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Royal Caribbean At Port

Content Strategy | UX | Interface Design | User Research and Testing

At Port is an extension of Royal Caribbean’s app that provides port information and safety resources to alleviate guests' concerns and to empower them in exploring destinations safely.

01. Role + Team

This project was completed as part of a senior design class over a 4 week period. My specific role involved leading project and content strategy, user research and testing, journey mapping, UI, prototyping, and sprint facilitation. I used the following tools: figma, illustrator, keynote.

Project Slides

02. Context + Approach

Understanding the Problem

A teammate and I conducted an analysis of the cruise line industry and we noticed that it was quickly becoming a technology race of extravagant onboard amenities, causing Royal Caribbean to lose their advantage as a leader in innovation. And in order for them to maintain their competitive advantage, they need to differentiate themselves beyond novelty amenities.

Identifying the Opportunity

Secondary research revealed that guests want to enjoy their time at port in addition to onboard the ship. And while the existing at port experience consists of paid optional guided excursions facilitated by tour guides or cruise line, guests who choose not to purchase or participate in these excursions are left to their own devices and do not receive support from the cruise line.

So we asked, how might we extend the ease and support of the onboard experience to improve a guest's at port journey.

Framing the Opening

I lead the team in focusing on the core offerings of the Royal Caribbean brand to identify moments that could be dragging down a guest's experience at port. This lead us to identifying the key insight that sat at the core of our process and decisions:

  • Cruises are marketed as worry-free adventures, however, travel is often stressful, and can carry uncertainties that lead to worries.

So we decided to acknowledge and address guests' concerns and alleviate anxieties by leveraging Royal Caribbean's hospitality to extend the support guests receive onboard to the at port experience. Which lead to our two reframes:

Business side— How might we emphasize and improve the at port experience to differentiate Royal Caribbean and create value beyond novelty amenities.

Guest side— How might we alleviate guests’ uncertainties about the at port experience to empower them to explore destinations with confidence and respect.

03. Insight-Driven Process

User Research + Insights

A teammate and I lead user research. We developed an online questionnaire and conducted in-person user interviews with new cruisers and experienced cruisers to begin to understand their motivations and to start identifying friction points and potential touchpoints where we could intervene.

During interviews, people expressed a desire for "authentic experiences", they wanted to find "hidden gems". I realized that pursuing these wants could lead us down a potential trap: designing another travel app—and a mediocre one at that—leading travellers to the same spots and excaberating the side effects of tourism. So I prompted the interviewees further, and that was when safety arose as a common theme: a potential path for us to explore, especially leveraging Royal Caribbean's hospitality to provide support.

Using type and cruise experience level, we created 3 personae from our initial research. Then, based on our interviews, we focused on one persona: the independent traveler.

  • Cruise Veteran: is familiar with most ports and is looking for new experiences, often wings a lot of what they do at port.
  • Independent Traveler: wants to go with the flow while knowing that no matter what happens things are going to be okay.
  • Follower: relies on a travel companion or guide to plan the at port journey.

Mapping the Frictions

From our research and interviews, I developed a journey map focusing on the at port experience of the independent traveler. A teammate and I identified touchpoints in the guest's journey that would allow us to solve for specific frictions that could be causing uncertainties.

Prototyping Process

Two teammates and I worked on prototyping. Our first few iterations were focused on helping the guest explore the port and find local activitis. A quick round of user testing and interviews revealed that people often relied on other apps and resources for this information, and I realized that we were designing disconnected features without an identifiable core value. So a teammate and I lead the prototyping team in shifting our efforts towards putting safety and support as the core function. This helped our team determine what information to remove (touristic sights and activities), and what functionalities to add (uploading copies of necessary documents to create tangible value for the guest.

04. Design Decisions

Project Strategy

Looking at the earlier iterations of our prototype, I noticed inconsistencies between strategy and execution; and I realized that not all team members had the same expectations of the project goals. In order to ensure a satisfactory level of quality in our strategy and execution, I lead the team in an exercise to develop guiding principles to help us communicate and combine all the members' visions and goals for the project. As a result we established the three following guidelines that sat at the core of our design decisions and played a key role in how we developed visual elements, interactions, and copy:

  1. Lowering cognitive overheard— making content as clear, simple, and straightforward as possible
  2. Quick glances, not long reads— minimizing prolonged use to allow guests to unplug and focus on destinations
  3. Leveraging existing resources— using Royal Caribbean’s existing resources to guide guests between the digital and physical support that Royal Caribbean offers


Knowing when and how to use images was key in the design of our interface elements. Some of our earlier prototypes relied on icons and images to communicate meaning. However the chosen images confused and mislead user testing participants. The poor image selection reduced scannability and increased cognitive overhead. So a teammate and I decided that in order to provide quick feedback on status, a more utilitarian approach would be more effective for the documents section. So I went ahead and redesigned the interface:

In addition, the text placed on the images was not legible because it wasn't protected properly. I decided to use cards and not place text over the images for higher accessibility. I also worked with the copy-writer to ensure that the cards had enough description on them to create an affordance for greater scannability without having to tap on each card.

Final Prototype

Preparation: Documents and Legalities


In order to alleviate the worry of missing documents, we provided 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 independent traveler can choose to upload copies of these documents as backups.

Mindful and Respectful Exploration


We chose to not only alleviate stress caused by uncertainties, but also to create value from guest insights. We know that our independent traveler wants to experience local culture, so we give them the opportunity to learn about the culture by directing them to relevant onboard services to encourage them to respectfully visit port cities.

Ship Status Updates


A common fear among cruisers was missing the ship and getting left behind. So we provided them with a prominent timer on the dashboard, and (for guests who choose to enable notifications) timely reminders of ship departures that provide the necessary information without forcing the guest to tap into the app.

Reliable in Case of Emergency


We also acknowledge that emergencies could occur, and provide necessary information upfront. We surface critical numbers for quick access, and we supply clear instructions for guests to follow in various situations, directing them to Royal Caribbean's services and staff.

05. Reflection


While it might not be directly clear we can measure the success of this intervention in helping to differentiate Royal Caribbean from its competitors, I believe that leveraging Royal Caribbean's legacy of hospitality to provide support and anticipate guests' worries would help convey the message that they care about their guests. And this cared-for feeling can, in turn, help generate loyalty and return customers.


The team was initially excited to design a travel app for the at port experience. However, our research and user interviews allowed us to uncover insights that helped us reframe and re-focus our efforts in order to innovate and create value for Royal Caribbean beyond novelty amenities. And even though reframing wasn't an easy decision for the team, we managed to communicate our expectations to each other and establish guidelines that helped push the project to the finish line.

Aaaand you've reached the end! Got questions? Let's talk!