One of the last holdouts against high tech is finally coming around. Cruise
ship operators, which have lagged behind the rest of the travel industry in
adopting new technology, are now undertaking projects to offer passengers
satellite Internet, onboard texting networks, digital signs with touchscreens,
streaming video and interactive online gaming.
Later this year, Royal Caribbean will finish building its third smartship,
featuring cocktail-mixing robots and passenger wristbands that serve as
room keys. And by late 2016, Regent Seven Seas Cruises will complete a
project to roll out free unlimited Wi-Fi access for every passenger.
The complexity, technical limitations and costs of upgrading vessels constantly on the move are big reasons cruise lines have been slow to undertake
connectivity projects. Project teams face a host of challenges unique to the
industry when integrating new
technology into cruises.
“Implementations on cruise
ships are far more complex
in general,” says Mika Silverman, consultant and IT project
manager, Silver Solutions,
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Ms.
Silverman’s most recent project was Crystal Cruises’ new
luxury yacht the Crystal Esprit
Complications include getting hardware to the ship, customs issues, securing approval
for infrastructure changes from
the ship’s insurers and coordinating the expansive network of
technology systems that have to
“Timelines are also ridiculously aggressive in the cruise industry,” Ms. Sil-
verman adds. “No hotel would try to completely overhaul its infrastructure
in a 14-day period, like all cruise ships do when they’re out of service for
Ships also have specific connectivity constraints. “Plugging in is very
hard at sea,” Ms. Silverman says. All connectivity is provided through sat-
ellite, which is both more expensive and less reliable than cellular signals.
Rough seas are often a forgotten factor, too. Project managers must con-
sider their impact on everything from fiber lines to hard drives.
Then there is the task of overseeing frequent upgrade projects.
A US$10 billion pipeline project has launched
in central Asia, despite concerns that there isn’t
enough funding to finish it.
Construction began in the former Soviet
state of Turkmenistan late last year on the
1,800-kilometer ( 1,118-mile) pipeline to carry
natural gas from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan,
Pakistan and India. The project, named TAPI for
the countries it will traverse, is moving forward
even though three major gas companies have
“TAPI remains one of the less likely projects
to materialize despite the announcement of
the start of construction,” Martin Vladimirov,
an energy analyst at the Center for the Study of
Democracy in Bulgaria, told Reuters in December.
Project plans call for the pipeline to be
operational by the end of 2019, when it would
transport 90 million cubic meters (nearly 24
billion gallons) a day.
A consortium of national energy companies
from the four countries is sponsoring the project. Turkmenistan’s Turkmengaz will lead the
construction, while Dubai-based Dragon Oil is
also in talks to invest. ExxonMobil and Chevron,
however, dropped out of the project in 2014 as
oil prices declined and Turkmenistan refused
to sign production-sharing agreements. French
energy giant Total SA backed out in 2015. Some
experts predict Turkmenistan will eventually
drop the project in favor of easier ways to improve its economy. —Brigid Sweeney