What is a Muster Drill on a cruise?

Muster Drill on a cruise ship

A muster drill (also known as a lifeboat or a boat drill) is one of the most important things all cruise lines must do before the ship departs for the first time. It’s the only boring part of your vacation but it’s a legal requirement to help keep you safe in the event of an emergency. Cruise ships must keep to the SOLAS regulation. Although some people quite enjoy it and see it as an important activity on their cruise!
Prior to embarking on the ship, you will be notified where your muster station is. It could be either indoors or outdoors (usually on the promenade deck). Usually, they are on the outside of a ship, however, it’s not uncommon to see them in living areas. On most cruise lines you can find the location of your station on your cruise card. If you are unsure where your muster station is then you can find a crew member to help you.

The drill happens on the first day of your cruise and the crew will check you in to make sure you have attended. Be sure not to miss it as it is compulsory! To alert everyone a general alarm is sounded before the captain announces what passengers need to do.

The drill will cover important information on life jackets and how to use them and what should happen in the case of an emergency or evacuation.

Muster Drill on a cruise ship

So what’s involved?

All guest services will cease just before the muster is about to happen including bars, restaurants and theatre shows.

The drill is an exercise conducted by the crew. All passengers must remain silent during the drill while the captain broadcasts the safety drill/safety briefing. The safety presentation could be on screen, in front of you demonstrated by a crew member or a combination of both. It should include simple instructions for all to understand, even children who are also expected to attend. If you have questions do just ask!

A register is used to make sure that all guests are in attendance. The drill will then explain what to do in the event of an emergency or when you hear the ships alarm. This includes how to put on a lifevest. You will also be told how passengers would be informed about an emergency situation i.e via a horn, alarm or whistle.

The general alarm signal

Usually, the ship’s internal general emergency alarm consists of seven or more short blasts, followed by one long blast of the ship’s horn. There is also often flashing strobe lights in the public area to indicate an emergency. It can be really useful to hear these alarm bells so you know what to listen for and they don’t shock you too much should they be activated.

What happens if you miss the muster drill?

It will be very difficult to miss a muster drill but I bet it does happen, especially if people have had one too many cocktails on arrival! Crew members have a number of ways to remind cruise passengers about the muster procedure.

You will first learn about the muster drill when you check-in at the port – they will give you a cruise card and let you know the time of the muster drill and when you need to attend it. The captain will let you know several times throughout the day when the muster is – this means paying attention to the tannoy announcements!

If you miss the first muster drill (which is very unlikely given all the reminders) you will be asked to attend another muster drill. If you miss this muster drill the cruise operatorcan force you to disembark the ship. If you’ve already set sail the cruise line will make you leave on the next port. You will not be entitled to any refund and you will have to make your own arrangements getting back home.No one wants that so if there’s one thing you should do on your cruise holiday it’s not missing the this before you head on your voyage.

Do regular cruisers still have to attend?

Yes, muster drills usually happen on a weekly basis. Regardless if you’re on the cruise ship for 3 weeks you must attend all of the muster drills that are carried out. Even if you have been on previous cruises with the same cruise line you are still obliged to attend.

This is to remind everyone of the safety and evacuation procedures during their cruise vacation. Crew members have to follow the same evacuation guidelines so all passengers receive the same instructions. Imagine how many times the crew have to do the drills when on a tour with the cruise line!

Do you need to take your life jacket?

Usually, cruise lines will not require you to take your life jacket to the muster drill. Just be mindful of what to do in an emergency, safety procedures and where in your cabin or stateroom your life jacket is kept. As part of the drill, it will be explained how to safely wear and inflate your life jacket and how to use any tools that are attached such as torches or whistles and straps. If you are sailing with children then make sure you have been given suitable life jackets for them – do check at reception or guests services if you are unsure what you need.

What happens if you have children in cruise programs?

If you have children with you on a cruise ship and they are in a kids program or club onboard during the time of the drill they will be taken to the muster drill location by the staff members.

How long does a muster drill take?

Cruise liners suggest that the average time the drill takes is about 30 minutes. Safety advice may be spoken in several languages if there are passengers from many countries and so could take some additional time. We have found that most of the time is spent waiting for all the people to join their station and be registered by the crew. The actual safety demonstration doesn’t take that long!

It really doesn’t take long and you can then get back to your dining or relaxing knowing you’ve attended and hopefully shouldn’t have to now worry about safe evacuations and life jackets again!

Muster Drill on a cruise ship

Crew muster drills

If you didn’t know already crew members have their own muster drills as well. This involves how to use lifeboats/life rafts in an emergency (lifeboat drill) and potential issues to look out for while onboard. It’s always reassuring to hear the crew have regular updates on how to keep everyone safe and know what to do in an emergency situation.

Cruise The Waves Muster Drill Tips:

Here are our top tips for muster drill success!

Don’t be too early or too late to the muster process:

If you end up going too early you will be waiting around a long time and often will get caught up with a lot of passengers. If you are late it will inconvenience the crew members (and your other passengers!). Aim to get there on the dedicated time and you’ll be just fine. I believe on our first cruise we had just ordered a cocktail and so ended up taking it with us which might have not made us look the most responsible!

Wear appropriate shoes:

We recommend you don’t wear flip flops to the muster drill – this is because you will be sharing the muster drill with loads of passengers and pre-pandemic be in close proximity to others. Your feet might get stepped on and you don’t want that!

Put away your phone:

It’s just as annoying as those ones at the cinema. Put away your phones during the muster drill briefing! The crew are making sure you know what to do in an emergency and it’s to the benefit of yourself. Apparently, you can get your phone confiscated while this happens – wouldn’t that be embarrassing!

Caribbean muster drill? Use suncream!

If you are in the Caribbean or anywhere else particularly sunny and hot for that matter, and you are attending a muster drill, ensure you’ve covered yourself in suncream. This is because you will likely need to stand in the same location for a good 20-30 minutes so take caution.

Stay away from elevators/lifts

Stay away from elevators while going to your muster station. This is because those with mobility issues will need to use the lifts and should have priority. If you need to use the elevators, ask the crew members if you need assistance and they will happy to help.

Be mindful of the time and location of the muster drill

Don’t be one of those passengers who decide on the quick nap and you miss the muster drill. Ask a crew member if you are not sure of the time of the drill. The location of the muster drill is usually located on your cruise card. If the cruise ship is quite big the assembly station is usually located on the promenade deck.

Listen out for additional safety advice

A muster drill is a perfect opportunity for the captain to say any other important safety advice for your upcoming trip. Handwashing will definitely be a part of this important advice given that Covid has a very wide impact on everyone. Other things include might include what happens if someone falls overboard and reminders of drinking sensibly onboard.

Let the stairs clear after the drill

What’s the point in rushing like everyone else once the drill is over? Just sit it out and wait, or if you are outside, take in the sea breeze and enjoy the sight.

Muster drills for disabled passengers

Some cruise lines will offer another muster drill for disabled passengers, possibly inside the ship where it is more accessible. Please ask a crew member about this if this is something you might need.

Make sure you register!

How bad will it be if you’ve attended the muster drill but forgot to register your name? Make sure the crew member has logged you down for attending the muster drill or you will have to do it again! Often this is done by showing your cruise card or giving the number of your cabin / cabins. On some cruise liners, crew will scan your cruise card to markdown you’ve attended.

Pay attention!

If you are attending a safety briefing please make sure you keep quiet at all times and pay attention! Not only is it rude to talk over the crew member ensuring your safety but other passengers next to you will likely want to listen carefully to the potentially life-saving advice too!

Muster Drill on a cruise ship

Royal Caribbean announces a new electronic muster drill called Muster 2.0

Given the current or recent pandemic (depending on when you read this!) Royal Caribbean have announced an electronic muster drill called Muster 2.0.

These were implemented to help keep everyone on board and able to complete the muster procedure but socially distanced. These drills will debut in Germany and be rolled out across to all Royal Caribbean ships.

Before boarding passengers will be informed of what to do in case of an actual emergency situation onboard.

How it works:

Passengers on Royal Caribbean’s ships will be required to download an app on their mobile device or view the information on their stateroom TV. This will contain important safety advice which everyone must-see.

This new technology aims to help protect everyone from the Covid-19 virus. It will no doubt stay after the pandemic as it seems it will be quicker and easier for people to attend and pay attention too and not require the crew to attend.

Check out this video of a Muster Drill in action:

Have any other muster station tips you would like to share? Give us a message on the contact form!



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