It happens every time you board a cruise ship. The bars and activities all close and your captain or cruise director announce it will be starting soon: The Muster Drill! So, what exactly is it and what do you need to know about it?
What is a Muster Drill?
The muster drill is a mandatory lifeboat and safety drill required on every cruise line. This drill reviews how to evacuate the ship in the event of an emergency. Guests are shown what to do in case of an emergency, such as where to muster (the nautical term for assembling in a specific area) and how to put on a lifejacket. At a designated muster station, the crew spend about 30 minutes walking guests through instructions and safety tips while on board.
If you try to skip out, please keep in mind that the cruise line reserves the right to remove you from the ship (with no refund) if you do not comply.
Where are the Muster Stations?
A muster station (sometimes called a muster point or an assembly station) is a meeting area on the ship where a guest is assigned to go in the event of an emergency. They are typically located in areas on the ship that can hold large groups of people with seating, such as the main dining room, restaurants or lounges.
There are signs all over the ship, including staterooms, which show passengers the best route to take; however, crew members will also direct guests, as needed.
Your stateroom location determines your assigned muster station. The assembly point is clearly printed on every cruise stateroom card. It’s a good idea to see if your muster station will be the same as your children or other traveling companions, if they are staying in a different stateroom before booking.
When is Muster Time?
According to international law, a muster drill must be done within 24 hours of departure from port. However, most ships conduct the drill prior to departure.
The drill usually takes place about an hour before the ship leaves port. So, if your ship departs at 4:00 PM, then usually all guests must board by 2:00 PM and a muster drill starts around 2:30 to 3:00 PM. This varies by ship, but most like to get it out of the way as soon as possible.
Don’t worry about missing the muster drill, because the crew will announce across the ship-wide speakers before it occurs.
What is the Muster Process?
Not long after the last passengers are on board, the captain or cruise director will come over the ship-wide speakers, which are also located in every stateroom, to inform everyone.
All guest activities and venues will shut down in advance of the drill (15-30 minutes prior) to ensure that no guests or crew members are otherwise occupied when the drill occurs.
The captain sounds the emergency signal horn; identified by 7 short blasts followed by 1 long blast.
The crew will direct passengers to muster stations. If someone in your family requires elevators or assistance to get to their muster station, a crew member can assist.
At each muster station, a crew member will scan cruise stateroom cards to account for all passengers.
The crew reviews important safety information for about 30 minutes, such as how to put on life jackets and areas where smoking is allowed. Passengers don’t actually have to wear lifejackets on most cruise lines.
Are There Any Other Muster Tips?
Don’t try to skip it. If you miss the drill for any reason, they may require you to attend a make-up session. Failure to comply can result in removal from the ship.
Pay Attention. It’s easy to ignore safety drills, but don’t! Even if you have been on multiple cruises, keep in mind that criteria or procedures may change regularly.
Arrange a meeting point for after the drill with others in your traveling party who have a separate muster station.
For young children, it’s always a good idea to make sure they know what will be happening. Comparing it to a fire drill at school can help them understand it better.
Take the stairs the drill to avoid the crowd. Or wait until most people leave to avoid a line at the elevators.