This project was completed as part of a university course and is not associated with Royal Caribbean.
I worked on Royal Caribbean: At Port for a design class at university. During this project, I lead my first design sprint, developed my research and synthesis skills, and learned about the importance of using research insights to inform design decisions.
Royal Caribbean is the 2nd largest cruise line company in the world, they pride themselves on their legacy of hospitality and culture of innovation. At the time of this project, Royal Caribbean was seeing growing demand for authentic travel experiences, and was expanding the activities and services they offered at port cities in response.
The desire for experiences factors into the way travelers spend every part of their cruise. While passengers want to enjoy their time on the ship, they also want to experience local culture when they’re on land.”
My team and I identified an opportunity to support cruise travelers as they prepare to explore local culture on land.
Royal Caribbean: At Port is a new feature for the Royal Caribbean mobile app that introduces port cities to cruise passengers and provides the resources they need to explore safely.
My team and I started the project by conducting primary and secondary research to identify trends in the cruise industry and to understand cruise travelers' motivations and pain points.
We studied industry reports, customer data reports, cruising articles, online forums, and online reviews.
Cruise lines and travel communities.
A teammate and I created a survey and the team shared it on cruise forums and social media.
62 respondents who had been on a cruise.
45/62 of respondents in our survey indicated that they enjoy exploring port cities.
“Travelers want to forge deeper connections to the people, traditions and customs of the places they are visiting, and these experiences add a meaningful and memorable component to a vacation”
Royal Caribbean was targeting “experience-craving explorers” who are motivated by new destinations, cuisine, and learning about local cultures.
“The travel industry markets itself as a sensory deprivation bubble... It doesn’t warn against or doesn’t do enough to soothe the anxieties of the traveler.”
40% of cruise travelers say that relaxing and being pampered are the main reasons they go cruising.
“My biggest fear is not being able to get back to the cruise ship on time.”
Based on our research, my team and I believed that there was an opportunity to identify and improve moments where uncertainties and anxieties were impacting travelers' experiences as they prepare for and explore local port cities during their Royal Caribbean cruise.
During this process, I learned about the importance of looking at a problem space from multiple points of view and combining data from various research methods to inform design decisions.
Using our foundational research, I lead the team in mapping the key moments in the at port journey and identifying pain points that cause stress or uncertainties for cruise travelers who decide to explore port cities.
Here's a simplified version of that journey with the two areas we decided to focus on:
We decided to focus on frictions during two key moments: preparing for the port city and returning to the ship. And framed our work as:
I facilitated two 4-day sprints for the team to explore and test our ideas (more about the process in the next section). Here's how it all came together:
Our goal here was to identify the information that travelers needed to know about port cities, and then guide them through that information to help them prepare.
A new "At Port" section in the Royal Caribbean app to centralize relevant information and resources for port cities.
A quick series of tips and unique details about local cultures to guide travelers through relevant information to prepare for the port city.
In order to alleviate the worry of missing documents, we provide a clear and scannable list of necessary documents to explore the port and get back to the ship safely. Each document has a straightforward description, and the travelers can choose to upload copies as backups.
We also provide entry points to direct travelers to port information from other parts of the app.
An important part of tackling this pain paint was to acknowledge and address travelers' anxieties. We wanted to be clear that things could go wrong, and offer direct and actionable solutions.
A countdown timer until the ship’s departure helps travelers manage their time at port.
A dedicated support section provides quick access to emergency contacts and guidelines.
A teammate and I planned and conducted usability testing interviews to evaluate our prototypes. These interviews helped us identify areas for improvement in our design and helped us validate some of the assumptions and observations from our foundational research.
Interview participants enjoyed learning about the port cities, and appreciated short tips that allowed for quick glances. Some participants expressed a desire to see more tips about hidden gems and local experiences — we explored that path but decided to focus on safety and key port information.
“All of this is making me feel encouraged and empowered to go exploring on my own”
“I don’t want to do the super touristy things, I don’t book itineraries because I like finding the things myself. I want to find the little neat places, the hidden gems.”
Safety came up as a common concern and need. Interview participants found the proposed features reassuring. They appreciated the clarity in instructions, the transparency around emergencies, and the quick access to emergency contacts.
“Having support as a prominent section makes me more likely to familiarize myself with it, so that in an emergency I know that the information is there.”
“I feel a lot better knowing that the cruise knows [getting left behind] happens sometimes and that I can find it.”
“It’s great that I can see the time remaining, I don’t want to be stranded.”
I facilitated two 4-day design sprints for the team to explore and test our ideas with cruise travelers.
In order to prepare as the sprint facilitator, I read the Sprint Book by Jake Knapp, and I watched the Sprint 2.0 videos by AJ&Smart. The first sprint I facilitated followed the structure proposed in the book, and then I started modifying the activities and workshops to fit our needs as a team.
I lead my team in an exercise that I read about in an article written by Frog Design (The Nuance of Better: Ritual for Quality Products) to help us establish guiding principles that sat at the core of our decisions:
Our journey wasn't straight-forward and direct.
Following our first sprint and first round of interviews, we noticed that some interview participants were excited by the port information and wanted to see more tips about hidden gems and things to do at port.
So we realized that a possible route for us to pursue could be helping cruise travelers plan their trips onshore and find activities to do. We explored this idea in our second sprint.
However, as we continued down this path, we had to pause and reflect. We realized that we had some reservations about this direction:
Given these considerations, we decided not to go too far down the path of creating trip planning features, and instead focus on acknowledging and addressing concerns related to safety, preparation, and returning to the ship.
During this project, we relied on many sources of data and research to inform our decisions. We looked at industry reports, trend magazines, marketing guidelines, large-scale research conducted by market-research leaders. We created our own survey, and user testing interviews. It was a great learning experience.
The more research we did, the deeper our understanding became, and we were able to start painting a picture (albeit probably flawed) of a much larger system at play, we were just seeing glimpses into how different pieces were influencing each other.
Had this been a 'real' project, I would have like to talk with the business to understand if our solution was aligned with their plans, and I would have liked to conduct more thorough research with Royal Caribbean customers and a more diverse range of travelers.