In response to a wave of online rumors through social media, forums, and videos, Carnival Cruise Line has clarified its plan for the essential safety briefing, also known as the muster drill.
The muster drill has changed since pre-pandemic options, but the new “e-muster” variation, which is much more streamlined and popular with guests, is the current format for the safety briefing.
E-Muster Is Here to Stay
Carnival Cruise Line brand ambassador John Heald has clarified that the e-muster format is still in use aboard all Carnival ships and will remain the preferred safety briefing for the time being.
“We are not changing anything and unless we are instructed to by United States Coast Guard, we will continue with the system that I know many of you appreciate,” Heald said.
This clarification comes after a series of posts in which Heald shared Carnival Cruise ship deck plans, indicating where each muster station is. Those posts sparked rumors that Carnival must be planning to return to the in-person muster drill, which Heald has now confirmed is not the case.
A muster station is the designated meeting point onboard where guests should assemble if directed to do so in an emergency.
Marked by prominent green signage and bold lettering, muster stations are typically located in public areas such as lounges or broad deck spaces where large groups of people can be accommodated and receive emergency instructions.
Old Style Muster Drills
Prior to the pandemic, every cruise ship held an in-person safety briefing prior to setting sail, during which guests gathered at their muster stations and watched a demonstration for how to put on a life jacket.
Other safety information, such as how to contact emergency services, the importance of onboard fire safety, and other tips are also part of the muster drill.
Instructions were also given over the public address system, and depending on the ship and the muster station location, guests might also be led to their life boats along the appropriate route to familiarize them with procedures if evacuating the ship became necessary.
While crucial for sharing safety information and keeping guests informed about onboard safety, the in-person drills have often been criticized as ineffective.
It can be difficult to hear instructions in a large, chattering crowd, and the drills can become lengthy as guests must wait for all passengers to report to the appropriate station and be checked in.
Guests would not be released from the safety briefing until all passengers were accounted for and in attendance at their designated muster station. In total, this process could last 30-45 minutes or longer.
New Electronic Muster Drills
The COVID-19 pandemic changed many aspects of cruising, and one of the most welcome was the implementation of the electronic muster drill, e-muster, or virtual safety briefing.
Created to help eliminate large, in-person crowds when community transmission was devastating, the e-muster drill permits guests to watch online safety briefing videos at their convenience, often well before setting sail.
Once onboard, guests report to their muster stations to be checked off a list that they had completed the task. This meant that guests could all report at different times, with no large group gatherings.
After that, guests were free to begin their cruise vacation right away. For most guests, the entire time to find their muster station and complete their e-muster is no more than 5-10 minutes.
The e-muster was largely received with great positivity and has become greatly preferred by most cruise guests. There have been some difficulties, however, as not all guests report to their muster stations in a timely manner, which can lead to lengthy announcements reminding guests to complete their e-muster.
International maritime law requires that all cruise passengers complete a safety briefing before the ship is permitted to set sail. Therefore, if many guests fail to visit their muster stations, this could cause delays in a ship’s departure, resulting in heavy fines for the cruise line.
Cruise lines have tried a variety of policies to encourage faster e-mustering, including limiting drink purchases on shipboard cards until after guests have mustered, greeting embarking guests right away with directions to their muster station, or shutting down food and beverage service prior to departure with reminders for mustering.
Some cruise lines have considered the idea of returning to in-person drills, and Disney Cruise Line has already done so, eliminating the e-muster option entirely.
It must be noted that ultimately, the decision whether or not to continue e-mustering is not just up to the cruise line, but also up to local maritime authorities such as the United States Coast Guard.
If a cruise line consistently fails to use e-muster adequately, it may be necessary to return to in-person drills. While at this time, only Disney Cruise Line is returning to in-person safety briefings, stay tuned to Cruise Hive for further updates if additional cruise lines follow.