What is a Cruise Ship Muster Drill?


Going on a cruise vacation can be exciting, especially on embarkation day when the ship sets sail. While emergencies at sea are rare, the safety drills, also known as “muster drills” on cruise ships are created to help familiarize passengers with safety protocols. They are mandatory for all passengers, including passengers who have cruised before, meaning every time a person takes a cruise vacation, he or she must attend the muster drill.

Today, many cruise lines have converted to a virtual muster process that allows guests to watch safety briefings from their smartphones or stateroom TV prior to visiting their muster station on their own within a specified window of time. Norwegian Cruise Line recently updated its muster drill policy, moving back to the e-muster drill after having resumed the more traditional, in-person muster drills in late January. Now, the e-muster drill will be reinstated fleetwide for sailings on or after April 1, 2023, but may not be available on all ships right away.



What is a Muster Drill, and How Does It Work? 

A muster drill is a mandatory safety exercise created with the purpose of familiarizing all cruise ship passengers and crew members with what is called a muster station. The muster station is a location where they will assemble in the event of an emergency. During the muster drill, passengers will be provided with additional safety information and training.

All passengers will be required to either attend a physical drill or complete one virtually on the cruise company’s app. If the passenger has the option to participate via an app, he or she will be required to physically visit the muster station in addition to completing the training online.

During in-person muster drills, all passengers are required to head to their designated muster stations at the same time. All passenger cruise cards will be scanned when arriving to confirm attendance at the muster drill. In-person drills will include life jacket demonstrations, as well as other safety announcements and information.

The muster drill may take longer for passengers sailing on a ship with a larger percentage of international guests. The reason for this is the extra time it takes for the crew to make announcements in several different languages.

For all muster drills, once the drills are completed, the emergency signal will sound. The purpose of  sounding the emergency alarm is to familiarize all passengers with what it sounds like in the event of an emergency.

The virtual muster drill format is somewhat of a new breed. Many of the major cruise lines switched to this virtual format, allowing passengers to watch safety videos and listen to the vessel’s emergency signal on their mobile devices. However, once the passenger is onboard, he or she is still required to visit his or her muster station and must be marked present by scanning his or her cruise card. All of this must occur prior to the vessel leaving the dock, including the ship sounding the emergency horn to familiarize all passengers with what it sounds like.

Can the Muster Drill Be Skipped?

Unfortunately, no, the muster drill is something that is required for every single passenger. If a passenger fails to attend the muster drill, his or her name and stateroom number will be passed onto crew members who will then track the individual down and have him or her complete the muster drill. It is best to just get it out of the way at the beginning instead of waiting to be forced to attend.

If the passenger misses his or her initial muster drill, he or she will be given a second chance to complete the safety drill. If the passenger continues to miss the drills, the cruise line will force him or her off of the ship at the next port of call with no chance of receiving a refund. Many times, passengers who refuse to attend the muster drill do not even make it out of the dock before being kicked off the ship.

Why Is the Muster Drill So Important? 

Obviously, ship safety is important, which is why international maritime law requires all cruise ships hold muster drills before a ship sets sail.

If passengers want their ship to leave in a timely manner, it is important that everyone attend their respective muster drill once boarding.

Not only is important for all passengers to attend muster drills, but not attending can also result in a hefty fine placed on the cruise line.

What Led to the Creation of the Muster Drill?

The muster drill was created shortly after the enactment of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), an international treaty that was created following the sinking of the Titanic in 1914. The Titanic’s downfall was largely due to the fact that the vessel was poorly equipped in the event of an emergency. For instance, the Titanic only carried enough lifeboats for approximately half of the vessel’s passengers onboard.

Less than one-third of all passengers and crew on the Titanic survived the disaster, despite the fact that the amount of lifeboats on board should have saved at least fifty percent (50%) of all passengers. SOLAS was created to help prevent another tragedy like this from happening again. In order to accomplish this goal, SOLAS sets safety standards for the construction of passenger and merchant ships, as well as the operation of these vessels.

Safety standards are one thing, but why is it so important that these drills occur prior to the vessel setting sail? It took the sinking of the Costa Concordia for the requirement that muster drills take place prior to embarkation to become part of SOLAS. At the time the Concordia sank just off the coast of Italy, about 600 guests still had to complete the muster drill. So, in February 2012, it became a requirement for all cruise ships that passengers complete the muster drill while the vessel was still docked before embarkation.

The Virtual Muster Drill

The COVID-19 pandemic led to the need to modify muster drills in order to avoid accumulating large groups of people together in close quarters for too long. The virtual muster drills allowed passengers to view training videos prior to boarding and visit their respective muster station on the vessel prior to embarkation. Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norwegian, Oceania, Celebrity, Princess Cruise, Virgin Voyages, and Holland America Line all still allow virtual muster drills. Most guests approved of the virtual format, particularly those passengers who regularly traveled on cruise vacations before the pandemic hit and were used to the all in-person drill format.

Norwegian attempted to go back to traditional muster drills in January 2023 but received pushback from guests over losing the virtual format. As a result, Norwegian announced that all vessels would return to the e-muster drill format of training by April 1, 2023.

Currently, Disney Cruise Line and MSC Cruises are two of the only cruise lines requiring their passengers to attend an in-person muster drill before setting sail.

How Does a Virtual Muster Drill Work?

A virtual muster drill can work in a number of ways, but the format is usually pretty standard. Before embarkation day, passengers log into their reservation profiles with their respective cruise lines and watch the virtual muster drill from the comfort of their own homes. These drills can be watched on tablets and smart phones, as well. The virtual muster drills can also be viewed by the passengers on their stateroom television sets.

Once the passenger has viewed the virtual drill, the next step is to check in person with their muster station assembly leader on the vessel. Similar to how it is done with in-person drills, passengers will need to have their stateroom cards scanned to confirm their attendance.  Scanning these cards also allows the cruise line to track which guests have attended the muster drill prior to leaving. The only difference between an in-person muster drill and virtual muster drill is the guests will not have to congregate in large groups in close quarters for these trainings. Instead, the majority of the training can be completed at home or in their stateroom, which is why they have become so popular with cruise travelers.

What to Bring to the Muster Drill

Check with your cruise line to see what needs to be brough to the muster drill, if anything. For example, some cruise lines require passengers to bring their life jackets to the muster drill. However, not all require this. In fact, most of the major cruise lines do not require passengers to bring their life jackets from their stateroom to the muster drill. Make sure you check first to see what equipment you may need to bring to the muster drill prior to boarding so that you have time to accumulate everything you need prior to leaving. If in doubt, do not hesitate to ask a crew member about what you need to bring to your respective muster station.

Additional Tips:

Like so many things in life, it helps to be prepared prior to a muster drill. If your cruise line requires in-person muster drills, plan to be outside in the sun for an extended period of time, meaning apply sunscreen before going as you will not know whether your muster station will be in the direct sun until you arrive. It is best to avoid sitting in direct sunlight for over 30 minutes.

Passengers traveling with small children should talk with them prior to the muster drill, so that they know what to expect. It is always best to prepare children for what to do in the event of an emergency on the cruise ship, including knowing where to go and who to contact in the event of the unthinkable. Children should also be alerted as to the loud noises that come along with the emergency signal, especially if they are sensitive to loud noises.


If you have been injured on your cruise, on a wet and slippery deck, down a poorly lit staircase or steep gangway, in port on an excursion, or on a tender boat- it is important that you speak as soon as possible with a lawyer who specializes in personal injury claims against cruise lines. Most cruise lines, including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian, MSC, Disney, Holland America, Princess, Costa, Regents Seven Seas and Oceania require that claims against them be pursued in a specific place under strict deadlines. Failure to comply with each individual cruise line’s deadlines can result in a complete loss of any and all legal rights.

Aronfeld Trial Lawyers is a personal injury firm located in Miami, Florida since 1991.  We have fought hard to hold cruise lines accountable when they put their profits ahead of passenger safety.  We are available 24/7 and encourage you to contact us even if you are still on your cruise. The sooner we can begin our investigation and preservation of key evidence, such as the CCTV footage of your trip and fall, slip and fall, assault or other type of injury the more likely we will be able to understand and prove how the incident occurred. Remember, the cruise lines have the most aggressive and well-funded defense lawyers in the world- protecting their profits.  You need an experienced legal advocate in your corner who will fight to obtain the compensation you deserve for lost wages, medical expenses, transportation reimbursement and pain and suffering.  Call us today and speak with a cruise ship claims lawyer about your potential claim- toll free 1-888-742-0372305-770-6553, or by email. We are ready to help.


Could Cruise Lines Consider Removing the Virtual Muster Drill? (cruisehive.com)

What is a cruise ship muster drill? | Cruise.Blog

What is a muster drill? | Royal Caribbean Cruises

Microsoft Word – Muster_FAQs.docx (rccl.com)

Virtual Muster Drill – Norwegian Cruise Line – Cruise Critic Community