We should expect a certain level of responsibility from the passengers that they will not put themselves in a situation where they risk going overboard.
Detection technology that gives an alarm when somebody goes over the side will not prevent anybody from doing it.
It is very, very difficult to find somebody in the water, especially at night and in even moderately rough conditions. And is there actually any system available today that can stand up to the very harsh environment that you find at sea? No matter how sophisticated the system is, salt, humidity and changing temperatures makes it very difficult to maintain quality and reliability of any electronic system outdoors.

Jim Walker - February 14, 2014 6:05 PM

John: the automatic man overboard systems are required by law. Your comments are irrelevant. The cruise lines are breaking the law.

John Nelson - February 15, 2014 12:34 PM

All other laws are strictly enforced, why not this one?
And I guess as a lawyer, you find comments that are in disagreement with you as irrelevant? To whom are they irrelevant?

Jim Walker - February 16, 2014 10:12 AM

"John Nelson" your internet provider address indicates you sent your email from Royal Caribbean's headquarters here in Miami. Yes, your employer is breaking the law and your comments are irrelevant. The time for debating whether the systems are needed is over.

You also left a bogus email address, which is indicative of the lack of transparency of your cruise line.

John Nelson - February 19, 2014 6:03 PM

Must be from the I-café server. My opinions and questions are personal and not representing my favorite cruise provider. Still no answer to my question: Is there available today a reliable system to automatically detect somebody going overboard?

Jim Walker - April 2, 2014 10:20 AM

Yes. The technology has existed for a while. Royal Caribbean is aware of it. You are still using a fake name and email address.

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