The quest for the best cruise photo experience
Have you ever been on an AIDA cruise?
It truly is a carefree experience.
There are many things you don't need to worry about once you're on board, but one of them is taking memorable photos to enjoy after the cruise.
Not only are there many photographers aboard, ready to capture special moments for you. There’s also a photo shop on every ship where you can get high quality prints.
There are usually thousands of passengers aboard and thousands of photos are taken every day.
At this scale, making the photos readily available to passengers in print at the photo shop is quite a challenge.
Traditionally, all photos would be printed out and put on a gallery wall and the photo shop team would help passengers find their photos.
This was a costly process in terms of labour, materials, environmental footprint and on-board space.
Crucially though, the experience wasn't passenger friendly, as everyone had to go through a wall of other people’s photos to find their own.
The Photo Kiosks
The solution envisioned by AIDA was a complete digital reinvention of the process.
It was designed around face recognition technology, used to digitally look up passenger photos, and printing on demand, as the passengers would order photos on custom builtself-service photo kiosks.
Within the first months of greenfield development, we have successfully:
- built the kiosk application and its backend, from database to touch UI
- integrated custom hardware: photo lab, printers, card readers, cameras
- tamed a heavy duty third party face recognition engine
- coordinated work with designers and vendors working in parallel.
Trials of the sea
After this initial period of intensive development, onboard delivery of the photo kiosks started.
We carried out the deployments and experienced our first share of sea trials.
As our software were tested by passengers and photo shop crews, we could really see what worked.
The observations helped us quickly refine the software. In three deployments we had a fully working version 1.
The Photo Kiosks were a success!
- passenger experience improved
- photo shop revenue increased
- printing workload and costs dropped
- photo shops required less space
AIDA followed up with the rollout of the photo kiosks to further ships in the fleet.
Never stop improving
As we rolled the photo kiosks out to the AIDA fleet we kept on learning more about how to make them effective.
We brought our findings straight back to the project and participated proactively in the efforts to refine the kiosks in terms of design and ergonomics.
While we were at it, the passengers enjoyed the kiosks and increasingly depended on them to order cruise photos.
It became apparent that more kiosks will be needed to avoid queues, which formed especially in the final days of each cruise.
This, however, meant high costs of hardware and installation.
To remediate this, we needed a new approach.
The first one was to create an additional photo sales interface for cabin entertainment systems. A convenient solution in principle, it turned out to be inherently difficult to make into a snappy experience on early smart TVs.
The next revolution: Photo App
At that point, however, developments in mobile technology enabled an entirely new take.
The increasing power of popular tablet devices made it viable to develop a photo sales app.
This allowed for providing many more points of sale at a much lower cost, solving both the issue of high installation costs and the passenger queues.
For the app to handle face-recognition based photo sales, we needed a light weight software component that we could embed.
Here again, emerging technology offered a solution. Growing availability of machine learning libraries allowed us to roll up the sleeves and build our own face recognition component.
We not only succeeded in bringing face recognition to the photo kiosk app, but also developed cFace.
The Photo App was yet another success!
- much better availability at lower cost
- streamlined user experience
- increased revenue from digital photo sales
A formative experience
Our work on the photo sales solution became the cornerstone of our maritime experience.
It also led us to founding codefit.
We learned a number of key lessons that shaped the way we work to this day:
Always go on board
Maritime software that is really fit for purpose cannot be developed purely on shore.
The impact of the realities of cruising on our software is best experienced first hand.
Listen to the crews
There is great value in getting direct feedback from the crews who use our software.
Solutions get discovered when we take a deep dive into understanding how they work.
Crew struggles are barely known on shore. Office ideas may not work on board.
Proactive communication and solution discovery brings great value to ship and shore.
Innovation is essential
Emerging technology brings great value to maritime software solutions.
Competitive solutions require innovation, but must be dependable.
Robust beats fancy
Software delivers value only when it is used and for that the crews must trust it to work.
The best features won’t matter if the software is not reliable.
Effective support is a must
Ever-changing maritime circumstances inevitably cause things to wrong.
For critical software, support must solve issues fast, from a distance, any time of day.
This only works when knowledgeable people support properly written software.
Marathons not sprints
Individual releases are key to bringing value, yet they are rarely the end of the story.
New ideas and better technology constantly open ways to new value.
We now call these guiding principles going the extra mile.