Queen Mary 2 Sails the High Tech Seas

From the moment they step onto the gangplank of the new luxury cruise ship Queen Mary 2, passengers will be served by a unique and all-encompassing IT network designed to cater to their every whim.

The $800 million QM2, which recently set sail from Southampton, England, on her 14-day maiden voyage, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is packed from bow to stern with digital amenities, from in-room, on-demand movies to interactive television, Internet access, and a security system that keeps track of passengers getting on and off the ship and their passport information.

Every one of the 1310 cabins aboard the QM2, which includes five duplex apartments, four suites, six penthouses, 706 sea-view staterooms with balconies, and 281 interior staterooms, are wired so passengers can easily make shore excursion reservations and dinner plans.

The elaborate system is controlled with plastic bar-coded credit-card-like cards issued to passengers as they board the ship. The cards, which are scanned as people board or leave the vessel, feature photos of each passenger and are used everywhere. They are also designed to help the QM2 staff track any onboard charges incurred by passengers.

Behind the Scenes

Frank Finch, director of global technical services at Miami-based Cunard Line, which owns the QM2, says the massive data network aboard the liner is built with redundancy to guard against potential system failures. Back-office functions are built around Novell's NetWare 6 system, as well as Oracle and SQL databases.

The Ship Partner property management system used to track security, billing, telephone service, onboard television, and many other key operations comes from Discovery Travel Systems (DTS) in Alexandria, Virginia. The Ship Partner application is built using the OpenEdge business software platform from Progress Software in Bedford, Massachusetts.

The integrated network and property management system "became a key component of the vessel," Finch says.

John Broughan, president of DTS, says his company has a long-term relationship with Cunard and has been building property management systems for ships for about 12 years. The IT needs of cruise ship operators differ from those of typical hotel property management companies, so specialized systems had to be created to better serve cruise companies, he says.

"There were enough nuances that they needed improved systems," Broughan says.

Ship Shape

The QM2, which at 1132 feet long is only 117 feet shorter than the height of the Empire State Building, can carry up to 2620 passengers and 1253 crew members. Room prices range from $2869 per person for an interior stateroom on the maiden voyage up to $37,499 for a grand duplex apartment.

The ship is the largest, longest, tallest, widest, and most expensive cruise liner ever built, according to Cunard. It includes the first planetarium on a cruise liner, as well as what Cunard says are the largest ballroom, library, and wine collection at sea. There are five indoor and outdoor swimming pools as well as a two-story theater, a casino, boutiques, and children's facilities with British nannies.

Cunard is a division of Carnival.

This story, "Queen Mary 2 Sails the High Tech Seas" was originally published by Computerworld.

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