New Queen Mary 2 offers high tech on the high seas

FRAMINGHAM (01/12/2004) - 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 set sail at 1:30 p.m. Eastern time today from Southampton, England, on her 14-day maiden voyage, to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 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 1,310 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.

Frank Finch, director of global technical services at Miami-based Cunard Line Ltd., which owns the QM2, said the massive data network aboard the liner is built with redundancy to guard against potential system failures. Back-office functions are built around Novell Inc.'s NetWare 6 system, as well as Oracle Corp. 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 LP (DTS) in Alexandria, Va. The Ship Partner application is built using the OpenEdge business software platform from Progress Software Corp. in Bedford, Mass.

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

John Broughan, president of DTS, said 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 said.

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

The QM2, which at 1,132 feet long is only 117 feet shorter than the height of the Empire State Building, can carry up to 2,620 passengers and 1,253 crew members. Room prices range from US$2,869 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 Corp.

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