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Cruise Ship Muster Drills

Updated on August 23, 2017

All About Cruise Ship Safety Briefings

On your cruise, the first and last thing you absolutely MUST do is attend Muster Drill, sometimes referred to as the "lifeboat drill." That is, until it's time to pack to (eek!) go home.

Yes, it's required. For you, me, and everyone. It could save our lives!

You probably won't ever need the information provided at the safety briefing.

But what if you do? Be sure to listen, so that you know what to do if your cruise ship should find itself in a situation even remotely similar to that of the Costa Concordia or (heaven forbid) the Titanic.

If you've not cruised before, this page will tell you what to expect from muster drill. Even if you have ... did you know that there's been a change because of the Concordia disaster? I'll talk about that, too.

Photo (my own): Crew members in a Lifeboat


Listen for the Emergency Signal

Seven Short, followed by One Long

The emergency signal is:

seven short blasts,

then one long blast

on the ship's horn and inside alarms.

If you hear it before the ship leaves the pier, it means that it's time to go to the drill. Be prepared to WALK up or down the stairs to the designated deck. This simulates what would actually happen in a true emergency.

If you hear it any other time, it's an emergency!

If you're in your cabin, immediately and quickly put on warm clothes, grab essential medications, your passport, your life vest**, and GO. If you're elsewhere, precede without delay directly to your muster station.

pd image from Open ClipArt,

modifications mine

** There is a recent proposal that life vests be stowed at the muster stations, rather than in passenger cabins. I think it's likely this will be adopted by major lines, or even made a requirement in the near future.

Learn About Cruising - Before your Choose Your First Cruise

From which cruise line might be right for you, and how to choose a ship, to what to expect when you board and all during the remainder of your cruise vacation.

Hear What it Sounds Like - Interior Emergency Tone on Liberty of the Seas

This short video lets you hear the emergency signal sounds like. The one you hear in the video is the one is from the Liberty of the Seas. Virtually all ships use this same signal. Hopefully, the only time you'll hear it is when it's calling you to muster drill. If it should be needed in a situation of actual distress, it will be hard to miss. It's sounded inside the ship, broadcast into the cabins, and also on all outside speakers. The ship's foghorn would also be used.


Do I REALLY Have to Go?

All Passengers are Required to Attend

YES, you MUST. I have been to so many of them I could recite the presentation by heart. Heck, I could GIVE the thing. I still have to go. So do you.

At the drill, you learn what to do in case of an emergency at sea. This knowledge could save your life!

Even if you've heard it before, you still must attend. And pay attention! (Or at least be polite enough to refrain from chatting, so that others can hear the presentation. PLEASE)

Muster drills used to all be held on outside decks, at the actual mustering locations. You had to bring your life vest and practice putting it on properly. In recent years, this has changed on some cruise lines. Some assembly points are inside. Some only present a demonstration of how to don your vest, but do not require you to bring it with you.

Most lines verify attendance, and some will not even begin until all passengers have arrived. Yes, they KNOW who you are! The last thing you want is to have a couple thousand others impatiently awaiting your arrival. This does NOT increase your likability factor!

Life Vest Symbol, pd

Are Muster Drills Boring? - What do you think?

Do yo think Muster Drills are boring?

See results

Tip: Plan Evacuation Routes

Before Your Ship has Sailed

Here's a photo of our assigned place on one of our cruises. It's wise to take yourself on a little tour of the ship just after you board. This is a good time to physically find your station. That's what we were doing when I took this picture.

How can you find out where your station is?

Once you are aboard your cruise ship, look on the inside of your cabin door. There, you should find a chart that tells you which Muster Station is yours. There will be a diagram, with the to route your station marked. That's where you should report to in the even of an emergency.

Determine the easiest routes to your muster station - without the use of an elevator - from areas where you may be spending large chunks of time. For example:

Your stateroom

Your dining room

The bufffet

The pool area

The reason you should figure out how to get to your emergency meeting place without using an elevator is that, if and when something dreadful occurs, elevator service will immediately be shut down. We once had to descend four flights, handing on for dear life, when the seas suddenly became terribly rough, and all guests were ordered to return immediately to their cabins. There was no elevator service available in that situation, though we did see people hopefully pressing the call buttons on each deck as we headed down the stairs.

It's way easier to get to where you need to in the midst of 3000 or so confused and/or panicky people if you already know how to get there! Remember, in an emergency, elevators will be disabled.

Muster stations are on an outer deck accessible to lifeboats, and the various stations are typically marked with an overhead sign, similar to the one circled in the above photo.

Because of Titanic,

new safety regulations

were implemented on her

Sister Ships Olympic and Britannic


Additional Safety Drills for the Crew

Real Lifeboats Are Used

In spite of the fact that many people refer to muster as the "lifeboat drill," no one ever actually gets into a lifeboat during these safety briefings.

However, true lifeboat drills are held on a regular basis, during which crew members practice their assigned roles for emergency situations. During them, cruise ship crew members practice getting into the lifeboats, lowering them into the water, and navigating them.

These drills are often held while the ship is in a port. I've observed a number of them, and they're quite interesting to watch.

Lifeboat from Mariner of the Seas (photo: mine)

Because of Costa Concordia,

new Muster Drill Regulations

have been implemented worldwide


Recent Change to Regulations

Because of the Costa Concordia Disaster

When Costa Concordia sailed from Civitavecchia (Rome) at 7 pm, some 600 new passengers joined those already aboard. There had already been a muster drill for the continuing passengers. But, when the ship hit the that evening, those 600 new passengers had not attended one.

Still, the Concordia was within the law. It stated that a drill must be held within 24 hours of embarkation. The several hundred passngers who joined the ship at Civitaveccchia were scheduled to attend a drill the next day.

As a result of what happened just off the coast of Giglio, international cruise organizations, including CLIA , IMO, and others have agreed that - effective immediately - safety briefings absolutely, positively, MUST take place BEFORE a cruise ship sails from its port of embarkation.

Photo: my own

Do You Approve of the Rule? - Have Your Say Here!

Most every ship sailing from a US port already was holding muster drill before sailing. But that was not the case for all European sailings, particularly Italian ones.

Were the international cruise organizations right to change the rule to mandate muster drills BEFORE sailing?

In spite of occasional tragedies

like Titanic and Concordia,

Cruise Ships continue to be

a very safe form of transportation!

Bon Voyage!

Have a Wonderful Time when You Sail

Now that you've done your duty, and taken personal responsibility to see to your safety should that very unlikely emergency arise, enjoy the rest of your cruise!

Do Famous Shipwrecks make you scared of cruising? - (a poll based on current events)

This year, it's been a century since the sinking of the Titanic, and we've recently seen a modern cruise ship, the Costa Concordia run aground.

Do stories like this make you think twice about taking a cruise?

NOTE: An estimated 16 million people cruise each year. Yet, there are fewer cruise deaths than there are in other forms of transportation.

Do the stories of cruise ship tragedies and difficulties make you reluctant to cruise?

See results

Have You Been to a Ship's Safety Briefing? - Do you think they're necessary?

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    Post Comment
    • CruiseReady profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from East Central Florida

      @nealberk: Amen to that!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      A suggestion to everyone. If you have to put on your life vest for muster drill, no matter how great the temptation, do NOT blow the whistle. You have no idea how many people have blown it before you.......

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Learnt something new! Thank you!

    • CruiseReady profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from East Central Florida

      @MBradley McCauley: Thank you so much!

    • traveller27 profile image


      7 years ago

      Very informative - well done!

    • MBradley McCauley profile image

      MBradley McCauley 

      7 years ago

      Well done, informative lens. Will be linking it in my cruise lenses later today.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image


      7 years ago

      Very good lens and very important. It's particularly the younger crowd who makes such a mess of muster. They're ready to party and not thinking of consequences.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      7 years ago

      Well done lens with lots of good info. Blessed!


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