Edit…right now in September 2021 Muster Drills are being done differently. From what I’ve seen you watch a video on your phone or TV, then you go and watch a crewmember demonstrate how to put on a life jacket. It will be different on different cruise lines. Not sure if and when they’ll go back to the old system, but I’m fine with the new system. I hate being crushed in the crowd with the old muster drill system.
Can’t we just Muster Drill at the bar?
You may be wondering what the big deal about the Muster Drill is on the ship. It may seem that this is an optional activity. But yes, you really have to go to the Muster Drill. And let me tell you why….It can save your life in the event of an emergency.
According to International Maritime Law, all cruise lines have to follow the SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) regulations. Muster Drills must take place within 24 hours of embarkation. And, every passenger must attend. Don’t think that you can hide in your cabin or elsewhere during the Muster Drill to escape it. They will find you.
What to expect
So, what should you expect at your first Muster Drill? The drill is done differently on each ship. Sometimes, on a larger ship, the drill is done in the ship’s theater and/or dining rooms. On smaller ships, you will meet on a certain part of the deck.
To find your Muster Drill location, look at your sea-card. It will show which station you will be required to meet at. It will also give the location on the inside of the door of your cabin. When you get into your cabin, the TV will be on, and they will be showing the Muster Drill instructions on a continuous loop. Watch it to get your first idea of what to expect. And then take a walk and scope out exactly where your Muster Station is. They’re not always easy to find. Any crew member will be glad to help you find it.
Let’s start on larger ships. To me, these are the easiest ships when it comes to the Muster Drill. Normally on a larger ship your Muster Station will be either in the main theater, or in one of the dining room areas.
You will be warned a bit ahead of time that the muster drill will be beginning. You will not have to bring your life vest, at least we’ve never had to. The instructions on the TV will tell you if you need to or not. You will usually find your life vest in the closet of your cabin. However, on some of the largest ships, they keep the life vests at the Muster Station. If they do you wouldn’t have to go to your cabin in the event of an emergency to get it. Don’t want everyone falling over everyone else in the rush to get it.
And it begins
At the beginning of the Muster Drill you will hear the alarm go off. This is the time to head to your muster station. No drinks or food allowed, so finish up before you go. You’re lucky if you’re on a larger ship, because you can find a seat in your drill area, so don’t dawdle. The longer you take to get there, the longer the drill will take. They will not start until everyone is accounted for. And they can tell if you’re not there because they will most likely swipe your sea pass card.
You will see crew members around holding life vests. The cruise director, or someone in the crew will be giving instructions over the PA system. If you’re lucky you’ll get Carnival’s Reverend Dr. E. He is hilarious. And sometimes they will show a film giving directions for the Muster Drill.
Then the crew members will demonstrate the correct way to put a life vest on. Children under 12 will receive a wrist band that they have to wear at all times for the duration of the cruise. In the event of an emergency, if your children are in the children’s areas of the ship without you, you would go to your Muster Station, and the crew would bring your child(ren) to you.
On smaller ships, it’s not quite as easy. Your Muster Station will be on the ship deck, the deck where the lifeboats are accessible. They will swipe your sea-card and then line you up, row by row. Again, no food or drinks permitted.
Last time we did this, we were there early. Bad mistake. We got lined up in the back row against the wall, then rows upon rows of people were line up in front of us. Not a very pleasant place to be, shoved up against the wall for quite a while. It was hot and miserable and I thought it would never end. So, I would advise hanging back a bit and then getting lined up towards the front of your section.
It amazes me how many people will fit into those lifeboats. You will not be getting into a lifeboat, or even see what the inside of one looks like. But you will listen to the cruise director give instructions to you of what to do in the event of an emergency, and also safety regulations, such as only smoking in designated areas. Then the crew members will demonstrate the proper use of the life jacket. After the Muster Drill is over, you will be told to leave, and then you can go and enjoy the ship to your heart’s content.
So, the basics are: Don’t try and ignore the Muster Drill, even if you’ve done that before. It is a mandatory drill. And if you don’t go and they have to look for you, you’re slowing it down for everyone.