Back in the day, when large groups or extended families went on a cruise ship together, it was not uncommon to see them using walkie talkies to communicate while onboard.
The cumbersome devices were the most practical ways to keep in touch when scattered throughout the massive floating cities that are cruise ships, allowing group members to make plans and check in with each other.
Long lines of passengers at the concierge desk was another regular sight, as cruisers patiently (or impatiently), waited for an opportunity to book shore excursions or take care of other vacation-related business and scheduling matters while onboard.
Both routines however are becoming a thing of the past thanks to a flurry of new cruise apps that allow for everything from instant messaging with fellow cruisers to booking excursions or restaurant reservations, and checking daily onboard activities. And that's just a few of the highlights of the increasingly sophisticated and detailed apps.
Now is an interesting period when it comes to the many cruise ship apps that have emerged within the past year or more, that are already changing the passenger experience - for the better.
"It's an exciting time to be in this space," says Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic, "Beyond supporting travel needs, these apps are providing convenience. In the old days, when you wanted to make a restaurant reservation or if you lost your bill, you had to go someone's desk and stand in line and wait. Now you can just do these things from your phone. So, you can be sitting by the pool and say 'What are we doing tomorrow? I want to go on a excursion.' And then go on your phone and book the excursion."
All of which makes those walkie talkies seem almost antiquated doesn't it?
In addition to allowing passengers to make various reservations and chat with each other, some of the new apps provide interactive ship maps, locations of the various activities onboard, menus for the day's meals, onboard spending calculators and even language and currency conversion assistance geared toward the various exotic ports a ship may be pulling into.
Nearly every cruise line has its own app these days, industry experts say, and there are other apps developed by small start-ups, also competing in the space.
The net effect of all the apps and the many services they provide, is cruisers getting to see more of a cruise ship than they may have in the past, being able to communicate more easily with fellow travelers and most importantly to some - cruisers are now able to spend more time actually relaxing and enjoying the vacation.
For Shani Wolf, Disney's new cruise app had a significant impact on her family's recent vacation aboard the Disney Wonder. The mother of two young boys rattles off a whole list of conveniences tied to the app - including being able to set an alarm in the app that notifies you of upcoming activities, as well as being able tap on the activity and see information about where it is located on the ship.
But perhaps most importantly, the Disney app allowed Wolf to feel safe about letting her two sons explore the ship on their own, or participate in activities without her nearby.