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Royal Caribbean: "we have no intention of moving back" to old muster drill

26 Jan 2023

Fear not, Royal Caribbean's new safety drill isn't going anywhere.

eMuster process

When cruises restarted in 2021, Royal Caribbean lead the way with a new approach to the safety drill that gave guests more time and flexibility to getting the maritime safety requirement taken care of during the course of the first day of their cruise.

The change was widely heralded by passengers who loved the change because of how much easier the process became.

In the last few months, two major cruise lines announced they were reverting back from eMuster to the traditional muster drill that required passengers to stop their vacation and attend a safety drill meeting.

Norwegian Cruise Line announced their change last week that they, "have made the decision to reinstate synchronized muster drills on embarkation day across all vessels in the fleet."

Disney Cruise Line made a similar decision in November 2022.

"We don't really look backwards"

Greg Purdy is Royal Caribbean International's Senior Vice President of Marine Operations, and he unequivocally stated the cruise line has no interest in going back to an in-person muster drill.

"We have no intention of moving back," Mr. Purdy said when asked about other lines changing and if Royal Caribbean would do the same. "We are always looking for opportunities to improve. So if we see a way to improve our drill, we certainly will will pursue that."

"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."

Crew member emuster

The decision to stay with eMuster has a lot to do with the results it has produced.

He mentioned that Royal Caribbean has "extremely high percentage rates for guest participation", which is in part due to training of the crew members to facilitate it, as well as plenty of reminder announcements."

Mr. Purdy went on to say participation rates are higher with eMuster than the old way, "we're fairly aggressive about ensuring that you complete the safety drill prior to sailing. So we see rates typically upwards of over 97% on our ships for participation."

"That's actually better than the old traditional drill."

eMuster on phones

Technology has played a pivotal role in ensuring guest participation is higher because stateroom attendants have access to data if their guests have completed the muster drill yet.

"We're much more proactive and ensuring that you get to the drill or that if you have any questions that those are addressed."

Most importantly, guests get the important information while making the process easier overall, "This has been a real win for the guest and a win for those of our crew that are charged with with safety responsibilities in an emergency."

Mr. Purdy sees the eMuster as a good balance of explaining important information while giving guests a better overall experience, "we wanted to see how do we avoid crowds and how do we give people a more pleasant experience, but most importantly, an experience where the knowledge is transferred in a in a better way."

To that point, he thinks eMuster is a "big step" forward for the cruise line, "we think that it really was a a huge step for us as a quality vacation in the world."

Improving on problems from the old drill

Mr. Purdy pointed out that the old way of the muster drill had its own deficiencies to contend with, "one of the things we saw with that in those early days was that people were dragging those life jackets around the ship."

And since everyone had to stop what they were doing and go up or down stairs to their muster stations with the old drill, it lead to accidents, "not only were they damaging the life jackets, but they were also tripping them a lot of trips and slips."

Of course, Royal Caribbean switched to having the life jackets staged at the muster station and stored in cabins. But there were more issues.

"We started looking even still have these crowds that are just kind of following flows and going to a muster station, but still having slips and trips, not having a comfortable or easy experience."

Royal Caribbean then added safety videos to stateroom televisions, but the advent of apps on everyone's phones lead to the idea of a digital approach to safety drills.

"As people got more used to using their phones, that's when the idea came up saying, couldn't we have an even better transfer of knowledge if we start to leverage the tools we have, which are the apps and the videos."

"And let's think it through, how could we make this safer and also eliminate this kind of period of time that everybody's in this moving down in the masses without really understanding kind of what they're doing or where they're going?"

The other major improvement of eMuster over the old drill was comfort for guests. 

In the old way, people were lined up (often outdoors), which was problematic for elderly guests and young children.

"This is a situation that is counter to a good experience where we're ultimately transferring quality safety knowledge to the guests."

With eMuster, guests get the safety information in a better way, "they're able to have a more personal experience with the crew to ask them questions about the muster, to receive further instruction about donning the life jacket or or what should they bring."

Mr. Purdy went on to say surveys show that passengers are getting more of the important info with eMuster, "for us, this is really an improvement in the transfer of knowledge."

"We actually did surveys to test that, is their retention of knowledge better, and in fact, it was."

How does eMuster work?

If you haven't experienced Royal Caribbean's new muster drill process, it's quite easy.

Within the Royal Caribbean app, you navigate to the safety area and watch a short, animated safety video demonstrating how to properly put on a lifejacket.

Then you play a sound clip of the emergency horn sound, so that you know what to expect.

Royal Caribbean Blog - Unofficial blog about Royal Caribbean cruises

Finally, you locate your muster station and report there to check-in with a crew member.

Once you arrive at the assembly station, a crew member will give you a very brief safety demonstration. After this is done, they will scan your SeaPass, indicating that you have completed the eMuster drill.

If you don't have a smart device or prefer not to do things digitally, you can go right to your muster station and a crew member will lead you through the process.

Read moreWhat to expect with Royal Caribbean's new virtual safety drill

Working with the Coast Guard

Coast Guard

Not only is eMuster a win with guests, but it's been a process approved by local authorities as well.

Mr. Purdy talked about how the U.S. Coast Guard and DNV maritime classification society to ensure everything is satisfactory, "we've had very good Coast Guard exams...the process seems to be very sound and working very well to maintain our crew knowledge and to keep our guests safe."

Originally developed to help with norovirus

Mariner of the Seas pool deck

While eMuster was first rolled out after cruise ships resumed service in 2021, the concept had its origins prior to 2020.

When Royal Caribbean began working on a new approach to muster drills, they envisioned a benefit for norovirus incidents, "I remember being in a meeting saying this may help us with Noro at the time, because we thought, wow, people won't be people be able to transmit anything to each other because we have a little more space now through on the first day of that vacation when people are traveling in and coming from all these different places."

When the global health emergency hit, then the benefits of a distributed muster drill process increased dramatically, "We had thought that people on ships in general, in all of our ship design and flows, we try and avoid crowds having to be bottlenecked or to just have have any discomfort."

What's next for eMuster?

Oasis of the Seas next to Liberty of the Seas in Cozumel

I asked Mr. Purdy what improvements or enhancements we can expect from the eMuster process.

"I think a lot of the eMuster improvements that we see near term are more in the kind of the technology able to do it without the unit being on WiFi [in case of power or internet problems]."

"I think we're always also looking at how do we improve the training of our crew to be prepared to answer whatever kind of are the trending questions that are coming up from our guests."

Whether eMuster or the old drill, Mr. Purdy pointed out Royal Caribbean was always looking at ways to enhance and improve the process, "it's not like we implement it and then forget about it. We really do look at how do we continually improve it."

Royal Caribbean adds virtual safety drill to mobile app

06 Nov 2020

Royal Caribbean released a new update to its app that introduces the highly anticipated Muster 2.0 virtual safety drill feature.

Version 1.26.0 has been released to the Apple App Store, which adds two core features that will be critical for guests on cruise ships that need to foster social distancing.

The app update comes just weeks before Royal Caribbean is set to restart cruises in Singapore on Quantum of the Seas.

While there are no firm plans yet announced for when cruises might restart in the United States, test sailings could start as early as December.

Virtual safety drill

Earlier this summer, Royal Caribbean announced a new patented approach to use its smart phone app to conduct the safety drill onboard.

The Muster 2.0 feature has been added to the app, which Royal Caribbean describes as a "completely re-imagined onboard guest safety briefing".

The app features information and sends notifications to make sure you complete the briefing prior to the ship sailing. 

Travelers will be able to review the information at their own time prior to setting sail, eliminating the need for the traditional large group assemblies. 

After reviewing safety information individually, guests will complete the drill by visiting their assigned assembly station, where a crew member will verify that all steps have been completed and answer questions. Each of the steps will need to be completed prior to the ship’s departure, as required by international maritime law.

One on the cruise ship, guests have a set time (indicated by a timer in the app) during which muster drill must be completed by all of the passengers and, in response, a message is transmitted to each mobile device that the muster drill has commenced.

Read more6 really interesting facts about Royal Caribbean's new cruise safety drill

Excursion tickets

Another shift to digital comes in the form of shore excursion tickets are now available in the app.

Traditionally, Royal Caribbean would distribute paper tickets to guests for their excursions that were purchased through the cruise line.

With the app, guests can now avoid having paper tickets and rely on the app to provide that information to tour operators.

The app's version history notes that the digital excursion tickets replace "the need for paper tickets when possible", which sounds like paper tickets could still be utilized in some scenarios.

Thanks to Iuliana Scott for giving us a heads up on this news.

6 really interesting facts about Royal Caribbean's new cruise safety drill

27 Jul 2020

Last week, Royal Caribbean announced its new approach to the mandatory safety drill aboard cruise ships that seeks to reinvent a traditionally tiresome requirement.

This brand new approach to eMuster was so innovative, that Royal Caribbean actually filed a patent for Muster 2.0, and the patent details a great deal of how it will all work.

In digging through the 9 pages of the patent, I found a few tidbits of interest that did not make the press release.

Muster 2.0 was invented by Royal Caribbean's head of entertainment

Interestingly enough, this new approach to the safety drill was not conceived of by a special blue ribbon panel, tech company or computer named Deep Thought.  Instead, it was the brain child of the same person responsible for creating the shows and live entertainment on the cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President of Entertainment, Nick Weir is listed on the trademark as the inventor of the "Distributed Muster for Ocean-Going Vessels".

Mr. Weir, along with Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President of Digital Jay Schneider, came up with the eMuster idea and formulated the patent for the new way of providing safety information to passengers.

Royal Caribbean filed for the patent months before the pandemic began

After hearing about Muster 2.0, many people thought this was the perfect solution to a problem that exists in a world affected by a pandemic. Howe ever, the idea came about months before COVID-19 ever got started.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office records the patent filed on September 12, 2019 (with the filing approved and issued on March 3, 2020).

This means this revolutionary idea was in the works many months before the cruise industry would be shut down and innovations to promote social distancing were ever needed.

There could be a quiz (so pay attention)

If you think you can start the eMuster app and take a nap while it plays, think again.

The patent paperwork details the functionality behind Muster 2.0, and it sounds like the user could be required to answer a series of questions to ensure they understood what was presented.

Thereafter, as each one of the mobile devices is sensed within the geographically defined area of the corresponding one of the muster locations, a presentation is displayed within the user interface of a set of questions pertaining to the muster drill video in the user interface.  Finally, for each mobile device sensed within the geographically defined area, answers received for the set of questions are scored

Optionally, it may be determined that the scored answers for one of the mobile devices exceeds a threshold value, so that a voucher for a reward may be transmitted to the one of the mobile devices.

While taking notes may be overdoing it, you definitely do not want to ignore the important safety information you are hearing on your mobile device or television.

You can ask for help during the drill

No matter how smart or efficient an app Royal Caribbean develops, there are bound to be guests with questions or concerns.

Baked into the logic of Muster.20 is an option for guests to get help and make it easy for the crew to locate these guests.

During the period defined by the timer, a button control is displayed within a user interface of each of the mobile devices . The button control is configured to transmit a message requesting assistance during the muster drill . Consequently, during the muster drill, the message may be received from one of the mobile devices, a position located of the mobile device, and a crew member mobile device nearest to the position identified .

Finally, the position and an identity of a passenger corresponding to the mobile device may be transmitted to the crew member mobile device 

They could send messages to anyone who missed the muster drill

Making the muster drill self-service lead some to wonder what happens to those who skip it in.  While Royal Caribbean has indicated anyone that skips it will still have to do it later, they could also let those naughty people know they are in trouble.

The patent wording says the app has the ability to contact those guests who missed the drill.

Targeted instructions may be transmitted to specific ones of the passengers after the completion of the muster drill

There are a couple ways Royal Caribbean could determine when you complete the drill

How exactly Royal Caribbean (or any cruise line that leverages Muster 2.0) will conduct the new muster drill will depend on the implementation.

After a guest finishes the self-service component, they still need to report to their muster station to satisfy the maritime law requirement that they know where their muster stations is located.

The patent lists a few ways the drill could mark a guest as having successfully completed it. This could allow for different ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet to implement in different ways, or it is accounting for flexibility in how other cruse lines may implement the concept.

Detecting a guest entering the muster station

In this regard, during the period defined by the timer, as each mobile device is sensed within a geographical area corresponding to an assigned one of the muster stations, an entry in the muster drill table is provided indicating that a corresponding one of the passengers has completed muster.

For instance, the mobile device may include short range wireless communications adapted to communicate with a receiver disposed within the geographical area so as to indicate a presence of the mobile device at the assigned one of the muster stations .

Scanning the app in the mobile device

Alternatively, a bar code displayed in the user interface can be scanned at a kiosk disposed within the assigned one of the muster stations. 

Scanning the SeaPass card

As yet another alternative, an identification card or bracelet can be scanned at a kiosk within the assigned one of the muster stations. 

Top 10 questions about Royal Caribbean's new Muster 2.0

25 Jul 2020

Did you hear Royal Caribbean completely changed the muster drill by going with a new electronic safety drill?

Royal Caribbean unveiled its Muster 2.0 innovation that will allow guests to conduct the muster drill on their own via mobile devices instead of standing in a line at the muster station.

With a fundamental change this significant, there are a few questions about how it will all work, and here are the answers to the most common questions cruisers have been asking since the big announcement.

What is the difference between Muster 2.0 and the old muster drill?

In the traditional muster drill, guests would have to report to their muster station and stand in large groups prior to the ship departing.

With Muster 2.0, guests: 

  • are provided with an efficient, convenient way to complete the required safety drill
  • receive the information in a more individual setting using personal mobile devices or the interactive stateroom TV
  • have the flexibility to complete the safety drill at their own leisure in a four-hour window of time, before the ship departs.

How does Muster 2.0 work?

There are four basic steps to how eMuster will function:

  1. Review safety information in the mobile app or interactive stateroom TV, and acknowledge completion
  2. Visit assigned assembly station and scan in using your stateroom key
  3. At the assembly station, a crew member will verify the safety information was completed and be available to answer questions individually
  4. Listen to the emergency signal in the mobile app or interactive TV, and when the captain demonstrates the signal before the ship sets sail

You will not need internet access in order to access Muster 2.0. The mobile app uses the ship’s WIFI without the purchase of an internet package.

What if I don't have a mobile device?

You do not need to have a mobile device, as you can complete Muster 2.0 using their interactive stateroom TV.

Allure of the Seas Test Cruise Live Blog - Day 1 | Royal Caribbean Blog

How will Royal Caribbean know if a guest has not completed the muster drill?

Both the mobile app and interactive stateroom TVs integrate with ship systems that monitor completion of the drill.

If a guest does not complete the muster drill, the guest will be contacted by a ship officer and asked to complete the safety drill. If they do not comply, they will be asked to disembark the ship.

Will children be required to complete Muster 2.0?

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation Day | Royal Caribbean Blog

Yes, guests of all ages are required to complete Muster 2.0 to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone on board.

Are there multiple blocks of time to complete Muster 2.0 or does everyone have the same window of time?

Guests will be able to review the information at their own time, at any point from the time they arrive on board until sail away, eliminating the need for the traditional large group assemblies.

With Muster 2.0, everyone will have a four-hour window to complete the drill checklist via the mobile app or their interactive stateroom television. 

20 Adventure of the Seas tips, tricks and secrets | Royal Caribbean Blog

Is Muster 2.0 be available on all Royal Caribbean ships?

Yes, Muster 2.0 is be available on all Royal Caribbean International ships.

It will also be available on sister brands of Celebrity Cruises and Azamara ships, excluding Celebrity Cruises’ Galapagos-based ships — Celebrity Flora, Celebrity Expedition and Celebrity Exploration.

Guests mustering on their own may take elevators to their muster station, how do you ensure they know how to arrive to their station via safe pathways in case of an emergency?

Royal Caribbean Group ships equipped with the mobile app will have dynamic walking maps directing guests to their assembly stations using the safest pathways.

Royal Caribbean Blog - Unofficial blog about Royal Caribbean cruises

How will I know when I can start doing Muster 2.0 once onboard?

Guests will receive notifications/reminders from crew and electronically to ensure they have completed the safety drill before the window of time has closed.

What is the difference between Muster 2.0 and eMuster?

Royal Caribbean says Muster 2.0 is the overall brand for the new approach to the guest safety drill, whereas eMuster is the name of the technology behind the scenes that enables guests to receive the safety information individually via their mobile devices and interactive stateroom TVs. 

Other questions

Do you still have a question about how Muster 2.0 will work? Share your concerns and inquiries in the comments!

Royal Caribbean announces electronic muster drill on its cruise ships

24 Jul 2020

Royal Caribbean announced a new way for guests to conduct the cruise ship safety drill by digital app, which will help with promoting social distancing onboard.

Known as Muster 2.0, the cruise line revealed its plans on Friday to implement a new way to conduct the mandatory guests safety drill, known as the muster drill. 

The rollout of these reimagined safety drills will debut in Germany this week on board Royal Caribbean Group’s joint venture, TUI Cruises GmbH, and continue in Royal Caribbean Group’s return to service. 

In order to comply with maritime law, passengers on an ocean-going vessel must be aware of what to do for a response to an emergency condition onboard.

How it works

With Muster 2.0, the new tech will be used to help provide the information to guests via their mobile devices and interactive stateroom TVs.

Travelers will be able to review the information at their own time prior to setting sail, eliminating the need for the traditional large group assemblies. 

After reviewing safety information individually, guests will complete the drill by visiting their assigned assembly station, where a crew member will verify that all steps have been completed and answer questions. Each of the steps will need to be completed prior to the ship’s departure, as required by international maritime law.

One on the cruise ship, guests have a set time (indicated by a timer in the app) during which muster drill must be completed by all of the passengers and, in response, a message is transmitted to each mobile device that the muster drill has commenced.

As well, subsequent to a lapsing of the timer, a listing is displayed of any passenger not recorded as having completed the muster drill.

Muster 2.0 was first tested on Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas in January 2020. Guests who took part in the mock process indicated a strong preference for the new approach and also reported better comprehension and retention of the safety information.

Solving a problem

For many cruise passengers, the muster drill is viewed as a necessary annoyance.

Traditionally, in the context of a passenger cruise ship, a muster drill is performed at the beginning of the cruise before the cruise ship departs or shortly thereafter. During the muster drill, each individual passenger reports to an assigned muster station—a specific location on the vessel. A crew member then confirms the presence of each passenger expected to be present at the specific location during the muster drill so that all passengers may be accounted for in the event of an actual emergency and a resultant actual muster.

Further, the muster drill can be confusing for some—particularly the elderly and children—both of whom often require additional assistance locating and moving towards assigned muster stations.

For crew members, trying to perform the drill with thousands of guests may create unnecessary confusion or missed opportunities to educate and inform, in light of the ultimate goal.

Moreover, an electronic muster drill would potentially allow guests to conduct the safety drill at their leisure during the first day, and while maintaining proper social distancing. 

The inventor of Muster 2.0 is Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President of Entertainment, Nick Weir, who is listed as the inventor on the patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Royal Caribbean applied for a patent on the concept in September 2019, and the application was granted on March 3, 2020.

An innovation for everyone

Despite Muster 2.0 being a proprietary invention of Royal Caribbean is offering to license the patented technology to interested cruise operators and will waive patent license fees during the time the world and industry battle the global pandemic.

Patent licenses have already been granted to the company’s joint venture, TUI Cruises GmbH, as well as Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., the parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

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