Taking Carnival Corp. Guest Experience to a Wearable Level

Jose Fernandez is at Carnival Corporation’s legal forefront, leading exciting projects such as Ocean Medallion, the company’s groundbreaking guest-experience platform

Imagine yourself on a cruise ship, opening your cabin door without having to fumble for a card or key, paying for meals and purchases without using a credit card, and having drinks delivered to you, even if you ordered them in the casino and then decided to lounge by the pool.

Sound like science fiction? Not really. These possibilities, and more, are provided by Ocean Medallion, a wearable device about the size of a quarter that can be placed around the wrist as a watch, around the neck as a pendant, or just kept in a purse or pocket. Ocean Medallion is part of an innovative, groundbreaking guest-experience platform developed by Carnival Corporation. Called OCEAN (One Cruise Experience Access Network), it will make its global debut on the Regal Princess in November 2017, launching from Port Everglades, in
Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Jose Fernandez, Carnival Corporation’s assistant general counsel, is excited about Ocean Medallion and calls it “one of the most innovative programs” Carnival has undertaken. “We believe it has the potential to transform how we provide a great guest experience, which is already extremely high,” he says. “We also believe it will have an impact in the overall vacation industry.”

The Ocean Medallion was announced by Carnival CEO Arnold Donald in January 2017 during the keynote of CES, the world’s largest consumer technology show. “He was the first-ever travel industry executive invited to open the conference, which really speaks to how much this can change the guest experience,” Fernandez adds.

Fernandez considers himself very fortunate to work on projects that will have a lasting impact for the company. The Ocean Medallion is a great example, as he and fellow colleagues have been part of the team working internally on the legal framework around Ocean.

Ocean Medallion will streamline the guest experience so that passengers feel that their needs are not only met but also anticipated. It provides a much higher level of personalization, in a way that is completely seamless and effortless to the guest. With no on-off switch and no buttons to push, the focus is not on the technology but on each individual guest. 

“The software will be constantly learning about our guests’ preferences, their likes and dislikes,” Fernandez says. “Some information will be based on the data they provide before boarding the ship, and other details will be constantly updated based on their preferences while on board. The Medallion amplifies the vacation experience by personalizing it to each guest’s preferences.”

Fernandez personifies the successful Miami-based Cuban American community. His mother was part of Operation Pedro Pan, in which 14,000 children came to the United States in a program to escape communism in Cuba in the 1960s. His father arrived around the same time, with his family.

Fernandez has lived in Miami most of his life, except for the three years he spent in law school at Wake Forest University. From 2006 to 2011, he worked at Holland & Knight, a top international law firm that started in Florida and has expanded across the world. He worked on international mergers and acquisitions, with a focus on Latin America and the Caribbean, giving him the tools to become a better negotiator and collaborative problem solver. These skills helped prepare him for his current role at Carnival, where he works on contract negotiations, port development, special projects, and deals with large engine manufacturers.

Fernandez is part of a group of seven attorneys, of which four are Hispanic and three are female. “Carnival Corporation embraces diversity in many ways,” he says. “Our global company is headquartered in Miami, so many of our employees come from Latin America, of course, but others are from Europe and Asia. There is a great variety of backgrounds and points of view. This diversity of thinking helps foster better decisions at all levels.”

Across the company’s ten brands, employees come from more than one hundred countries. Carnival is always looking for ways to incorporate diversity in the workplace to make it more productive and innovative.

In addition to the Ocean Medallion project, another important innovation is in fuel. Carnival Corporation has an agreement with Shell for the supply of marine liquefied natural gas (LNG) that will power the world’s first fully LNG-powered cruise ships.

“This will improve air quality, with cleaner emissions, and it is better for the environment,” Fernandez says. “We look forward to a productive partnership with Shell to create a new model for powering our cruise ships.”

Fernandez was also instrumental in establishing the framework for a new cruise port facility that will be funded and operated by Carnival Cruise Line on Grand Bahama Island. The largest purpose-built cruise facility ever constructed in the Bahamas, it will span more than two hundred acres and include a channel, docks, seawalls, piers, a hotel, a golf course, restaurants, an amphitheater, and other facilities.

“The preliminary work took around three years, and it involved working collaboratively not only with the government in the Bahamas but also with private industries to secure the land and get the official consent,” Fernandez says. “We still have a lot of work to go, but we have taken the first steps to build a fantastic space for guests.”

Aside from the projects and other assigned responsibilities, Fernandez is also active in supporting Big Brothers Big Sisters. In 2007, Carnival Foundation launched the Carnival Scholarship and Mentoring Program in collaboration with Big Brothers Big Sisters. Currently,  the members of Carnival Corporation’s management team serve as one-on-one mentors to about one hundred high school students.

“I’ve had the opportunity to participate in the program and be a Big Brother for four years,” Fernandez says. “In their senior year, mentees can apply for the fifteen to twenty college scholarships that Carnival Foundation provides annually from the Florida Prepaid College Foundation.”

“This is our very small way to give back to the community,” he adds. “As a company, we believe in putting education in the forefront.”