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The Useful Media Company Creates Engaging On-Ship Radio Experiences

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When P&O Cruises' new vessel Iona set sail from Southampton, England on its maiden voyage in August 2021, it became the latest ship to feature the bespoke 'Cruise Radio' service powered by the DAD radio automation platform from ENCO.

Operated and managed by specialist audio and technology service provider The Useful Media Company, Cruise Radio offers vacationers an entertaining and informative mix of music and essential ship information.

The largest cruise ship ever built for the UK market, Iona is also the most environmentally friendly and innovative ship to date for P&O Cruises, a brand of Carnival Corporation plc. Cruise Radio is the only 'as-live' radio service at sea, and is unique to each of the P&O Cruises ships. Played over video from the bow camera and streamed to every cabin on each ship, Cruise Radio combines music with radio elements including imaging, jingles, and bespoke commercial packages advertising on-board services, shows, and activities. The fully-featured radio service also provides interesting content including documentary music programming, historical retrospectives, and essential information about what is happening on and off the ship. Cruise Radio is the perfect accompaniment for guests relaxing in their cabin, getting ready for a delicious dinner, or preparing for an exciting night in one of the many entertainment venues onboard.

The Useful Media Company provided the on-ship equipment for the Cruise Radio service and is responsible for programming the service’s content and supporting its operation. "We're very proud to be part of Iona's adventure as the latest ship to host the Cruise Radio service," said Grant Francis, Managing Director of The Useful Media Company. "The service is enjoyed by thousands of passengers and crew every week. In the challenging environment of a cruise ship, we needed to ensure rock-solid, uninterrupted, reliable delivery when the ships are at sea or away from their home port in Southampton. This made ENCO DAD the ideal and only viable technology platform for Cruise Radio. It provides all of the tools we need to carry out the project, from supporting multiple libraries of music and clips to built-in audio file conversion."

Music scheduling for Cruise Radio is handled through ENCO DAD's integrated Ensemble music scheduling system, while other elements such as on-ship promotions use rotating cuts to ensure that relevant content is delivered while continually sounding fresh. "ENCO DAD enables Cruise Radio to be much more engaging and informative than the traditional approach of simply playing songs from a CD or MP3 player in randomized order," Grant noted. "The output sounds smoother too, as it would on a land-based radio station."

The ENCO DAD system provides full automation of Cruise Radio, minimizing the effort required by onboard staff. Even updates to the music library, advertisements, and software configuration can be performed with the press of a single button, with ENCO’s DCL (DAD Command Language) executing all required steps. "DCL is invaluable in enabling us to control the system from many thousands of miles away," explained Grant. "We don't have ongoing remote connectivity to the system, so instead we send onboard operators a disc once a month that they put into the system. They simply run one file, and the DCL commands initiate all of the updates from the DVD. After the update, the system gets on with things on its own."

Most importantly, the ENCO DAD system has delivered the flawless reliability that Cruise Radio demands. "It continually performs, and it works perfectly every time," said Grant. "Cruise Radio simply would not work without the ENCO DAD platform."

In addition to the entire P&O Cruises fleet of ships, Cunard Radio – also operated by The Useful Media Company – can be found on Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, all part of the iconic Cunard Line, famous for their black hulls, striking red funnels, and opulent luxury.
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