Cruise Solutions

The New Era of Payments: How a Digital Wallet App Impacts the Cruise Industry Growth in 2024

7 min read

Digital wallets have become the cornerstone of seamless transactions, enhanced security, and unmatched convenience in the last couple of years. As a winning alternative to traditional cash security models, they are more likely to increase liquidity and cash flow for all travel businesses, including cruise lines.

In 2024, the cruise industry will embrace this transformative technology with open arms. After a significant surge in customer satisfaction, more cruise lines replaced old-fashioned payment methods like pre-registering a credit card with innovative digital wallet apps.

Keep reading, and you will learn more about the transformative potential of digital wallet apps and how they contribute to more personalized experiences and unprecedented growth in the cruise industry.

The Rise of Digital Wallet App: Convenience, Security, and More

Statistics illustrate the remarkable growth of digital wallets in general use and within the cruise industry.

According to the FIS Global Payments Report, by 2025, digital wallet use will account for just over half (52.5%) of eCommerce transaction value worldwide, versus 48.6% in 2021. This indicates a significant shift towards cashless transactions in eCommerce, particularly through digital wallets. Knowing that onboard shopping contributes 38% of total revenue for cruise ships, it becomes evident that neglecting this digitalization trend would be a significant oversight.

How Do Digital Wallet Apps Work on Cruise Ships?

Digital wallets on cruise ships operate through a seamless integration of technology and payment systems.

These are common stages of digital wallet installation & use for passengers on a cruise ship:

  1. Installation of the cruise line's digital wallet app;
  2. Registration & account creation;
  3. Linking your preferred payment methods to your digital wallet;
  4. NFC or QR scanning for contactless payments;
  5. Authentication & verification with biometrics or a secure PIN.
  6. Payment for onboard purchases and services;
  7. Real-time tracking & management of expenses and loyalty points;
  8. Secure transactions with advanced encryption.

By utilizing digital wallets, passengers can conveniently link their credit or debit cards to a mobile app, allowing quick and secure transactions. They can simply tap their smartphones or scan their wearables to make payments for various onboard services, such as dining, entertainment, and retail. This eliminates the need for carrying physical currency, multiple cards, or cashless options like key chains or wristbands.

5 Main Benefits of Digital Wallets for Cruise Lines

  • Convenience: Digital wallets offer unparalleled convenience, allowing passengers to manage onboard expenses, track transactions, and access digital receipts from a single platform.
  • Operational Efficiency & Cost Reduction: Adopting digital wallet solutions may optimize payment processes and reduce complexities and costs associated with traditional cashless systems (key cards or wristbands) for cruise businesses.
  • Maximized Personalization: Digital wallets enable cruise businesses to capture valuable customer data. It facilitates personalized marketing and targeted offerings with custom-tailored rewards, cashback programs, and loyalty initiatives. Personalized offerings may likely increase onboard spending and drive more revenue growth.
  • Increased Onboard Spending: By offering passengers a convenient and frictionless payment experience, cruise businesses can encourage higher spending on services such as dining, entertainment, spa treatments, and retail, thereby boosting onboard revenue.
  • Enhanced Security: Robust encryption and authentication protocols in digital wallets provide enhanced security, mitigating fraud and unauthorized access risks and fostering trust among passengers and cruise businesses.

Cruise Line Digital Wallets in Action: Impact on Customer Experience and Sales

Ambassador Cruise Line has implemented a prominent solution for passengers to use a digital wallet app for quick and secure payments for onboard services. The ease of use and efficiency of digital wallets encouraged passengers to explore additional onboard amenities and make spontaneous purchases, leading to increased onboard spending.

The company’s sales boost contributes to the cruise line's revenue and demonstrates the tangible benefits of digital wallets in driving customer engagement and satisfaction.

Royal Caribbean International, a leading global cruise line, implemented digital wallets for passengers and crew members. The “Royal Caribbean App" includes a digital wallet feature allowing passengers to make onboard purchases, view their account balance and track expenses.

RC crew members use them to conveniently manage their finances, access their earnings, and make purchases within the ship's ecosystem. Additionally, digital wallets provide a centralized platform for crew members to access important information and resources related to their work, such as schedules, training materials, and communication channels.

Finally, Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line offer onboard apps, including a digital wallet functionality. Passengers can link their payment methods, make and manage onboard purchases, and view transaction history with those apps.

Future Outlook: The Growth Potential of Digital Wallet Apps in the Cruise Industry

The future of digital wallet payments in the cruise industry is bright, driven by evolving consumer preferences, advancing technology, and industry-wide transformations. The key technologies and practices contributing to their growth include:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and ML

Artificial Intelligence (AI) permeates every sector, and the travel industry is no exception. This is how AI may advance the payments speed and efficiency in cruise digital wallet solutions:

  1. Straight-Through Processing: AI automates workflows and streamlines operations through advanced algorithms and machine learning. It facilitates straight-through processing, minimizes manual interventions, and expedites transaction times.
  2. Decision Support: AI-powered systems provide decision support for payment-related tasks. By analyzing data and patterns, AI algorithms assist in fraud detection, risk assessment, and transaction verification, which ensures secure and reliable payment processing.
  3. Image Recognition for Document Verification: AI's image recognition streamlines document verification processes. AI systems ensure accurate and efficient verification by extracting relevant information from documents, such as invoices or receipts, reducing the need for manual review.
  4. Voice-Initiated Payments: Speech recognition technology enables users to use smartphones or smart speakers to initiate payments vocally. AI-driven voice assistants make payment transactions more convenient and hands-free.

Virtual & Augmented Reality

Although the primary goal of virtual reality (VR) is to immerse users in a virtual world, some innovative cruise solutions are about to have integrations with real payments within the unreal VR environment.

This is how VR and AR technologies can enhance the functionality and user experience of cruise digital wallets in the future:

  1. Virtual Shopping: Using VR, passengers can virtually explore onboard shops and browse through products in an immersive and interactive environment.
  2. Virtual Tours: AR can provide virtual tours of the cruise ship, allowing passengers to navigate and explore various onboard facilities and amenities.
  3. Augmented Menus: AR can overlay digital menus onto physical restaurant tables or handheld devices, providing passengers with an interactive dining experience. They can view menu options, nutritional information, and even personalized recommendations.
  4. Virtual Concierge: VR and AR technologies can be utilized to create virtual concierge services. Passengers can interact with virtual assistants through their digital wallets, obtaining information about onboard activities, making reservations, or receiving personalized recommendations.
  5. Gamified Loyalty Programs: They allow passengers to engage in interactive games while earning loyalty points. This gamification approach enhances passenger engagement and encourages active participation.
  6. AR Navigation: AR can provide real-time navigation assistance onboard the cruise ship. Passengers can use their digital wallets to access AR-based maps or directions, helping them navigate the ship's various areas and amenities.

Augmented reality (AR) technology is already in use with Royal Caribbean among those investing in AR experiences to add a new dimension to the cruise experience while making it more immersive and enjoyable for passengers.

Blockchain payments

Blockchain wallets have been here for recent years, driven by the rise of cryptocurrencies and the benefits offered by blockchain technology. Here's how digital wallets and blockchain contribute to the cruise industry:

  1. Enhanced Security: Blockchain technology provides robust security measures, protecting payment information and transactional data. Digital wallets leveraging blockchain offer encrypted and decentralized storage, reducing the risk of data breaches and unauthorized access.
  2. Seamless Transactions: Blockchain eliminates intermediaries and enables direct peer-to-peer transfers, reducing transaction costs and eliminating the need for traditional banking processes.
  3. Cryptocurrency Integration: Digital wallets embrace cryptocurrencies as alternative payment options. Passengers can store and manage their cryptocurrency holdings within their digital wallets, providing them with alternative payment options.
  4. Transparent Records: Blockchain ensures transparent and immutable transaction records. Passengers can access a transparent and auditable transaction history, ensuring a higher level of confidence in their financial activities.
  5. Smart Contract Integration: Digital wallets automate processes through smart contracts, which are self-executing agreements with predefined rules. This automates various processes like loyalty programs, ticketing, or onboard service agreements.

The future is near, and preparing for payment transformation through new digital wallet solutions guarantees better speed, efficiency, and security while enabling virtual shopping experiences, gamified loyalty programs, and eco-friendly transactions. These advancements reflect the industry's commitment to meet evolving consumer expectations and embracing innovative solutions for a more seamless and sustainable cruise experience.


Digital wallets can play a significant role in promoting environmentally friendly payment practices, and here’s how:

  1. Paperless Transactions: Digital wallets enable cashless payments, reducing the reliance on paper currency and physical receipts and promoting a more sustainable onboard environment.
  2. Reduced Plastic Card Usage: With digital wallets, passengers don’t need any physical plastic cards or key chains. This reduces plastic waste and the carbon footprint associated with items’ manufacturing.
  3. Efficient Resource Management: Digital wallets track passengers' spending and loyalty points in real time. This promotes better financial management, leading to more conscious consumption and reduced waste. Passengers can make informed choices about their purchases, resulting in reduced food waste, water consumption, and energy usage onboard.
  4. Sustainable Partnerships: Digital wallets can facilitate partnerships between cruise lines and eco-friendly suppliers, promoting sustainable products and services onboard.
  5. Data-Driven Sustainability Initiatives: By analyzing data about passenger preferences and behaviors, cruise lines can optimize onboard operations, reduce environmental impact, and tailor sustainability initiatives to meet passenger expectations.
  6. Enhanced Guest Communication: Digital wallets can be used as a platform to educate and raise awareness about sustainability practices, offering tips for eco-friendly behaviors both on and off the ship.

The above-mentioned initiatives align with the growing demand for sustainable travel experiences among passengers.

Developing Custom Digital Wallet Solutions with ElifTech

At ElifTech, we specialize in developing custom digital wallet solutions tailored to the unique needs of businesses, including cruise lines.

With our expertise in FinTech solutions, our dedicated development team can design and build a personalized digital wallet system to help your business grow. In particular, our custom cruise line wallet solutions can:

  1. Streamline and automate payment process for both crew and passengers;
  2. Provide advanced security measures and encryption protocols;
  3. Integrate innovative technologies (smart voice payments, blockchain wallets, etc.);
  4. Personalize customer experience with loyalty programs, virtual concierge services, etc.;
  5. Provide data-driven insights and analytics from one place;
  6. Support scalability and future growth so that your digital wallet can be expanded in features whenever needed.

Our product is about security, innovation, enhanced customer experience, and more. By leveraging our knowledge and skills, cruise companies can make their way to the inevitable digital future of cruise lines.

Contact us today to explore the possibilities of developing a custom digital wallet solution with ElifTech!


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