Do Cruise Ships Still Do Muster Drills?

One of the most important jobs for any cruise line is ensuring the safety of every guest. The muster drill is one way the industry does this.

However, ships today have some of the most high-tech features to keep everyone safe. So, do cruise ships still do muster drills?

Today, we’re answering this critical question and walking you through a typical muster drill. Let’s dive in!

What Is a Muster Drill?

A muster drill is a safety procedure conducted on ships. It familiarizes passengers with what to do and expect during an emergency. Passengers must meet at a designated station to receive emergency instructions or watch a demonstration on using safety equipment. 

Make sure to take these drills seriously and actively participate in them. You never know; the information they provide may be helpful during your trip.

Why Is It Called a Muster Drill?

The term “muster drill” comes from a maritime and military tradition. The term “muster” refers to assembling personnel for roll call and inspection. The crew gathers in a designated area to ensure everyone is present and accounted for on the ship.

Regarding cruising, muster drills follow the same principle and require everyone to gather at their assigned station.

The routine training exercise allows passengers and crew to ensure everyone is on the same page about what to do and where to go.

A cruise ship out at sea with life vests hanging up for emergencies.

Are Muster Drills Mandatory?

After the 2012 Costa Concordia disaster, all cruise ships must perform a muster drill with crew and passengers. It is a legal requirement to complete this drill.

However, these drills are more than something you must check off. You want to know what to do should an emergency happen while you’re at sea.

These drills have evolved, and some cruise lines make them much more convenient. For example, Royal Caribbean’s Muster Drill 2.0 is changing the game.

Passengers can get all the information on their phones and then check in with staff at the muster station while exploring the ship. It’s a painless process, so passengers have no excuse not to do it.

What Happens If You Don’t Go to a Muster Drill?

Because it is a legal requirement, you must participate in the muster drill. Failing to do so can have some stringent consequences.

The crew will likely make several warning announcements for passengers not in the proper place. The passengers would then need a safety briefing with staff to fulfill the requirement.

However, if the crew cannot track you down, they’ll deny certain services. We’ve heard cruise lines deactivating key cards, restricting passengers from purchasing items, accessing their room, or entering restaurants and entertainment facilities.

Ultimately, the crew could impose severe consequences for a passenger, including removal from the ship. Do you want something so simple to ruin your vacation? Seriously, do yourself a favor and participate in the muster drill.

How Long Does a Muster Drill Last?

The time to do a muster drill depends on the ship’s policies. In general, these drills can last 20 to 45 minutes. If everyone does their part and participates, it can be done as quickly as possible, and you can get back to enjoying the ship.

The virtual muster drill is the gold standard. Cruise lines that use this allow passengers to complete the entire process in minutes.

They watch the safety video on their phone, listen to the emergency alarm sound, and then check in with the staff at an assigned muster station.

It sure beats wearing a life vest and waiting for other passengers.

A cruise ship lowering one of its lifeboats during the muster drill.

What Happens During a Traditional Muster Drill?

During a traditional muster drill, there are a few things that happen. Let’s walk through what you can expect during these drills.

Assembly Point Announcement

The first step is like what happened back in grade school when you had a fire drill.

An announcement or alert comes over the intercom system, informing passengers and crew to take action. Once this occurs, you grab your life jacket and head to your required meeting spot.

During the drill, you must use the stairs rather than the elevators because the elevators may be out of commission during an emergency. You should proceed quickly and efficiently to your assigned spot.

Cruisers Assemble at Designated Muster Stations

Once you arrive at your muster station, you’ll be met by crew members and the other cruisers. They must ensure everyone is organized and in the proper place. Follow instructions from the crew about where to line up and how to stand.

Depending on the weather, this can be one of the worst parts of the entire process. Emergencies occur even when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, so these drills happen rain or shine, including in the heat.

A sign for a muster station on a cruise ship for emergencies.

Life Jacket Check

Passengers must dawn their life jackets and have the crew inspect that they are wearing them correctly during a traditional muster drill. They’ll then need to stand in place wearing their life jacket.

Again, this can be frustrating and painfully annoying, especially if it takes an extended amount of time. Remain patient, and it’ll be over before you know it.

Roll Call

From there, the crew will go through roll call to ensure everyone has arrived at the muster station. Ideally, everyone will be present and in place. If not, they’ll know who they must look for throughout the ship.

This may result in announcements over the intercom for those passengers and instructions telling them where to go.

Safety Briefing

Once the roll call is complete, the crew walks passengers through a safety briefing. They explain how the lifeboats work and what they should expect should they need to use them. If you’ve ever ridden an airplane and listened to the spiel from the flight attendants, it’s very similar.

Once they complete the safety briefing, passengers get dismissed back to their rooms and are free to return to enjoying the ship. By this time, some passengers may need to be getting ready for dinner or a meal.

A lifejacket on a cruise deck.

Are Virtual Muster Drills the New Norm for Cruises?

We briefly mentioned virtual muster drills earlier, which is an exciting enhancement for passengers. Completing the process is much more convenient for passengers as they’re not inconvenienced by those who can’t follow instructions.

Many cruise lines began instituting these types of muster drills after reopening following the 2020 shutdowns across the industry.

Passengers have grown to love the process and prefer it to the traditional muster drill. While some cruise lines have attempted to return to the conventional method, customers weren’t happy. There was enough noise from upset passengers that the companies returned to the new model. As for now, it’s here to stay.

Take Muster Drills Seriously and Stay Safe

The purpose of muster drills is to keep you and other passengers safe should an emergency occur. Take them seriously and get it done as quickly as possible.

Don’t think that just because you ignore the announcements, you’ll be able to get away with it. The staff takes these seriously and so should you.

Do you prefer traditional or virtual muster drills?

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