Tips for Muster Drill

One of the first things that you will do before leaving from your embarkation port is the muster drill; please make note of the name. This has nothing to do with the popular yellow condiment, but you will hear people call it the mustard drill. Also known as the life boat drill, this mandatory drill is required by SOLAS -Safety of Life at Sea – for the benefit of all. After the tragedy of the Costa Concordia, the rules require this drill be completed before departure. If you have sailed multiple times, you know the drill, no pun intended. If this is your first time sailing or if it’s been a few years since you last sailed, here are a few tips.

  • Watch the demo that is playing on your stateroom TV. This gives a good overview of the process.
  • Look in your closet and locate your life jackets. If you have children, let your stateroom attendant know. If you don’t have life jackets or not enough for the number of people in your room, let your stateroom attendant know.
  • Your muster station is usually marked on your room key.
    Muster station
    Your key card tells you where to assemble for muster.
  • There is also a deck plan on the door to your room showing you where your muster station is.
  • After you locate you muster station, go try to find it you can easily get there when the muster drill starts. Muster stations may be inside the ship and are not necessarily on the deck near the lifeboats. If taking place on the deck, you usually need to line up in a single file line – sometimes in height order. There are always helpful crew members who can direct you to your proper station.
  • Be on time for the muster drill. This is serious business and the sooner it starts, the sooner it ends. The drill usually takes place 30-minutes before scheduled departure and lasts about 15 minutes IF all passengers are on time. It’s very frustrating waiting for the stragglers.
  • Leave your life jacket in the closet unless otherwise directed. There is no need to wear it to the drill.
  • Don’t consider skipping out. Crew will either scan your room key or check your name off a list to be sure that you have attended. They WILL come looking for you if you did not attend and you will have to make up the drill at a later date. Not a fun way to start your vacation.
    muster drill
    Lining up for outside muster drill.
  • Do pay attention at the drill and refrain from eating, drinking and talking. Put away your cell phone. Be sure you watch the demonstration on how to put on your life jacket and listen to the other instructions. The 7- short blasts followed by one long blast will be sounded. Plug your ears to save your hearing.
  • Relax after the drill and let everybody else fight the dispersing crowds.
  • If you have any questions, seek out the safety officer on the ship.
  • Enjoy your cruise!

And yes, this is what you would really do in an emergency. I have met passengers at the muster drill who thought it was a mindless exercise and asked if this is how it would work in a real emergency. Sometimes I seriously worry about the other passengers that I might have to share a life boat with.


I like what Holland America Cruise Line states about its mandatory passenger safety emergency drill: “Guests who refuse to participate in the drill will not be permitted to sail with the vessel.”

Sail Away


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