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Revolutionising the Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines' guest experience through mobile technology

The Client.

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines is one of the UK’s leading cruise lines, operating four ocean-going vessels and one riverboat: bringing guests closer to destinations across the globe.

The Challenge.

Fred. Olsen is famed for its loyal customer base and personalised approach, with its intimately sized ships offering a more personal cruising experience to passengers than many of its competitors.

In order to meet increasing demands from its guests for more technological solutions that would enhance their cruise experience, Fred. Olsen wanted to create a new app that would keep passengers informed at each stage of the booking process: pre-cruise, whilst on board and post-cruise.

Any solution created to achieve this would need to reflect Fred. Olsen’s strong personal values as well as communicate with internal systems both on shore and on board its ships.

The worldwide nature of Fred. Olsen’s cruises meant that we had a number of key challenges to overcome before delivering the app, including: 

  • Varying network connectivity. It was essential that the app could provide content and information to users in a timely manner, despite being onboard a moving vessel with a sometimes limited and changing connectivity status.
  • Data retrieval. For the app to work effectively, data would need to be retrieved from a variety of different systems including the website, third party booking systems, onboard portal and ship tracker system.
  • Interfacing with onboard servers. Guests had to be able to use the app whilst on board the ship in order to benefit from the full range of functionality.
  • Ever-changing timezones. An essential benefit of the app is to provide guests with timely and up-to-date information on key aspects of their cruise, such as itineraries, daily activities, important notifications, restaurant menus and ship locations. With moving ships that cross timezones frequently, it was a vital that the app knew what time to update content.

The Brief.

We were asked to deliver a new app that guests could download from the App Store (Apple) and Google Play (Android) free of charge, and access via their mobile or tablet.

The app needed to:

  • Be easy-to-use
  • Be compatible across multiple platforms and systems, including onboard systems
  • Provide users with access to relevant, personalised information at the tap of a button
  • Pull in real-time content from varying sources, in line with their stage in the customer journey (pre-cruise, on board, post-cruise)
  • Ensure access to important information throughout varying network connectivity (e.g. whilst sailing)
  • Display all content seamlessly within the app, updating in a timely manner.

The Timescale.

9-12 months, including development and testing.

 SimpleClick's understanding of the Fred. Olsen product and systems made them the obvious choice for this project. Being a smaller, local agency, they are very responsive, and their agile approach to working has enabled them to keep up with the changing demands of the project, as well as ensuring that the app was delivered on time.

The Process.

Having previously delivered Fred. Olsen’s website and CMS (Content Management System), the Travel Agent Centre, on board portal, ship tracker mapping systems and more, we were already experienced in working with all of Fred. Olsen’s systems. 

This meant that we understood the feasibility of each requirement and how the app could work using the existing network infrastructure, as well as how each system could feed information into the app.

Before starting any development work, our project managers got to grips with Fred. Olsen’s priorities – getting involved in the initial requirements gathering and design phases, as well as testing and ship visits – the latter being a big bonus for our travel-keen team!

Working closely with Fred. Olsen’s lead project manager, our developers worked tirelessly to create the complex logic and user journeys that were necessary to meet all of their requirements – planning, coordinating, developing and testing the app, as well as conducting multiple on-board testing phases. 

On board testing was crucial to the success of this project; enabling us to identify and rectify any issues prior to launch. We sent our lead developer and project manager to join Fred. Olsen’s internal project manager on a ten-night cruise around Denmark so that they could put themselves in the shoes of a real-life user - thoroughly testing the app and the way in which it communicated with onboard systems. 

During this time we set about overcoming each of the key challenges previously identified, one by one!

The final testing phase involved visits to each of Fred. Olsen’s three other ocean-going ships whilst they were docked in Rosyth (Edinburgh), Liverpool and Dover - ensuring effective network connectivity and communication with onboard systems.

The Solution.

Being involved in all stages of the project, from requirements gathering to design, development, testing and delivery, was key to delivering an app that met all of Fred. Olsen’s requirements. The client was also given access to test builds of the app throughout the process to provide feedback at every stage. 

Ticking all of the boxes when it came to network connectivity, we designed the app to load content depending on how the user was connected, for example via 4G from the Fred. Olsen website, via the ship’s server whilst connected to the onboard wifi. The app was also made available offline through content caching and/or appropriate messaging. 

Our team of programmers developed complex logic to ensure that the correct information was pulled down from the correct source, whether this be the website, a third-party booking system, the onboard portal or the ship tracker system. This meant that any information displayed to the user was both relevant and personal to them – providing ease of use and encouraging the high level of engagement required to receive return on investment.

To combat the challenges of communicating with the ships’ onboard servers, we introduced a high level of onboard testing (somebody has to do it!) as well as creating an onshore environment at SimpleClick HQ to replicate the onboard set up as closely as possible.

Throughout the project we followed a hugely collaborative agile methodology, involving the whole project team as well as the client. This not only helped us with identifying requirements and solutions, but also allowed scope for changes to be made during the development process.

The result was a completely bespoke iOS and Android compatible app that will provide passengers with:

  • A pre-cruise countdown
  • The ability to complete 'Guest Information' and pre-book 'Shore Tours'
  • The ability to view 'Cruise History'
  • Access to 'Onboard Room Account'
  • Access to digital 'Daily Times', including the ability to filter and favourite activities, as well as set reminders
  • Access to 'Restaurant & Bar Menus'
  • Destination information – including scheduled changes and real-time adjustments to ports of call
  • Access to 'Ship Tracker', 'Deck Plans'… and much more!

The Results.

The app was delivered providing the functionality that Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines identified as key for their guests and achieved a fantastic 2,500 installs to android and iOS in the first week of launch!

It will continue to be available for download from both the Apple App store for use on iOS devices, as well as the Google Play Store for use on Android devices.

We are very pleased with the outcome and would like to thank the entire SimpleClick team for their help and support. We have lots of future functionalities planned already, so we hope that uptake grows, as the app develops.

The Longer-Term Benefits.

The app has been designed to enhance and enrich the customer experience and provide another channel for guests to obtain personalised information and complete tasks such as pre-booking shore tours and submitting their pre-cruise Guest Information Form – historically a paper-based process.

Whilst on board, it allows guests to access destination information; including information about the port, personalised recommendations and attractions (with map functionality to allow attractions to be located). 

The Daily Times schedule of activities is available with enhanced information about each activity as well as the ability to ‘favourite’ and receive notifications about activities that are of interest to the individual guest. The guest is also able to access their onboard cabin account, view and download publications as well as see that day’s menus for each restaurant. 

Fred. Olsen is confident that there will be a strong uptake of the app thanks to its ability to enhance all aspects of the user journey, from pre-cruise to disembarkation and beyond. It also supports their wider aim of appealing to a more diverse, tech-savvy passenger seeking a cruise line that will bring the world closer to them.

Think your business could benefit from a mobile app? Talk to us today. Call 0844 736 2747 or find more ways to contact us.