Facial Recognition Coming to Royal Caribbean

Depending on which side of the fence you fall on, it could be a cool new feature or a sign of technology creeping into your privacy.

Royal Caribbean has announced that its newest ship — Symphony of the Seas — will use facial recognition to help board passengers.

In a press release the company said:

All New Mobile Check-in Debuts on Symphony
The latest technological innovations will be integrated throughout Symphony, including a redesigned check-in experience that eliminates lines and bypasses the counter. The new process will leverage a combination of facial recognition, bar codes and beacons to make boarding fast and frictionless.

Guests will check-in via the brand’s new mobile app and seamlessly upload their security “selfie” to create their onboard account from the comfort of their home. Upon arrival, guests will go through a security screening and then head straight to their stateroom, where their key will be ready and waiting.

That’s right. Instead of waiting in line for check-in, when you board the Symphony of the Seas you will simply go through security as usual and then go right to your stateroom. Instead of the usual process of checking in with an agent who takes a photo, creates an onboard account, and hands guests room keys, you’ll do that process on your own from home. Your room key will be waiting at your cabin door.

At this point details on the entire process are still thin. The ship doesn’t begin sailing for another six months, and we expect there to be more information released closer to the first sail date.

However, there’s little doubt that the new process is going to cause some issues that will need to be addressed.

First is the fact that some people will have an issue with the cruise line using facial recognition and beacons to seemingly track people on the ship. Privacy concerns are a major issue with many people and the idea of being tracked during check-in (or possibly while on the ship) isn’t likely to sit well with them.

To be fair, you could be tracked on a ship already, whether you realize it or not. Cameras are almost everywhere on modern cruise ships and your card (which doubles as your room key and an onboard credit card) can give details on where you are visiting and when.

In other words, having facial recognition on the ship — no matter how big the scale — isn’t that much of a change. However, it’s definitely going to take getting used to and those who worry about privacy may see it as a another step on a slippery slope.

Note: A request for comment from Royal Caribbean via Twitter wasn’t immediately returned. We will update when and if we hear back.

According to the press release, the Symphony of the Seas will use a self photo and “will leverage a combination of facial recognition, bar codes and beacons to make boarding fast and frictionless.”

We also wonder what will happen if passengers don’t have a smartphone. The press release said that passengers will check in via a mobile app before they board. Not all passengers have a phone that is capable of downloading apps — even those people with smartphones sometimes run into issues downloading and installing them.

We think it’s likely that there will still be traditional check-in available for those who aren’t able to use the new app or simply don’t wish to do so.

How do you feel about the change? Would you want facial recognition on your cruise ship if it meant faster check-in? Let us know in the comments below.

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