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International Cruise Summit – Data Session

by Asa Sargeant | December 5, 2019 | News & Events | 0 Comments

This year’s International Cruise Summit took place last week in Madrid, and by all accounts was a huge success. The summit featured presentations from key figures in cruise and there were sessions looking at cruise industry transformation, the creation of a cruise ship and the growing importance of using data to gain advantages over competitors. This session was moderated by theICEway’s Co-Founder and CEO, Ian Richardson, and attended by his fellow Co-Founder, Conor Byrne. We caught up with Conor shortly afterwards for his thoughts on that, plus also the summit as a whole...

How do you think the data session went?

It was excellent, and one of the best attended and interactive sessions at the conference, I think.

Are you just saying that because it was moderated by your business partner?!

No, of course not, I thought it went well despite that actually.

(Awkward silence…)

I’m joking of course! (Laughs)

It was an interesting session and the people I spoke with afterwards seemed to agree.

Do you think the people in attendance would have taken away a lot from the session?

I think so, I certainly hope so anyway; it was well-structured, with Ian opening things up by explaining his own experiences of how data has been used over the last 2 decades.

The processes involved and the sheer amount of data collected must have changed hugely in all that time, so Cruise companies can surely do so much more nowadays?

Of course, but even the simple data collected 20 years ago proved to be important for them when making key decisions. By just knowing the demographics of customers it allowed cruise companies to change the on-board experience and the excursions on offer based upon people’s preferences.

What did you make of the presentations that were given during the session?

All of them were good but following on from your previous question, the presentations on MSC for Me and Ocean Medallion showed the sheer level of personalisation that can be delivered these days. It’s interesting because it does require serious buy-in from the companies to both install the infrastructure and to integrate the systems to analyse the data. Tony Roberts, Vice President UK & Europe for Princess Cruises, talked about the interactive in-cabin systems that allow guests to get the information they need when they need it, and it’s interesting again that the majority of guests are happy for the systems to hold their personal information so that it can be used to personalise their experience.

A lot of people aren’t happy with sharing their personal information, is that right?

Definitely, and that’s one of the key reasons GDPR was introduced here (in the UK) last year. At theICEway we have a sub brand named CRIBB Cyber Security and so that is an area of focus that we are very well informed on. But going back to the Ocean Medallion presentation, 97% of people were happy for their information to be used. If a guest has any specific requirements, they only have to let the crew know once and that information will continue to be used throughout the extent of their cruise to ensure that the next request is handled without the need to restate those requirements in full.

Pretty impressive…

Definitely, and it doesn’t end there. Luca Pronzati, Chief Business Innovation Officer for MSC Cruises, went on to demonstrate how the MSC for Me App is being developed to provide more and more services to passengers on board. Available on MSC’s smart ships, it is designed to ensure that each guest enjoys their cruise experience in their own special way. Digital technology is used to interconnect guests with the crew and the ship to provide them with a much more connected and seamless holiday, plus they also have access to interactive touchscreens around the ship and interactive cabin Television.

There certainly are a vast amount of possibilities in cruise for augmenting the customer journey even further, but managing all of the data being collected must be quite a complex task?

Funnily enough, Adam Sharp (Head of Business Development EMEA at Royal Caribbean Cruises) used a great analogy to describe just how difficult it is to manage the data; most of the systems on the major cruise lines have grown organically over the years and so the data maps are extremely complex. He likened it to dropping a pack of spaghetti on the floor and then having to analyse each individual piece of spaghetti in order to successfully extract the data!

Sounds like fun…

Great fun! Another key point that Clare Ward from Fred Olsen made was the fact that to make the use of data truly effective, one has to “know what they need to know”. At the start of any data project we must understand what we wish to understand from the data. Then the data collection can be narrowed down to get meaningful results.

You need to know which pieces of spaghetti to pick up and which can be left on the floor…?

Well, yes… but I feel you’ve taken a great analogy there and twisted it into a terrible one.



The key thing is to basically ensure that the results you are analysing are the ones that are going to be of the most use to you, and that they have come from the right methodology. Clare Ward from Fred Olsen Cruises also showed that excellent analysis can be extracted from passenger feedback questionnaires, both pre- and post-cruise. She also made a key point that it is extremely important to ask the correct questions in the first place. Expert help with this is often worth seeking, as professionals in the cruise industry often cannot develop accurate questionnaires as they are not necessarily looking at the issues from the guests’ point of view.

We heard a lot about how the Cruise lines are using data but what about the suppliers on the ground?

Well Esther Arnalte of InterCruises, the world’s leading ground operator, explained that they are actually using data to track KPIs for their own operations so that they can compare and feedback various insights to the Cruise lines. They are also developing applications to keep the passengers safe whilst on shore excursions. I thought this was very positive as it shows that data is being used across the industry with Cruise lines and suppliers working collaboratively for the benefit and safety of the passengers.

That makes sense. Finally, how did you feel the Q&A session went?

I thought it went well; anytime lots of questions come in you know you are onto something. A lot of those questions from the audience were focused on the management of personal information, how to protect that information and how the interaction and sharing of data can get better between ships and ports management agents, all of which are key talking points and hopefully the answers provided contained enough insight for those people asking. There were some fantastic takeaways from the session as a whole: for example, data driven organisations are around 23 times more likely to acquire customers than companies who don’t use it as much. Hearing something like that really makes you think, and that was something both Ian and I wanted – was to make people think.

That’s an impressive stat – were there any others raised that you think were particularly note-worthy?

There were plenty, and I’m sure we’ll get around to covering them all in the next couple of weeks but as another “appetiser” for you, companies adopting a data-driven stance are 6 times as likely to retain customers and 19 times as likely to be profitable as a result… (according to the McKinsey Global Institute, at least!)


International Cruise Summit – An annual Cruise industry conference held in Europe; ICS is generally viewed as being a very important event in the cruise calendar.

TheICEway – An ecosystem of companies that delivers a complete digital solution and has more than 20 years’ worth of experience in the cruise and travel industry. TheICEway consists of ICE Technology Services (Consultancy, Managed Services, Cloud Services, Development), CRIBB Cyber Security, eTestware and AI / VR (future technologies).

GDPR – The General Data Protection Regulation, a regulation in European Union law for all individual citizens of the EU and the European Economic Area on data protection and privacy. The transfer of personal data outside the EU and EEA is also addressed by GDPR.

Smart Ships – With the huge technological advances being made in the Cruise industry, cruise ships are increasingly more digitalised. The Internet of Things has already given us smart phones, and now it is giving us smart ships.

Top Tip

If you are interested in reading more about ICS 2019, keep an eye on our Innovation Hub because we’ll be posting more content in the coming weeks…

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