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Virgin Voyages standardizes on Aruba ESP to deliver exceptional sailor experiences

Virgin Voyages standardizes on Aruba ESP to deliver exceptional sailor experiences

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From spa appointments to Shake for Champagne, award-winning cruise line offers luxurious onboard amenities via Aruba Wi-Fi network.

Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, has announced that Virgin Voyages is deploying an end-to-end Aruba ESP (Edge Services Platform) network to deliver world-class, premium experiences aboard all four of its inaugural fleet of ‘lady ships.’

Working with DeCurtis Corporation, Virgin Voyages set out to create an extraordinary, technology-enabled cruise experience. Headquartered in Plantation, Florida, Virgin Voyages is a joint venture between the Virgin Group and Bain Capital.

Virgin Voyages currently has two award-winning ships deployed and two more in development, all with a capacity of nearly 4,000 passengers and crew members on each ship. Scarlet Lady was named Cruise Critic’s ‘Best New Cruise Ship for 2021,’ and both Scarlet and Valiant Lady received top spots on Condé Nast Traveler’s Cruising Hot List for 2022. As an exclusively adult cruise experience, Virgin Voyages offers a sanctuary at sea for the 18 plus traveler with 20 plus unique dining options, immersive entertainment and wellness-forward programming.

“From the time a Sailor books their trip or uses mobile ticketing, all on-board experiences up through departure at the end of their journey, is enhanced by technology,” said Frank Farro, Vice President of Technology at Virgin Voyages.

 “A favorite luxury indulgence for sailors is our unique Shake for Champagne feature. By simply shaking their phone with the Virgin Voyages app open and pressing a button, crew is alerted to deliver chilled champagne to the sailor wherever they are on the ship. The same capability is extended to other services such as Ship Eats, to guarantee high-touch service to each sailor’s dining, snacking and eating experience.”

A primary goal for Virgin Voyages is to deliver a premier sailor experience by providing real-time services and always-on connectivity for crew members to facilitate fast, reliable service. For example, if a crew member sees a maintenance issue, they can open a repair ticket on their issued device and it immediately goes to the right person to address the issue. The technology behind these capabilities is ubiquitous for crew members and transparent to sailors, creating a seamless five-star experience wherever they are on the ship.

Another important goal for Virgin Voyages is to provide location-based quality of service via location-based data. One powerful example of this is by dramatically reducing the time sailors stand in line. Virgin Voyages created a virtual queuing system so that sailors don’t have to congregate in long lines. Instead, the Virgin Voyages app alerts them when it’s their turn to board the ship, sit for dinner, enter the spa, or disembark in their Port of Call. Virgin Voyages’ focus on a frictionless experience allows sailors to relax and enjoy the amenities, rather than waiting in lines or dealing with service-related issues.

To achieve frictionless, location-based services that enable world-class Sailor services, Virgin Voyages looked to trusted technology partner DeCurtis Corporation. With a vast range of experience working with some of the world’s best, most-recognized hospitality brands, DeCurtis and Virgin Voyages were looking to transform existing sailor experiences to make them better, faster and more impactful through creative application of the latest technology.

In co-operation with DeCurtis and Aruba, Virgin Voyages selected and deployed a flexible, resilient Aruba ESP network including Aruba Wi-Fi six access points with built-in location services, as well as access switches. Additionally, Virgin Voyages uses ClearPass for Network Access Control (NAC) and policy management and AirWave for network management.

“It was the Aruba team that stepped up to work with our Virgin Voyages team as well as our partners DeCurtis and Axians to solidify and enhance a comprehensive network for our ships,” said Farro. “The Aruba team in the yard, on the ship and the team behind helping those two teams, have all been responsive and engaged.”

Virgin Voyages has seen multiple benefits of its new Aruba network, including reliability, seamlessness and scalability.

“The network is built to accommodate around 15,000 devices,” said Farro. “This includes crew devices, PCs, laptops and tablets, in addition to tablets and TVs in each cabin, as well as in the crew rooms. Add on top of that the myriad of devices each sailor brings onboard.

“The seamless experience is best illustrated in our ability to duplicate ‘smart home’ features in each cabin, which are controlled by the app on the cabin tablets. When a sailor walks in and their cabin is in night time mode, the lights automatically come on and the curtains close. It’s just an incredible experience.”

Looking to the future, Virgin Voyages will continue delivering transparent but ubiquitous high-touch sailor services and expand features such as wayfinding. Its focus will remain on making sure that sailors’ devices seamlessly connect to the internal Wi-Fi network, so they don’t even have to think about connectivity from boarding to departure and everything in between.

Frank Farro, Vice President of Technology at Virgin Voyages

We asked Frank Farro, Vice President of Technology at Virgin Voyages, further questions to find out more.

How critical is the use of Aruba solutions to creating a five-star frictionless experience for sailors?

As the core of our shipwide network, Aruba solutions are absolutely essential to every aspect of the experience. By providing seamless Internet access, in-cabin movies and live tv, and real time alerts and reminders, thousands of sailors benefit every day from the stability and performance of Aruba.

How far have you found sailors’ devices have been able to seamlessly connect to the internal Wi-Fi network?

Connecting to the Mermaid4U network is simple and seamless.

What has the reaction been from sailors to the services you are able to offer, such as reducing queuing time, because of the utilization of Aruba solutions?

The goal of our technology is to fade into the background and allow the amazing experiences delivered by our crew to move front and center. Virtual queues eliminate the chore of waiting in line and allow sailors to get back to the business of enjoying themselves.

Why is the scalability offered by the Aruba network important? What benefits does this bring to sailors?

The Aruba network supports 20,000 connected devices with 99.999% uptime. That builds trust and allows our crew and sailors to fully rely on the Wi-Fi and network.

Why did you choose to partner with Aruba?

Aruba provided an innovative solution for high density Wi-Fi and seamless handoffs between cells. In addition, their access points had built in BLE support to enable location services for some of our innovative experiences like Shake for Champagne and Ship Eats food delivery.

How responsive have you found the Aruba team?

The Aruba team has been fantastic. Incredible partners throughout design, build and rollout phases. They helped us avoid common pitfalls and adjust in real time as we discovered the unique design constraints that come from lighting up a steel ship with coverage.

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