“For the passenger, the travel day is the most disruptive day of their vacation and the last thing they want is to be stuck in a queue for a long period of time”
Juan Trescastro, VP Worldwide Port Operations, Royal Caribbean Cruises.
As befits the nature of the record-breaking ‘Oasis of the Seas’ cruise ship, Royal Caribbean Cruises must provide world-class baggage and passenger processing.
The scope of the challenge is highlighted by the fact that during the disembarking/embarking process, Royal Caribbean Cruises must handle as many as 12,400 passengers, along with their baggage, while staying true to its promise of ‘15 minutes kerb to gangway’. Needless to say, an operation of such magnitude requires the most efficient and seamless of check-in, boarding and baggage handling processes.
“If we were using an existing terminal it would have been very challenging, or even impossible,” said Juan Trescastro, VP Worldwide Port Operations, Royal Caribbean Cruises. “What we did was develop a terminal specifically to handle 6,000-plus guests. We designed the terminal to deal with the different instances that occur when you are dealing with that volume of passengers in such time constraints.”
While the promise that the journey between kerb and gangway will last a maximum of 15 minutes may appear to be somewhat optimistic when handling such a volume of passengers, Trescastro explained that the promise has not just been met, but even surpassed since the ship first departed Fort Lauderdale in December 2009.
“We’re currently averaging nine minutes,” he said. “It’s critical for us to deliver upon this promise because of the mathematics involved. We start our check-in process at a certain hour and we need to ensure that the process has been completed by a certain hour.
“For the passenger, the travel day is the most disruptive day of their vacation and the last thing they want is to be stuck in a queue for a long period of time.”
To expedite the check-in process, Royal Caribbean Cruises utilises online check-in to encourage its guests to enter the relevant passport, identification and credit card details before setting off from home. This alone has reduced the process time from “three-to-four minutes per guest to about 30 seconds”.
Although remote self-service kiosks have been explored as an addition to the online check-in capabilities, Trescastro explained that Royal Caribbean Cruises decided that they weren’t a viable business proposition.
He said: “We ultimately decided that this wouldn’t really work in a cruise ship environment. In airports, passengers who are frequent fliers quickly become acquainted with the kiosks but this wouldn’t be the case with cruise ship guests. Immigration, visa, identification and credit card checks would take around 15 minutes if the guests were to do it themselves, where as our agents can do this in around 30 seconds because they are familiar with the technology.
“For us, we see online check-in as self-service because when you arrive at the port, it’s just a validation process that’s required and then you’re handed your room keys.”
Boarding and baggage
At the terminal, in order to ensure that the security screening process doesn’t become a bottleneck in the boarding process, ten separate security lanes are in place. “From the moment the guest joins the queue to the moment they leave the security screening area, this will take them between just two and two-and-a-half minutes,” Trescastro added.
With regard to baggage handling, as many as 12,000 pieces of luggage can be processed and in order to heighten efficiency, the luggage is sorted upon receipt. Six baggage scanners have been implemented and each of the ten decks is divided into a sextant, which is further divided into quadrants, and each piece of luggage is directed to its correct distribution area. Within just three hours of boarding, every passenger will have been reacquainted with their luggage.
While the passenger experience offered to guests on board ‘Oasis of the Seas’ is rightly considered world-class, Royal Caribbean Cruises is continually taking steps to further simplify and expedite the check-in, boarding and baggage processes. For instance, hand-held technology, which would allow agents in airports and hotels to check passengers in remotely is currently being explored, with Trescastro explaining that this is already “in the advanced stages”; another example of Royal Caribbean Cruises’ dedication to providing the best possible passenger experience.