Since returning from the pandemic, Carnival, Norwegian, Disney Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean have all struggled with the same issue.
Nobody likes to stop their vacation to stand in the hot sun waiting for less considerate people to show up. That, however, is exactly what happens at a traditional cruise line muster drill.
At a certain time, usually a couple of hours before sail away, everything shuts down on the ship and all passengers must report to their muster station — the place onboard where each passenger must go in case of an emergency. Once at their station, cruise passengers sit through a demonstration on how to put on a lifejacket and some other safety instructions.
The problem is that the classic muster drill requires every passenger to show up before the drill begins. That essentially never happens to the people who showed up on time end up waiting on those who didn’t. That’s frustrating and quite uncomfortable for people whose muster station happens to be outside, which is many of them.
Since the pandemic, cruise lines have been using a virtual muster where passengers watch safety videos on the cruise line’s app and then check in at their physical muster station. Royal Caribbean Group (RCL) – Get Free Report and Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) – Get Free Report still use that technology while Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) – Get Free Report and Walt Disney’s (DIS) – Get Free Report cruise line have reverted to the classic version.
Royal Caribbean may actually have accidentally discovered a happy medium that could keep a variant on the virtual/digital/e-muster/muster 2.0 that will keep passengers happy and keep passengers safe.
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Celebrity Cruises May Have the Muster Answer
While Celebrity Cruises is owned by Royal Caribbean, it generally caters to a slightly older audience than the company’s namesake brand. The cruise line uses the same virtual muster as Royal Caribbean, but many of its passengers appear to not watch the videos in the app or on their stateroom television before checking in at their muster station.
If you fail to do that, people at the station provide the demonstration. In the case of Celebrity, many of the people conducting the life jacket demos and safety talk are members of the entertainment staff. Using musicians and performers to deliver that information certainly is an improvement over a video that can’t gauge whether people are actually paying attention. In fact, it might even be better than the traditional muster which has a fairly large group of people.
The Celebrity setup requires the demo to be done over and over again, but for small engaged groups. That might actually be a more logical way to effectively conduct muster drills in a way that supports passengers being able to complete the drill in a multi-hour window (without being dependent upon other passengers showing up) while also having them absorb the safety information.
Safety Is the Core Goal of the Muster Drill
Muster drills are a legal requirement observed by the U.S. Coast Guard. At the core level, the point is to make sure passengers get the required safety information. The old system and the full e-muster setup compromise, making sure the most passengers possible both hear and absorb the information.
The cruise lines want to make sure that happens in the most efficient way possible, but they also don’t want to have to shut down revenue-producing areas on their ships for an extended period. Moving to a system that requires people to attend an in-person presentation (ideally one presented by a member of the entertainment staff) at their leisure within a broad window on sail away day may actually be the most effective and most convenient option.