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Anticipation is arguably the best thing about a vacation. Excitement builds as we visualize upcoming travel adventures and map out details. Before setting sail on the inaugural cruise of the Sky Princess in December, I enjoyed perusing images of the beautiful 1,830-stateroom ship, and learning about dining and entertainment options. I also experienced a new level of pre-trip excitement, fueled by downloading several apps to facilitate my MedallionClass experience once on board. Princess’ signature Ocean Medallion—a wearable, smart digital device the size of a quarter—debuted in 2017, but Sky is the first ship in the fleet to be purpose-built from the ground up to accommodate its technology. This means there are 2,500 miles of invisible electrical cabling in the ship, enabling not only impressive digital functionalities, but also continual upgrades. “Not a day goes by that we don’t make an enhancement to Ocean Medallion,” says John Padgett, chief experience and innovation officer, Carnival Corporation. “We break the mold of needing to be on a new ship to have a new experience.”

The process to get “Ocean Ready” and receive Ocean Medallions fully loaded with apps before boarding can have a fairly steep learning curve for non-techies. But what travel advisors need to know is that Medallion Class clients sailing on Sky Princess don’t need to do anything in order to get cool benefits. All that is required is to have the medallion itself, which can be mailed prior to travel. Among the benefits is reduced embarkation time and hands-free stateroom access. I was blown away the first time I heard my stateroom door unlock as I approached, without pointing my medallion anywhere.

Clients who wish to use their mobile devices for additional services and experiences can also download the complementary apps during an orientation session on the first day of the cruise, where crew members help with hands-on assistance and information.

Among my favorite apps is Ocean Compass, which (among other things) enables passengers to find and communicate with others on the ship.

“Feedback from guests and travel advisors alike say they love being able to locate friends and family on board,” says Gordon Ho, chief marketing officer and head of sales, Princess Cruises.

Also getting high ratings, says Ho, is Medallion Net, a reasonably priced upgrade that in my experience lived up to its billing as the best WiFi at sea.

Where Everyone Knows Your Name

“Hi, Regina, welcome to Sky Princess,” said the woman at the embarkation check-in window. “Goodbye, Regina, come back soon,” said my massage therapist as I passed by the spa when departing the ship. Due to Ocean Medallion technology, all of the 1,346 crew on Sky Princess know not only the passengers’ names, but also their needs and preferences. The stateroom housekeepers don’t have to knock on doors because they know when guests are in or out. There’s no need for crew to manually check off a muster list. “The Ocean Medallion is really helpful for both security and relationship building,” says chief security officer Susan Morgan.

All-Ages Appeal

New features on board the elegant yet unstuffy ship include two Sky Suites with “the largest balconies at sea,” and Take 5, a jazz lounge seating 116 people for world jazz performances and storytelling. The Princess Theater seats 930 people for dazzling, Broadway caliber shows. There’s also an emphasis on family entertainment with such attractions as Jim Henson’s Inspired Silliness Puppet Show, and the Phantom Bridge escape room, where digitally enhanced games can have hundreds of different outcomes.

“Princess isn’t always thought of for families, but we are working to change that with these big investments,” says Ho. Also key to the growing numbers of multigenerational travelers is the Discovery at Sea program for three age groups, all with immersive educational content.

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What’s In it For Travel Advisors

Travel advisors can find new courses on Sky Princess and the Medallion Class in Princess Academy Training online, says Ho. “We acknowledge all our travel advisors, with free cruises going to the highest, commodore level,” he adds.