Maritime Communications Partner (MCP), the Telenor-owned on-board communications specialist, has announced the launch of VAVE, a unique digital business enablement platform for the cruise and ferry industry.

The news follows the successful completion of an eight-month technical trial on the Corsica Sardinia vessel Mega Express Five.

VAVE (Value Added Voyage Experience) has been conceived to bridge the digital divide between land and sea mobile behavior. By utilizing a vessel’s GSM signal and Wi-Fi network it creates a ship-wide ‘onboard cloud’ that all mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops etc.) fall under. Users can then access a range of services – such as free messaging (if desired) over Wi-Fi, or onboard retail/booking systems – while shipowners can target individual handsets with personalized messages.

It is, according to MCP’s Senior Vice President of Business Innovation Ole Kristian Sivertsen, “a complete game changer for the industry.”

Sivertsen explained: “Smartphones and mobile devices have changed our behavioral patterns, in terms of both business and personal interaction. However, at sea handsets go into hibernation. VAVE reawakens their potential by providing the same sort of connectivity on sea as on land, only with a package that is customized for the unique environment of every individual vessel.”

Sivertsen says the list of services VAVE can enable is as endless as a device’s potential. For passengers and crew members this means, for example, accessing on-demand entertainment, VoIP messaging and calling, location-based services (to find their way around, or take advantage of special offers nearby), connections to onboard social networks to make new friends, booking tables, trips or treats, using social media, and so on.

“The benefits for the shipowner are even more compelling,” Sivertsen stated. “MCP’s CellAtSea mobile network identifies every phone on board. This means that shipowners can use VAVE to send tailor-made marketing messages to individuals. It opens up a channel of one-to-one communication to engage with guests and enhance their enjoyment, while increasing revenues, enriching the overall brand experience, and boosting loyalty.”

The system has been developed in partnership with iES Italia and is licensed exclusively to MCP. Installation is simple – centered on the fitting and configuring of a VAVE delivery and platform engine onboard – with the system then available across cabin screens, public area TVs, or any internet-enabled device. The interface is either a simple to use Android or Apple app, or a standard web browser, with HTML 5 software providing an app-like user experience. The platform can be accessed from the moment a voyage is booked, and after the vacation, allowing passengers to enjoy its service, while cruise companies have a powerful tool for upselling, ongoing marketing and building customer loyalty.

MCP, which has more than 160 vessels signed to its CellAtSea network, has rigorously tested its innovation onboard Mega Express Five, the 1,800 pax Corsica Sardinia ferry that sails routes between Nice in France and Bastia in Corsica.

“It was a great success,” Sivertsen said, “allowing us to fine-tune the platform and gain a real understanding of passenger behavior. We chose this particular vessel as it gives us insight into both the cruise and ferry market, with a customer base that enjoy something akin to a ‘mini-cruise’ on each voyage.”

VAVE can be customized for any vessel and any owner’s business model – with selected services either charged on a usage basis, creating new revenue streams, or available free, for operators that want to enhance their brand experience and create market standout.

“The potential is enormous,” Sivertsen concluded. “VAVE enables today’s devices in a way that is currently unheard of at sea. That is good news for passengers and great news for shipowners looking to reach further and add real value to their day-to-day operations.”