MedallionClass on Princess Cruises review: Medallions replace your wallet on cruise line

As a child of the seventies, I grew up on a television diet of The Love Boat, a popular American soapie that was filmed aboard various Princess ships while actually cruising the world.

Julie McCoy, the ship's charismatic cruise director checked off guests on a clipboard as they stepped aboard, as was the cruising practice. These days, it's another story.

It's my first ever Big Ship cruise and I'm aboard Discovery Princess, cruising for a week between Los Angeles and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

I'm using the company's latest innovation, known as the MedallionClass Experience which features a Medallion (capital "M" in Princess circles), a small wearable disk that's slightly larger than a 20-cent piece, and a corresponding smart phone app.

This technology is meant to revolutionise cruising by reducing hassles and providing personalised service. First rolled out on Royal Princess in 2017 it's now live across all 15 ships in the Princess fleet, including Discovery, the newest vessel.

Many Australian passengers will use MedallionClass for the first time in June when Coral Princess departs Brisbane for her inaugural Australian season. It will then expand into Sydney when Majestic Princess returns for her 2022-23 summer season in October.

So is the experience smooth sailing? So far, so good.

At check-in I use the "green lane", having already uploaded my personal credentials, including my health status and a selfie. The lack of designated boarding times means shorter lines and rapid processing.

All it takes is a tap of my Medallion and I'm given the green light. I enter the ship's grand atrium, the nearest thing to a Murano crystal factory, such is the amount of glass. I consult the app's map to find my cabin among 1830 passenger rooms spread across Discovery's 19 guest decks.


As I approach my cabin "click!", my door unlocks automatically. After perusing my room – comfortable bed, handy desk, ample open closet, compact bathroom and a balcony – I connect to WI-FI.

The supersonic speeds of the so-called "MedallionNet" are a definite crowd pleaser; no more clunky connections.

Next the Medallion's location function works like a GPS, thanks to signals that ping to ship sensors. You can turn on (or off) your location on the app to find and text shipmates, whether travel companions or newfound friends. The location function is obligatory for those under 18 years).

Parents can chill on a sun deck, knowing – thanks to their app – that their elderly parents are in one of the main dining rooms (tucking into an afternoon tea, no doubt; the scones and jam are delicious), while the kids are running amok in one of the three youth and teen centres. And it makes things easier for the crew, too.

One afternoon I order a mocktail from my cabin, when a friend beckons me to The Sanctuary, the relaxing adult-only retreat on the 18th deck. As I lounge on a deck chair, a friendly crew member homes in and delivers my beverage with a chirpy "There you are, Katrina". And there's more.

Dotted around the ship are over 100 touchscreen portals – enlarged versions of the app – that display deck layouts. As a directionally challenged soul, I need to consult these regularly.

They pinpoint specific locations (including restrooms, handy when you're in a hurry). It's a way of saving reams of paper, too, part of Princess Cruises' commitment to environmental practices that include reducing food waste and fuel consumption and treating wastewater.

The portals and app also display a timeline of activities and I use these to plan my journey. Options range from early morning stretching to a teeth whitening talk. I forgo the fang-focused facts and instead bookmark the trivia quiz and bingo, traditional ship pastimes and great fun.

For it's not all "tap and zap".

At art auctions, a popular activity, excited bidders compete for art works by thrusting laminated plaques into the air. It's a live, rapid-fire "yabba-dee-dabbedy-doo…sold!" affair. There's still a taste for the old-fashioned.

But it's the exception. For the days of carrying your wallet are over; the Medallion is linked to your credit card. I find the purchasing process a little too convenient (read tempting). I am taps away from buying stylish bags from Discovery's high-end boutiques and enjoying superb relaxation treatments at the Lotus Spa.

There's no chance of going hungry, thanks to Discovery's 24-hour World Fresh Marketplace and 23 other dining options. But, with up to 3660 guests, restaurants get busy. The app's booking service, "Dine My Way" is a winner.

You can reserve the hour, number of diners, seating choices and dining speed. (Hint: make reservations before the cruise; I pass a few guests who are crestfallen to have missed out on securing tables at specialty restaurants.

They perk up, however, after learning they can order menu items from these kitchens and dine in their cabins.)

But my favourite tool is the "Crew call" function, the mobile messaging service. I ply crew with queries: "What time do we arrive in port?" "Do you have a spare adaptor?" I receive engaging responses within minutes.

As for hiccups with the MedallionClass Experience? Yes, there are glitches; it's technology, after all. While my Medallion never fails, the app isn't always co-operative: it freezes occasionally.

But, as it turns out, I haven't disabled a conflicting widget on my iPhone and I'd skipped the introductory information session that suggested we do so. I seek out the helpful tech team at the OceanFront desk who are on top of different devices and the problem is solved.

Unsurprisingly, less tech-savvy folk and those without smart phones (a cohort of passengers) miss out on the benefits of the system.

But Princess has this covered and provides genuine service: crew members stationed throughout the ship.

And while the app's functions are not yet user-friendly for sight- and hearing- impaired passengers, the company continues to provide full services to individuals with disabilities, which can be organised on booking.

The week sails by; it's time to disembark. The Love Boat series has finished but MedallionClass is here to stay. And it sure beats a clipboard.



Princess Cruises will resume cruising in Australia on June 16, 2022, with a departure from Brisbane on Coral Princess, followed by Majestic Princess from Sydney in October and Grand Princess from Melbourne in November.

Coral Princess will visit Papua New Guinea on an 11-day cruise visiting five ports departing Brisbane roundtrip January 26, 2023, with a Princess Plus Balcony fare from $2949 a person twin share, including premier drinks package and MedallionNet WI-FI.

A five-day cruise to Tasmania from Sydney departing November 20, 2022, on the Majestic Princess (Discovery Princess' sister ship) costs from $1249 a person twin share for a Princess Plus Balcony, including premier drinks package and MedallionNet WI-FI.



Kate Armstrong was a guest of Princess Cruises.