Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) has just announced that it will be discarding the current electronic muster drills and reverting to the traditional, in-person variety. The change takes effect immediately, across all three of its brands: Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
According to Travel Weekly, NCLH explained in a statement, “We continuously evaluate our procedures for providing detailed instructions on safety and security measures to our guests, and as such have made the decision to reinstate synchronized, in-person muster drills on embarkation day across all vessels within the fleet.”
It’s not the first major cruise line to do so. Disney Cruise Line announced in mid-November that it was going back to the old ways, requiring passengers to complete in-person muster drills aboard all of its vessels. While Disney gave no specific reasons for the policy reversal, Cruise Hive speculated that it came down to a lack of guest participation.
E-muster protocols were widely adopted after cruising resumed from its pandemic-prompted hiatus in 2021, providing guests with a socially distanced and more flexible means of fulfilling their safety drill requirements upon embarkation.
While guests have undoubtedly appreciated the transition to e-musters—which make completing the mandatory maritime safety training more convenient and hassle-free during a hectic boarding process—cruise companies seem to have found cause to abandon the tech-based approach in favor of the traditional format.
Will Other Major Cruise Lines Follow Suit?
Other major lines say they see no reason to return to the old ways, which require guests to find time during the boarding process to physically find their way to an assigned meeting place, assembling with their fellow passengers, for a presentation on emergency procedures.
Greg Purdy, Royal Caribbean International’s Senior Vice President of Marine Operations, told Royal Caribbean Blog that the company has no intention of resurrecting the traditional muster drills. “We have no intention of moving back,” he said on the subject. “We’re always open to change, but we’re not so open to going backwards. So, we will always look for moving forward and doing things if they’re better to do for our guests and our crew.”
Purdy opined that guest participation has actually improved with the e-muster method. “We’re fairly aggressive about ensuring that you complete the safety drill prior to sailing. So, we see rates typically upwards of over 97 percent on our ships for participation,” he said, adding, “That’s actually better than the old traditional drill.”
The tech-based approach is also arguably more efficient and effective. Purdy also said Royal Caribbean has found that passengers absorb the information better with e-musters. “For us, this is really an improvement in the transfer of knowledge,” he shared. “We actually did surveys to test that, is their retention of knowledge better, and in fact, it was.”
As guests complete the training virtually via presentations in-app or on their stateroom televisions, stateroom attendants can see which guests have completed the e-muster and answer any questions.
Another big name in the industry, Carnival Cruise Line, also apparently sees no reason to backtrack its approach to muster drills. In response to questions on the subject, John Heald, Carnival Cruise Lines’ Senior Cruise Director and Brand Ambassador, shared the company’s official response in a social media post.
Carnival leadership said, “Our experience with the e-muster process has been extremely positive and we are able to provide our guests with critical safety information in a more individualized manner, including them understanding very specifically where their muster station is and how to get to it. The e-muster process has also generated positive comments for effectiveness during our post-cruise survey results. We will continue to utilize our e-mustering process while always looking for ways to improve its effectiveness.”
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