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How a global cruise company realised digital transformation with NashTech

How a global cruise company realised digital transformation with NashTech

Introduction

Cruise guests expectations have changed with the advent of mobiles and AI. Time is precious, now more than ever. So when people get a chance to take a holiday from their busy lives, they want a frictionless experience that supersizes the vacation fun. They expect an experience of being away while at the same time having all the connected comforts of home. 

This case study is a classic example of how we helped our partner’s organisation with legacy modernisation & digital transformation.

About Royal Caribbean

More than 40 years ago, our partner set out to create ships that astound and experiences that amaze. It’s a large cruise vacation company that operates multiple brands globally and represents 20% of the global cruisers, and serves close to 5 million guests across the globe each year. The company offers varied itineraries across 1000 destinations with 60 operational ships across all seven continents.

Cruise guests expectations have changed with the advent of mobiles and AI. Time is precious, now more than ever. Almost every minute is assigned and accounted for in the hustle and bustle of the day. So when people get a chance to take a holiday from their busy lives, they want a frictionless experience that supersizes the vacation fun. They expect an experience of being away while at the same time having all the connected comforts of home.

The challenge

When we came on board, the global cruise company was still in the early stages of its digital thinking. Guests had limited visibility to activities and amenities through a web portal and a minimalist app. Once aboard, they received a daily printed newsletter detailing the events, activities, restaurants and menus, shore excursions and ports of call for the day. Furthermore, to participate in an event or excursion, guests had to line up and sign up with the crew on a first-come, first-served basis.

This traditional approach was limiting, particularly for generations who were more accustomed to a digital-first mindset and were looking for a more streamlined and frictionless experience. In today’s world, people expect the ease of technology in everything they do. They find it saves them time and effort, especially when on vacation, where time is one of the most important commodities they have.

From the technical perspective, here are the significant challenges and roadblocks:

  • The organisation had an age-old legacy system that was composed of monolithic applications. The system was bulky, tightly coupled, and constricted by old architectural models. As a result, the system could not evolve to accommodate new features and innovation.
  • Critical functionalities like bookings & reservations were operating on a monolithic architecture. These monoliths had to be leveraged for data migration and building the new microservices oriented application. There were appalling migration steps and understanding the monolithic code was no cakewalk.
  • There was little personalisation or micro-segmentation. Customer engagement was low as static content in the form of emails or flyers took the lead.
  • Data synchronisation was another major challenge. As there’s no internet connectivity at sea, there was no way to connect to the servers at the shore and sync up data once guests were onboard.
  • Each live environment corresponds to all the interactions with guests onboard a particular ship. Since the ship and shore side applications were distinct, we had to find a way to standardise the entire suite and ensure a consistent and flawless guest experience.
  • The deployment and maintenance of 60 such live environments were one of the biggest challenges
  • Earlier, data was being processed in batches, a technique that became redundant for the mobile app as it needed real-time streaming.
  • There was no mechanism to detect failures or anomalies within the entire system.
  • They had staggering amounts of data, and the difficulty has been in making intelligent use of that data.

As the following picture depicts, a cruise involves several touch points with the customer that may potentially create unpleasant aspects. For example, long embarkation times, missing documentation during check-in etc.

rccl-case-study

For our partner, this meant redesigning the entire customer journey, changing the culture and processes in delivering technology products and innovating continuously to bring the guest experience into the digital age.

With this, the organisation also wanted to streamline operations so that the crew members did not have to fill in numerous forms that involved unnecessary manual work.

The global cruise vacation company wanted to achieve

  • Digitisation of the entire guest and employee experience
  • Reducing the time to book, check-in, debark, ship turn overs, etc. from days to minutes
  • Personalisation of the digital guest experience
  • Revenue growth in pre, current and post-cruise activities

The agenda is to think differently about connecting with their guests, with their employees and also generating new revenue streams.

The solution

A fully integrated shore-to-ship digital experience

This case study is a classic example of how we helped our partner’s organisation with legacy modernisation & digital transformation.

The solution came in the form of a smart mobile application driven by microservices that digitised the guest experience and facilitated a seamless experience for employees also.

The app has been built on reactive technology and has helped the company in shortening the development lifecycles through which the company is constantly launching and testing out new features and responding to changing customer feedback and expectations.

We delivered the complete range of mobile application backend systems for the cruise line so that the app can work seamlessly across all conditions. Our services helped the company achieve:

  • We introduced reactive microservices between the monolithic legacy application and the mobile app to manage the entire range of functionalities. The reactive and responsive nature of the application makes sure that the system is fault-tolerant, self-healing and can respond to varying loads.
  • We implemented multiple real-time synchronisation patterns between ships and shore including event sync, file sync, database sync using distributed technologies like Kafka, Minio, Spark and Flink taking intermittent satellite connectivity into consideration. Our solutions made sure that no guest experiences app outages even when the ship lost connectivity while at sea.
  • We spearheaded the engineering best practices from the ground up and forced teams to ensure complete CI/CD pipelines for microservice deployment. This impacted the culture in a positive way with firm control on production deployments and speed to
  • If there was an anomaly or breakdown of any component within the entire system, we ensured that robust monitoring and alerting using sSlunk, Prometheus, Graphite and Grafana, was in place so that instances of failures are automatically notified.
  • We laid the engineering foundation for data science, by designing and owning the analytics infrastructure powered by Kafka and Spark. This design is very challenging considering limited infrastructure available on ships. We used DCOS from Mesosphere innovatively to deploy Spark jobs.
  • We built and drove centre of excellence on streaming and analytics which included ‘Fast Data’ technologies to help organisation leverage the pioneered patterns.
  • We implemented Geo-fencing from scratch, which means guests will be able to track their live location throughout the entire cruise and will also receive updates about excursions and experiences based on the location.
  • We helped the cruise vacation company to provide their guests with digital experience to remember with location-aware, immersive audio tours along with live weather updates during the cruising journey.
  • We are also enabling seamless check-in for crew members so that the paperwork that they earlier had to do is no longer needed. The application for the crew facilitated communication amongst members while on the job.
  • Once a guest logs into the app, he/she is given personalised recommendations according to the cruising history of the particular customer, which was not available earlier.

The app, for instance, provides a smooth interface for those who want to avail the of food & dining services while they are on the cruise. Various options are available for restaurants and cafes that offer delivery services. Here’s a glimpse of how a customer interacts with the app if he/she wants to place an order.

The outcome 

Cruise guest experience gets a digital facelift

0 %
of ships to which the mobile application was rolled out to
0 %
of guests using the mobile app
0 %
reduction in time to deploy a new feature
0 %
enhancement in customer satisfaction
  • NashTech streamlined and digitised all phases of the guest experience (from online booking, pre-cruise activities, onboarding, activities & experiences on the cruise, and post-cruise activities, and more) as well as improve the cruise company’s operations and sustainability.
  • With the help of our microservices solution, there is an 80% reduction in time to deploy a new feature. Cruise company continuously rolling out and testing new features, in order to keep up with ever-changing guest expectations.
  • With our solution, the cruise vacation company empowered their guests to manage their entire experience with a single digital point – mobile application. This also helps them to keep the consistent guest experience across all ships and shore sides.
  • The mobile application was rolled out to 60% of the ships of the global cruise company.
  • The synchronisation of real-time guest information across all data centers on ships and shore was made possible with Kafka, connectors and replicators.
  • We ensured a loosely coupled architecture which means changes implemented on one component will not affect the others. Hence, the system was made resilient, fault-tolerant, and responsive to the differing traffic loads.

Customer satisfaction was enhanced by 89% and almost 95% of the guests now use the mobile application for their cruise journeys.

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