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Quantum cruise ship utilizes high tech for smooth sailing

Royal Caribbean cruise line's new Quantum of the

Royal Caribbean cruise line's new Quantum of the Seas ship sails into New York Harbor on Nov. 10, 2014, after completing its first trip across the Atlantic. Photo Credit: AP / Jonathan Atkin

The airline industry could take a few tips from the cruise industry to improve customer service. Not only do you get a lot more personal space on a cruise, but the technology found on cruise ships is getting more useful with each new ship.

For example, even with more than 4,000 passengers and their luggage to get on board its new Quantum of the Seas, Royal Caribbean Cruises promises to get you from the sidewalk to the ship in 10 minutes or less. Good luck doing that at the airport. Here are a few of the technology innovations on RCCL's new Quantum, the first of three ships in its class, and without a doubt the most technologically advanced ship afloat.

Sidewalk to ship in 10 minutes

You check in online. Instead of waiting in a long line to have your ID photo taken, fill out forms and get your stateroom keys, you take a selfie, load it to the online check-in website, fill out your passport info and then print out a boarding pass. You show the boarding pass at security and proceed to your stateroom, where you'll find your keys. The goal is "sidewalk to ship" in 10 minutes, and it really does work.

'WOW' wristbands replace key cards

Not only will you find the usual key card to open your door, get on and off the ship, and pay for onboard purchases, you'll also get a wristband (called a WOWband) that performs all the functions of a room key and more. Strap it on your wrist and you'll never have to fumble to find your key, or have it demagnetize if it comes in contact with your credit cards. It's waterproof, so you can wear it while splashing around in the pools and hot tubs. Very clever.

High(er)-speed Internet

The Quantum uses a new type of satellite that tracks the ship's movement and hovers lower in the sky than other satellites used for Internet access, so it's faster and more reliable. Maybe not exactly what you might have at home, but comparable with a DSL line. There's also Wi-Fi throughout the ship, with no dead spots.

Tablet-equipped staff

Wherever you go, crew members have tablets to provide information or speed you through check-in for dinner reservations and other functions. When you show up for a meal, staff greets you, asks for your cabin number and directs you to your table. So there's less waiting in line. In dining venues, waiters take your order on tablets and send them directly to the kitchen, speeding up service. Passengers, though, would do well to book their dining and entertainment weeks before boarding.

Royal iQ app

Compatible with iOS and Android devices, this app lets you plan, change and share your schedule (spa appointments, dinner reservations, shore excursions, etc.) while on ship. And speaking of devices, all cabins now come with USB charging ports. In addition, there are 45 iQ stations around the ship that interact with your WOWband and provide information about your schedule and the ship. And you can call or text other app users onboard.

Radio frequency ID luggage tracking

RFID luggage tags, in combination with the Royal iQ app, let you track the progress of your luggage from dockside to stateroom. No more guessing when your bags will arrive.

ROBOTS And for a bit of whimsy, the ship has two robotic bartenders. Guests order drinks via a tablet and the robots get busy mixing cocktails. You have to see (and drink) it to believe it. And no tipping is expected.

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