Turning Points Ltd
CASE STUDY: Bateaux London / Catamaran Cruisers
In early 2004 Bateaux London, the largest sight seeing cruise operator on the river Thames, approached Turning Points
for a completely automatic GPS-driven commentary system. Bateaux London had three main aims: to re-assign human
operators from commentary delivery duties to revenue-generating ones, to achieve a greater consistency of commentary
experience across the fleet and to take control of the recorded commentary resource which had hitherto been dispersed
between audio hardware suppliers, recording studios, translation companies and the like.
Bateaux London’s fleet employed a variety of different commentary methods
ranging from a skipper’s live commentary to recorded commentaries in several
languages delivered via the public address system and multi-channel wireless
radio headsets. The recorded commentaries were stored in mp3 format on a
standard PC and were triggered by a human operator as each relevant Point of
Whilst a communicative skipper can provide an excellent and flexible
commentary there are, nevertheless, some limitations. Not all skippers make
good guides; some are very reluctant to speak and their primary role is to steer
the vessel safely through its course. On a busy waterway such as the river
Thames, commentary delivery can become a dangerous distraction. Making the
same trip day in day out inevitably leads to variable standards of commentary
performance and such a ‘live’ commentary can only be given in a single
language and in a single voice.
The human-activated recorded commentary system had its drawbacks too. In determining when to hit the play button for
each new commentary, the crew member would be listening only to the English language commentary playing over the
public address system. Their action took no account of the other language commentaries playing to listeners on their
headsets and which would be cut abruptly when the crew member pressed ‘play’. Also, the manual ‘triggering’ of events
always resulted in abrupt and uncomfortable audio shifts between a new commentary and the play-out music of any
In 2004 Turning Points installed its Soundscape commentary system on Bateaux London’s circular cruises. It kept the
same PCs that had been operated by the circular cruise crew members and in practical terms made use of all of the
vessel’s existing audio equipment and merely replaced the human operator but in doing so it was also able to address
some longer-standing issues:
between trips the system was programmed to deliver a looped promotional
commentary which informs newly arriving passengers of the services
available on board, the variety of other cruises available from Bateaux
London and Catamaran Cruisers and the different languages in which
commentaries are available. This message fades out the moment that the
vessel begins its journey
a passenger safety message which plays automatically the moment the vessel
moves away from its berth
no new commentary plays until all language versions of its predecessor have
played through to the end (or have reached a designated pause point)
based on incoming (GPS) speed and direction data, the system determines
whether there is enough time to play any given commentary satisfactorily.
This is invaluable for applications where tidal fluctuations or other external
factors may impact upon a vessels speed.
an unlimited number of languages can now be stored on the system, selected
on the basis of whether or not they are required for a particular trip.
a ‘Thank You and Farewell’ message which plays automatically on the vessel’s
return approach to the pier. Again, this message reminds passengers of the
other types of cruise available.
Towards the end of the 2003 season Turning Points was asked to produce additional commentaries in order to take in new
landmarks along the river-front. For the 2005 season Bateaux London extended its use of the Soundscape system and
commissioned Turning Points to produce a new commentary for its lunchtime cruise. The new commentary system also
provides for the smooth fading in and out of background music in-between commentaries. Most recently Turning Points
has produced commentaries in Russian and Mandarin Chinese for the circular cruise.
Turning Points Ltd
Kent Science Park
Tel: (+44) 1795 411535