Future Guest Experience 2020

September 28 - 29, 2020

Las Vegas, NV

Royal Caribbean's Flagship Miami Terminal Uses Biometrics to Create Frictionless Boarding Experience

Brought to you by WBR Insights

For cruise line vacationers, the holiday experience starts not when they set foot on the ship, but the very moment they enter the terminal prior to boarding. Luxury cruise line brand Royal Caribbean knows this, and with the opening of its flagship $247 million terminal at PortMiami in November last year, not only do the world's largest cruise ships finally have a place to park in Miami, but passengers get a world-class boarding experience as well.

Dubbed Terminal A, the new cruise terminal makes way for Royal Caribbean's Oasis class ships and is designed to enhance the vacation experience of customers from start to end - beginning with getting all 5,500-plus passengers on board in record time. This it achieves by providing what the company calls a "frictionless boarding process", enabled through biometric facial recognition technology and an automated baggage system that significantly reduces both loading and unloading times.

The move comes on the heels of the cruise company's recently rolled-out smartphone app, which enables passengers to speed up the check-in process, see a daily planner, access onboard accounts, and book activities.

"When you look at the ships we've been building, and the design sensibility, and the way we manage space, and the way we create experiences - the natural extension of that would be the boarding experience... particularly in our major homeports," said Royal Caribbean International's President and CEO, Michael Bayley.

Frictionless Boarding Process

(Image source: royalcaribbeanblog.com)

Departing guests enter the 170,000-square-foot terminal through an enormous entryway with 30-foot high ceilings. Here, they step onto an escalator to the second level, where two golden life-sized propeller blades rotate above them. Hanging LED candles and interior spaces fitted with terrazzo floors make up the decor, with three stories of floor-to-ceiling windows offering splendid views of ships and the Miami and South Beach skylines - providing plenty of Instagram opportunities even before boarding.

The design gives Terminal A the feel of a hip hotel rather than a processing area. However, a processing and security area Terminal A still is, and state-of-the-art technology is here deployed to streamline the boarding process for passengers.

(Automated baggage system. Image source: royalcaribbeanblog.com)

Along with a new 3,000-foot automated baggage handling system, the key to realizing the frictionless boarding process is the terminal's use of biometric technology. Prior to sailing, cruisers can now upload a selfie with their passport information, enabling Customs and Border Protection's facial recognition software to process passengers quicker by eliminating paperwork and additional screening time. Royal Caribbean says the process cuts boarding times in half - from 20 to just 10 minutes. "10 minutes from car to bar", as Richard D. Fain, Royal Caribbean Cruises Chairman and CEO, puts it. The terminal is designed to process 2,000 passengers an hour at peak times.

"Technology plays a huge part in our everyday existence, and so you need to start building the technology into the experience," said Bayley. "If you think about it, it's happening everywhere. It's happening with the airlines, it's happing with the cruise lines; it's an inevitable journey we're all on, and we obviously want to be the innovators at the front of that."

(Security screening area. Image source: royalcaribbeanblog.com)

PortMiami currently serves 750,000 Royal Caribbean passengers annually, representing about 15% of the port's overall passenger traffic. However, with the new terminal, Royal Caribbean expects to increase its passenger intake to one million in 2019, and the company says there is capacity to grow that number to two million annually over the coming years.

"Terminal A is an important milestone in the growth of the cruise industry in South Florida and underscores our commitment to Miami, where our company was founded almost 50 years ago," said Fain.

Final Thoughts

Boarding a ship isn't always a pleasant process. But, with the opening of Terminal A, Royal Caribbean wants passengers to forget about any previous nightmare experiences they may have had. Designed specifically to beautify waiting areas and enhance guests' boarding experiences, the plentiful baggage drop-off points, fast-track check-in, and expedited security all combine to get cruisers onboard and ordering a drink at the bar faster than ever before.

Terminal A will be the official home to Symphony of the Seas, Royal Caribbean's first Oasis class ship, as well its sister Allure of the Seas. By the end of 2019, four different Royal Caribbean ships will be using Terminal A. Bayley has also indicated that additional projects associated with terminals in key ports will be revealed in the near future.

"We look forward to all the new and exciting developments the opening of Terminal A will bring to our cruise lines, our guests, and the Miami community," said Bayley. "We are proud that our Oasis class vessels, each hosting more than 5,000 guests, will now be able to call on PortMiami."

Adopting technology to create frictionless guest experiences is set to be a hot topic at Future Guest Experience 2019, taking place in September in Henderson, NV.

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