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What is a Muster Drill on a Cruise? Everything You Need to Know (REVIEW of Traditional and Virtual Muster Drills)

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 in the last few years.

Most cruise lines seem to have moved away from the Traditional Muster Drill, where you assemble at your Muster Station – often on the promenade deck – and stand and listen to the safety announcements given by the crew.

Now you are much more likely to be watching a safety video on the cabin TV or the cruise line App

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 Traditional Muster Drill takes less than 30 minutes and is a legal requirement.

A Muster Drill will happen on every cruise in some form or another. 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?

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.

It is a legal requirement that all passengers take part in the Muster Drill. It is compulsory.

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 have attended the Muster Station, to prove they have taken part.

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.

The majority of mainstream cruise lines have moved away from this, partly due to the social distancing rules of the covid pandemic.

All bars and restaurants onboard would be shut at a set time, and the crew would man the stairs or Muster stations to assist with the drill.

This meant that guests could not really start to enjoy their cruise holiday until the Muster Drill was completed.

“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 photos below show how Muster Drills used to be completed.

It is unusual to find this type of traditional Muster Drill on a mainstream cruise ship now.

Life Jacket Selfies What Is a Muster Drill?
Photos shared by members of our Facebook group. What a gorgeous bunch! Thank you all! Join us here.

Virtual or E Musters

The new style of Muster is far better in my opinion. There is none of the waiting around in a bar or on a promenade deck, waiting for latecomers to show up! It is far quicker too.

An E-muster or Virtual Muster Drill involves guests watching safety videos prior to boarding the ship or onboard on the cabin TV.

Guests then only need to visit their assigned Muster Station once aboard, so that they know where to find it in case of a real emergency.

The traditional drill, on the other hand, involves all passengers participating at once in a large venue like the theatre and takes 30-45 minutes which takes precious time out of your cruise holiday.

Guests seem to far prefer the newer Style Muster Drills.

Norwegian Cruiseline did go back to the old-style Muster after the Covid Pandemic – but within a couple of months, they had backtracked and returned to the E Muster.

In an effort to enhance the onboard guest experience while keeping the safety of our guests and crew our top priority, we will reinstate e-muster drills through our online check-in for sailings beginning April 1, 2023

Norwegian Cruise Line
msc muster drill in cabin
E muster safety video onboard MSC Virtuosa May 2021

When I sailed on the first ship to leave the UK after the pandemic – the MSC Virtuosa – Muster station locations were projected onto the dome, which I thought was very helpful.

MSC Virtuosa dome muster drill

What is a Muster Station?

A Muster Station is a place on a cruise ship where you “Muster” together in an emergency situation.

Stations can either be inside or outside on the deck.

There are multiple Muster Stations and you will know where yours is by checking in your App or looking at the safety poster on the back of your cabin door.

Your Muster Station number is also written on your cruise card.

Inside Muster Stations

The Muster Stations will either be a letter – a number – or a combination of both.

Most Muster Stations are in a Lounge, Theatre, Restaurant or Bar.

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

Before the Covid cruising shutdown, Muster Drills that were often completed on the Promenade deck outside could take quite a long time.

I remember standing about on the Promenade deck of the Costa Luminosa for what seemed like ages, waiting for other guests to show up.

Some Muster Stations are on the ship’s Promenade deck. This isn’t very good in very hot – or very cold weather!

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.

Not every guest turned up on time, and you were often left hanging about, waiting for latecomers.

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

Which Cruise Lines Have ‘Virtual’ Muster Drills?

The majority of mainstream cruise lines now have virtual or E musters, rather than traditional Muster Drills.

An E-muster or Virtual Muster Drill involves guests watching safety videos prior to boarding the ship or onboard on the cabin TV.

Once onboard you go to your Muster Station in person and check in. The crew then know you have completed the drill and can find the Muster Station in case of a real-life emergency.

Cruise lines who now carry out Virtual or E Musters include:

  • Royal Caribbean
  • Celebrity
  • Carnival
  • Norwegian Cruse Line
  • Princess
  • Holland America
  • Oceania
  • Virgin Voyages

Only smaller and more traditional cruise lines, like Fred Olsen and Azamara, seem to be sticking with the old-style Muster. This could be because their technology isn’t good enough to support an E muster, or they have an older passenger demographic that might not like the E Musters anyway.

Find out all about my cruise with the Traditional British Cruiseline Fred Olsen in the video below:

Fred Olsen Cruise to Norway “In Search Of The Northern Lights”
Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean

The above photo shows a selection of screenshots from Royal Caribbean’s Muster 2.0 technology. This technology allows passengers to complete muster drills electronically on their phones.

Musters on MSC and Costa Cruises

If you cruise with Costa or MSC around the Mediterranean you will notice that guests can embark and disembark at any port.

This means that there are Muster Drills taking place virtually every day for the passengers that have just embarked.

It can be a little unnerving, to hear announcements about reporting your Muster Station when you know you have already completed your Muster Drill!

Once you have carried out your Muster Drill on your day of Embarkation, you need never complete another one.

Before You Go!

Lots of other new safety measures were put in place for cruise ships after a fire onboard the Star Princess in 2006. Find out all about how the fire started, and how the cruise line dealt with that emergency here:

Star Princess Fire (2006) – Pictures, Cause, and Safety Improvements

Lots of people still think that cruising through the Bermuda Triangle is an unsafe thing to do! Find out all about the Bermuda Triangle, the ships that have been lost there, and whether it is less safe there than cruising elsewhere in the article below:

Cruising Through The Bermuda Triangle – What to Expect, and should you avoid it?

I was lucky enough to cruise to Bermuda recently on Norwegian Prima and had a wonderful time! Find out all about that trip here:

I Spent 7 Days on a LUXURY Megaship – Inside Norwegian Prima

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

Ever wondered how the mainstream cruise lines compare? Cruise lines won’t tell you this, but I will.

This FREE guide shows you everything you need to know to find your perfect cruise line.