The rapid advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming nearly every industry on the planet, and the cruise industry is no exception. To explore the impact of this transformative technology in cruise, Sourcetoad recently brought together a panel of experts to discuss what the future will look like, both onboard and shoreside. With moderation by Troy Parkinson, the panel featured Frank Farro, VP of Technology at Virgin Voyages; Ian Richardson, CEO of theICEway; Brent Britton, an AI legal expert and partner at Bochner Law; and finally, Sourcetoad’s very own Greg Ross-Munro. In case you missed the webinar, keep reading for a recap of the key insights and discussions from the session!

AI and Its Relevance to Cruise

Greg kicked off the session by giving a high-level overview of AI, explaining its different facets, from basic expert systems to advanced machine learning and generative AI. He emphasized that AI aims to mimic human decision-making processes and can significantly enhance operational efficiency, customer service, and innovation in the cruise industry. 

AI in Action: Current Uses and Challenges

Risks and Ethics

Next, the panelists explored the legal and ethical implications of using AI. Brent Britton emphasized that organizations must be cautious when using AI-generated content, particularly in marketing. He cautioned against the risks of copyright infringement and the potential for AI to generate misleading or false information. At the end of the day, the AI itself cannot be held responsible for any misleading information it creates – it is the responsibility of the organization using the AI. To mitigate these legal risks, Brent recommends implementing robust policies and oversight across your organization. 

Customer Interactions

Frank Farro discussed the evolving role of AI in customer service, highlighting the potential for AI-driven chatbots to handle customer inquiries with increasing sophistication. Because chatbots can closely resemble humans in conversation, Frank emphasized the importance of transparency when using AI for customer service. While there may not be a legal obligation to disclose AI use, transparency can enhance trust. Cruise lines must ensure that AI provides accurate information and appropriately hands off to human agents when necessary.

Privacy Concerns & Copyright Issues

Next, Greg and Ian pointed out the potential for AI systems to accidentally disclose private information. They emphasized the importance of robust testing and safeguards to prevent such occurrences. Regular audits and strict data handling protocols are essential to mitigate these risks.

Brent also explained that content generated by AI, such as shore excursion descriptions, is not owned by the AI but by the entity that uses it. However, the legal ownership can be complex, and companies must ensure they have clear policies regarding AI-generated content.

AI in Cruise: What’s Actually Possible Today

The panelists unanimously agreed that AI is here to stay and will continue to evolve rapidly. Frank shared an example of a development bot named Devin that demonstrated remarkable efficiency in fixing software defects. He highlighted the dynamic nature of the AI landscape, where new innovations are constantly emerging.

Practical Implementations

Greg then showcased several examples of how AI can be used onboard ships today. Sourcetoad OnDeck currently has three solutions that use AI to enhance the passenger experience:

  • Personalized Itinerary Builders: AI-driven tools create customized walking tours and activity schedules for passengers based on their preferences and past behaviors.
  • Chatbots for Customer Service: Advanced conversational chatbots provide detailed and accurate information about on-board amenities and services.
  • Digital Signage Management: AI filters and displays appropriate news content on digital signage, creating a more positive passenger experience by filtering out “bummer” news stories.

Operational Efficiency & Sustainability

Ian elaborated on how AI is already being used to optimize various aspects of cruise operations, from navigational routing to energy management. He emphasized the need for sustainable AI practices to ensure that the environmental benefits of AI are realized without adding to the industry’s carbon footprint.

Impact on Crew

While AI has the potential to free up crew members from repetitive customer service tasks, the panel emphasized the need for continuous staff training and development to equip employees with the skills necessary to work alongside AI effectively. If crew members can adapt to working alongside AI tools, they can greatly enhance their efficiency and effectiveness. Brent also added that while AI can handle many tasks, human oversight remains crucial to ensure accuracy and accountability. A “talk to a human” button is essential for situations where AI may fall short, and a crew member is needed.

Virgin Voyages’ AI Initiatives

Next, Frank shared insights into Virgin Voyages’ approach to AI. The company is experimenting with various AI applications, including using bots to summarize meeting notes and a chatbot named Vivi for customer interactions. However, the rapid pace of AI innovation means that the company is still exploring the best solutions.

Audience Q&A Highlights

During the Q&A session, the panelists addressed various questions from the audience, including the potential impact of AI on job roles and the environmental footprint of AI compared to traditional operations. They reinforced the idea that while AI may change certain job functions, it also presents opportunities for upskilling and enhancing overall efficiency.

Final Thoughts

The panelists wrapped up the webinar with a forward-looking perspective on AI’s role in the cruise industry. They each expressed optimism about the potential of AI to drive innovation, improve customer experiences, and contribute to more sustainable operations. All three panelists encouraged industry stakeholders to embrace AI proactively while remaining mindful of the associated risks and ethical considerations.

As AI continues to advance, its integration into the cruise industry will undoubtedly bring both challenges and opportunities. By leveraging AI’s capabilities responsibly and strategically, cruise companies can enhance their operations, provide exceptional customer service, and stay competitive in an increasingly digital world.

The full recording of our Future of AI in Cruise Webinar will be available on the Sourcetoad OnDeck Youtube channel channel next month. Be sure to subscribe now so you don’t miss out on this and other exciting content!