Last updated: 07:00 AM ET, Wed April 22 2015

Dispatch: Rise of the Robotic Bartender

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Royal Caribbean International | Theresa Norton | April 22, 2015

Dispatch: Rise of the Robotic Bartender

Photos courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

By now, it's likely you've heard that Royal Caribbean International's Quantum-class ships have robotic bartenders. Today, I had the chance to see how they really work on the new Anthem of the Seas.

They're located in the Bionic Bar, on a stage of sorts, surrounded by five podiums, each holding one or two tablet computers. Hanging from the ceiling are dozens of bottles of assorted spirits and behind the two robotic arms are stations for ice and garnishes.

You swipe your room keycard or the RFID wristband onto the tablet. Before ordering, you must punch in your birth year to show that you're legally old enough to drink.

Then the tablet pulls up a menu. You can select from standard "Starting Bases," such as Absolut and cranberry, Bacardi and Coke, and Beefeater and tonic. Or, you can start from scratch to make your own cocktail, which is what I did, purely for research purposes, of course.

My first choice was the liquor, so I selected vodka. Four brand names popped up — Grey Goose, Absolut, Smirnoff and Absolut Mandarin. I clicked on Grey Goose, and it showed on the screen as a half-shot. Again, for research purposes, I switched it to a full shot.

Then, you select what you want to add. From the garnishes menu, I chose ice and lime; other options are lemon, brown sugar and white sugar. From the soda mixers menu, I selected tonic, but could've also chosen Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, ginger ale or soda water. A variety of juices also are available. It also asked me how I wanted it prepared — shaken, muddled or stirred.

Then, a video screen shows when your order is placed and how long your estimated wait time is. My wait was 1 minute, 20 seconds, but that started after the robots finished dancing.

Yes, they like to dance to synchronized choreographed routines, based on the movements of Italian dancer Marco Pelle of New York Theatre Ballet.

So, once they stop boogying to "Uptown Funk," one starts mixing my drink.

The robotic arm grabs a plastic glass and places it onto a magnetic conveyer belt. The robotic arm turns around for the ice, reaches up for the liquor, and gets the mixer and lime slice. It shakes it all up and gently pours it into the glass. The screen tells me my drink is ready. I walk up to a button at the end of the conveyor, swipe my room keycard, and the drink moves down the belt where I can reach it. Done.

Have to say, this system created by a company called Makr Shakr, based in Torino, Italy, is hugely entertaining and rather mesmerizing. Each time I've walked through the Bionic Bar, there were crowds watching the robots dance and mix drinks. No, you probably don't want to spend an entire evening waiting for the robots to make your drinks, but it's a fun diversion to try at least once.


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