Radiopark is a market leader in developing and realising audio-entertainment applications for the international cruise ship industry, with state-of-the-art technology and high-class programming quality essential, it argues, to the guest experience. Arndt-Helge Grap, general manager, discusses why audio is so important and why he believes it has been neglected.

Which technical solutions does Radiopark provide for its cruise ships partners?

Arndt-Helge Grap: We are an overall maritime partner. Our hardware has been developed to meet the technical requirements on board: reliable, small and flexible. 19in units allow the implementation of multichannel-players on new sites as well as refits. Stand-alone players can be connected to any PA system anywhere on board, or even sundecks. Radiopark RAMP players can broadcast an unlimited number of music channels – the perfect solution for a broad line-up of F&B outlets, retail, wellness, fitness and entertainment zones on a five-star cruise liner. Via displays, you can select different channels for several outlets from the main control room.

Media players are updated via USB and VPN connection, for example, so you can provide the guests with a fresh selection anywhere you are. If a centralised solution is not required, we can also provide our ‘light’ package, stand-alone solutions that can be connected to the amplifier on location. Theme channels for different dinner subjects or genre channels for bars in this case can be selected via a 7in touch display that is directly connected to the player.

Do you think audio is something that’s been traditionally neglected by cruise companies?

We’ve had the experience that music selection is very often in the hands of non-professionals. It’s like giving me the responsibility for the kitchen on board the vessel. I might be able to serve a kind-of-decent pasta with tomato sauce, but that would be the end of the line. A music-interested person might be able to compile a playlist for two to three hours but not for a 24/7 all-year operation. Music is important. As Hans Christian Andersen said, "Where words fail, music speaks."

What are the key challenges of designing background music programmes for the cruise ship industry?

I don’t know many hotels with more than 20 F&B outlets. In the modern cruise industry, where ships are getting larger every day, this is the normal case. Our main challenge is providing background music for such a large spectrum of operational areas. Music may also change destination-wise and requires a broad repertoire of sometimes very specific styles. Radiopark supplies clients in more than 40 countries. In the last 12 years, we have acquired expertise in designing such channels, harvesting an archive of hundreds of thousands of music tracks.

Music in the cruise ship industry is more than just ‘background music’ compared with the hospitality industry. Music is part of the cruise event and aims to embrace the guests so they feel part of the cruise family. This is completely different to a hotel atmosphere where the relationship between hotel and guest is more distanced.

People on a cruise trip are on vacation and want to have fun. Our solution is that every programme is customised – handmade; no randomised playlists; no repetitions in the course of the day or the trip – and our customer shall be sure to provide its guests with a fresh playlist every day.

What significance has the ‘power of music’ for the enhanced experience on board?

Since the middle of the 20th century, [pop and rock] music has been the most important art form, reaching every corner of society. No matter what age, gender or colour, no matter how much money you have in the bank, music was and is your number-one socialising factor. You have to be aware of the very fact that the majority of the guests on a cruise liner have grown up with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. So don’t tell me ‘instrumental background music’ is the perfect playlist – it’s not.

Music stimulates, music triggers moods and is able to put the listener into fantastic worlds way before the next port is in sight. Music is a psychological key element to set connections between people of different cultures. Music has a high memory value. Music can make sad people dance or create a positive surrounding to relax. And it therefore contributes to help make your guest feel part of the family or a cruise ship.