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Muster Drills Have Changed For The Better (REVIEW of New After Covid Process)

The covid cruising shutdown changed many things about the cruise industry. One of the biggest changes relates to the muster (safety) drill that is conducted on every cruise.

The majority of cruise lines have made changes to the muster process. I experienced the new procedures for the first time onboard the MSC Virtuosa.

What is a Muster Drill on a Cruise?

A muster drill is a safety drill completed on a cruise, designed to show passengers what to do in the event of an emergency. The muster drill is often referred to as the ‘lifeboat drill’ or ‘safety drill’. The drill usually takes less than 30 minutes and is a legal requirement.

A muster drill will happen on every cruise and it is important that you attend and are prepared for what is going to happen.

Is The Muster Drill on a Cruise Mandatory or Optional?

It is a legal requirement that all passengers take part in the muster drill. It is compulsory.

Cruise lines are legally bound by SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) to provide a muster drill for all guests. The cruise line would be breaking the law if it, for whatever reason, didn’t conduct the muster drill correctly.

Prior to the Costa Concordia disaster of 2012, the muster drill was required to take place within 24 hours of embarkation. It must now happen before the ship departs or immediately on departure. 

The time, location and specifics of the muster drill will vary by cruise line. Each passenger will be marked off a list when they attend to prove that they have attended the drill.

The length of the muster drill does depend on cruise ship size and organization but generally speaking, the muster drill shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to complete.

MSC Status Match Black Card in Theatre
MSC Meraviglia Muster Drill

How Has The Muster Drill Changed?

Pre covid, muster drills would be completed by gathering together all guests in their allocated muster station area at the same time. Due to social distancing measures, the majority of mainstream cruise lines are moving away from this method.

“The safety drill has always put a pause on the cruise experience, and felt like it could be more efficient.”

Nick Weir, (Royal Caribbean’s senior vice president) – source.

The photo below shows how muster drills used to be completed.

Life Jacket Selfies What Is a Muster Drill?
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The New Muster Process in Practise

On MSC cruises, the new muster process works as follows:

1 – Guests were told that a muster drill would be completed at a certain time. The ships bars and lounges would stop serving drinks in preparation for the drill (around 15 minutes before the designated time).

The muster drill time was listed in the daily schedule and was announced over the Yannoys. On the majority of cruise lines, the cruise line will let you know in advance what time to expect the drill. The only cruise I’ve ever been on where I didn’t know the exact time in advance was a cruise I took with Costa Cruises.

2 – All guests had to return to their cabins to watch the safety information on the TV.

There is usually a channel that continually plays the safety information, so this can be rewatched later if desired.

3 – Upon finishing watching the safety information, guests were told to phone an automated number in order to register that they had seen the video.

This number wasn’t shared anywhere other than at the end of the safety video. This was to make sure that guests had made it to the end of the video.

There is of course no way to know that a guest didn’t wander off in the middle of the video or if missed the start. Hopefully, all guests realize how important the videos are to watch.

msc muster drill in cabin

4 – Guests were asked to head to their muster stations in order to ‘check in’. Every passenger would have their cruise card scanned and this was used as a record of completing the muster drill.

Passengers were asked to proceed to the station directly after the video had finished.

I was cruising on the MSC Virtuosa which has a long LED dome in the Central Street. Muster station locations were projected onto the dome, which I thought was helpful.

MSC Virtuosa dome muster drill

What is a Muster Station?

A Muster Station is a place on a cruise ship where the safety drill takes place. Muster stations can either be inside or outside. Prior to the drill, you will be asked to check where your muster station is, as there are multiple on each cruise ship.

Your muster station is usually written on your cruise card and it’ll also be written on the back of your cabin door.

Inside Muster Stations

Most muster stations are a lounge, theatre, restaurant or bar.

The muster stations will either be a letter, a number of a combination of both. ‘A1’ ‘B’ or ‘4’ could all be your muster station. The map on the back of your cabin door will show you where this corresponds to. The location of the muster stations may also be announced over the Tannoy.

The muster stations are usually grouped together by cabin location. You might have all of deck 8 in muster station ‘D’ for example.

Below is a photo I took just before the muster drill on the Celebrity Silhouette. As you can see ‘A6’ is on the left and ‘A4’ is on the right.

Celebrity Silhouette Muster Station

Outside Muster Stations

Some muster stations are located on the promenade deck.

Before the covid cruising shutdown, muster drills completed on the promenade deck could take quite a long time. Guests would be asked to line up in lines of 4 or 5 and the safety information would be played over the overhead Tannoys for guests.

These types of muster drills were often difficult for guests who were unable to stand for long periods or those who felt uncomfortable around large groups.

I’m happy to see the end of this type of muster drill. They were particularly unpleasant if the weather was warm.

Which Cruise Lines Have Confirmed ‘Virtual’ Muster Drills?

It is expected that the majority of cruise lines will adopt a similar approach to muster drills as they restart sailing. Some cruise lines will complete muster drills by having guests watch safety videos in their cabin TVs.

Some cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean will take this a step further by allowing guests to complete the drill on their phones.

Virtual Muster
Royal CaribbeanConfirmed (Muster 2.0)
Norwegian Cruise LineConfirmed
Carnival Cruise LineNot Yet Confirmed
MSCConfirmed

The below photo shows a selection of screenshots from Royal Caribbean’s Muster 2.0 technology. This technology will allow passengers to complete muster drills electronically.

Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean

MSC Cruises Virtual Muster Drill Review

I MUCH preferred the muster drill completed in the new style. Watching the safety video in my cabin was much easier than watching it in a lounge or the theatre, as I’ve always had to do before.

MSC made it very clear where the muster stations were and there were lots of crew members around to help you find your muster station.

After watching the videos, all guests headed to their muster stations to check-in. Due to the fact that everybody left their cabins and went to their muster stations at the same time, there were quite a lot of people wandering around the ship.

It may have been better if MSC had said that guests have an hour, or so to make their way to their muster stations rather than asking guests to go immediately. I guess the problem here though is that some guests will always forget to go and check-in.

Either way, I much prefer this new style of safety drill and hope that all cruise lines will adopt a similar approach going forward.

Watch the full video here:

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