“How do you know that won’t happen if I go up to the door?” I ask as my friend approaches her cabin and it unlocks as if by magic. She opens and shuts the door, backs away and I have a go. Nothing.
We’ve just come on board Sky Princess for one of her staycation cruises along the UK south coast and I’m keen to test drive the line’s hi-tech Medallion, a token no bigger than a 10p piece that has replaced the keycard you used to get at check-in.
My experiment at my friends’ cabin over, I find my room and BINGO! my picture pops up on a welcome screen by the door followed by a satisfying click. Phew. I’m not only in the right room - a rather inviting Mini Suite with a balcony - but my Medallion works!
But that is only the start of what this nifty little device - now on all Princess Cruises ships - does. If you have booked a table in, say, the Crown Grill steakhouse, your picture pops up on the restaurants booking screen as you arrive so the maître d’ can greet you by name. It’s clever stuff that both enhances the service and makes you feel a bit special.
Princess provides a lanyard for the Medallion but I preferred to carry it in my pocket. If neither option appeals, there are all sorts of fashion accessories you can buy and attach it to, including bracelets, necklaces and even a clip to fasten it to a breast pocket. And don’t worry about taking it for a swim or into the shower as it’s waterproof too!
One morning I ordered a drink on the TV in my cabin but it was such a lovely day that while waiting I decided to go and enjoy some sun in the Retreat, an adults-only area at the top of the ship. That was test number two, as in theory the waiter can find you anywhere on the ship thanks to a GPS or some such techie thing in the Medallion that links to the gadgets the crew carry and on which they have your picture.
Never mind the theory, that worked too! And you can also have pizzas, burgers or whatever you fancy, delivered. As an aside, I did notice that waiters found it tricky to find people if they were wearing hats or sunglasses or looking out to sea with their back to the pool, so you do need to keep an ear out for someone calling your name.
All that and of course you also use the Medallion to pay for anything you buy on board, just as you would a normal keycard.
The Medallion experience is enhanced by having the Princess app on your phone but it’s not vital. It would have been great to have it to check-in (I had an old phone that couldn’t download the app) as that would have allowed me to breeze through the terminal, stopping only to pick up my Medallion. But otherwise, it wasn’t a problem.
It just meant I had to order food and drink deliveries from my cabin (you can do it on the app while lazing by the pool) and trust my rather shaky sense of direction and touchscreens by the lifts to find my way around the ship instead of looking at the deck plans on the app.
The app is also handy for booking restaurants but you can do that on the touchscreen as well. Step one, touch the Medallion to the screen, step two, select where and when you want to eat, step three, it’s booked, step four, use the same screen to find your way to the restaurant. How smart is that?