Building Personalized Digital Experiences for a Cruise Liner

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Sara Williams

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Modern cruise liners are known for being cities on the ocean, transporting thousands of guests to faraway places and exotic destinations while providing a carnival-like atmosphere from start to finish. For these businesses, the digital experience must match and sometimes even surpass the in-person one. A personalized digital experience tailored to each individual is essential to accomplish this. 

In this blog, we’ll recap one of the most engaging talks from CrafterCMS Live! 2024 delivered by Terence McDevitt, Solutions Architect at ArgonDigital that highlights how CrafterCMS was used to build personalized digital experiences for both travel guests (end consumers) and travel agents.

Watch the video: Personalized Digital Experiences for a Cruise Line

Introducing Azamara

Azamara Cruises was founded by the Royal Caribbean Group (RCG) in 2007 and, since 2010, has specialized in Destination Immersion experiences. The brand offers travel on intimate, club-like ships that access smaller ports unavailable to larger vessels. This approach allows for deeper exploration of off-the-beaten-path destinations, with longer stays and more overnights in port, facilitating a genuine immersion into local cultures.

The Scenario

In 2020, the Royal Caribbean Group sold the Azamara brand to Sycamore Partners. As a result, Azamara needed a new content platform to nail the user experience with a modern, intuitive platform solution that could organically grow with them. 

Solutions and Constraints

Azamara wanted an enterprise-grade headless CMS that could deliver distinct, personalized experiences for guests and travel agents without requiring a full-time development team, and they selected CrafterCMS as the best fit. They also decided to use the Seaware booking system and wanted CrafterCMS to be used as the marketing, product discovery, and web content management solution. 

The Objectives

The main goals Azamara wanted to achieve included:

  1. Migrating off of the existing Drupal site
  2. Increasing guest engagement time
  3. Increasing direct bookings
  4. Reducing content creation time

Potential Problems

One of the problems to note was that Seaware did not have a compelling front-end experience for marketing and product discovery. However, the platform needed to be responsible for the complex booking flow. Additionally, Azamara didn’t have enough product management and technical staff to work on the project full-time.


Some of the requirements for the solution included:

  1. The need to accommodate different roles: Including support for distinct personalized experiences for guests and travel agents
  2. A focus on the user: The ability to tailor content based on user characteristics
  3. The ability to automate product content updates: The website should show accurate, up-to-date product data from Seaware without manual effort.
  4. Adaptability: They required a flexible content model that could evolve over time.
  5. Easy maintenance: The solution needed to be maintained without a full-time development team.

Azamara needed a partner who knew CrafterCMS and could drive design and implementation with product management expertise. To help Azamara achieve their goals, they engaged with ArgonDigital, a software development agency and CrafterCMS Solutions Partner.

Solutions at the Business Level

When creating the solution to this problem, implementation agencies and vendors need to remember not to confuse moving quickly with moving effectively. As such, avoid jumping right into the problem and starting to build, making assumptions, or failing to ask questions. 

ArgonDigital sought to balance due diligence with ambitious timelines to find the right solution. This included conducting a discovery phase, validating whether CrafterCMS was the right fit, and employing critical thinking as a true partner rather than how a vendor might approach providing the solution, 

The Approach

ArgonDigital and Azamara decided on the following approach for their solution:

  • Build a single site: The travel agent (B2B) and guest (B2C) experiences would be hosted within a single project on Crafter Cloud.
  • Optimize the content model: Allowing them to meet authoring needs while allowing flexibility.
  • Leverage two hostnames: This would provide unique user experiences for each audience and allow Azamara to share CrafterCMS content between each site.
  • Create personalized experiences: This would be accomplished based on audience and user locale, including product pricing and promos shown in 12 different locales and making secure content only available to specific user roles.

Creating an Integrated Solution

As part of the solution path ArgonDigital designed, Azamara would require several custom integrations with critical business systems:

  • Seaware to sync cruise and shore excursion info
  • HubSpot for capturing leads
  • Okta for handling guest and travel agent authentication
  • MapBox provides mostly programmatic cruise maps

Focusing on these integrations instead of building from scratch would enable them to save resources and empower Azamara to focus on creating content to meet the business objectives and deliver value.

Meeting Objectives to Deliver Value

ArgonDigital managed to meet the initial objectives of the project by leveraging CrafterCMS.

  • Migration off Drupal: Several existing sites were replaced with one CrafterCMS site. Thousands of pages of content were migrated programmatically, and the new website was launched in March 2023. This on-time launch helped Azamara avoid significant fines.
  • Increase guest engagement time: They delivered an engaging user experience for product discovery with a seamless transition into the booking flow. This incentivized guests to spend more time (and money) on the site by empowering authors to create and iterate on an ideal user experience.
  • Increase direct bookings: Accurate, up-to-date product data enabled seamless integration with the Seaware booking engine. This would foster self-service for customers, allowing them to quickly enter the booking process for cruise products.
  • Reduce content creation time: A new carefully designed content model would allow for easy/flexible authoring, the ability to reuse content easily on both sites, and integrations to automatically create product content without needing the development team. This would keep authors focused on high-value site content instead of chasing product data issues.

The Solution

The new solution leverages CrafterCMS 4.x running on Crafter Cloud. It required ArgonDigital to generate two sites out of one, 109 component types, approximately 15 page types, a Crafter Studio plugin for custom REST endpoints, and scheduled jobs.

Azamara CrafterCMS Architecture
Source: ArgonDigital


The new Azamara website powered by CrafterCMS also includes several integrations:

  • Okta: To manage all accounts, provide embedded sign-in, user authentication, and SSO with CrafterCMS and apps.
  • HubSpot: Providing embedded site forms accessible via CrafterCMS and user activity tracking with GTM.
  • Seaware: Leveraging a GraphQL API, generated GQL client library, data in pages & components, and a secondary Elasticsearch.
  • MapBox integration: Mostly programmatic itinerary maps are provided, and an REST API is used to create map datasets and dynamic map rendering. 

Achieving Success With Solution Partnerships

Strong partnerships are crucial to building a reliable solution. The ideal collaboration between technology and product management specialists made the ultimate delivery of a successful solution possible.

Businesses should seek out a partner who is willing to ask “why” as they collaborate to develop a solution with you. Also, build on a strong technical foundation by using a highly extensible platform with a solid infrastructure. 

Learn more about what the combination of ArgonDigital and CrafterCMS were able to achieve by watching the recorded presentation from CrafterCMS Live! 2024: Personalized Digital Experiences for a Cruise Liner.

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