A cruise vacation is the most anticipated experience for anyone. Whether one has sailed twice, five times, or twenty times, sailing day is a momentous occasion. Before sailing, guests are instructed to attend the muster drill. All guests are required to attend the muster drill in accordance with International Maritime Law and the maritime safety manual known as S.O.L.A.S (Safety Of Lives At Sea). With the Coronavirus pandemic having altered daily life on a worldwide scale, a new normal is soon to commence. With the need to do away with massive crowds congregating in the heart of the ship, the cruise lines have come together and decided to hold a virtual muster drill. With no crowds out of the way, cruise ships can sail without delay and guests can enjoy their sailing day without having to convene for half an hour’s time. How is this new virtual muster drill going to work? It’s as simple as when the general announcement is made.

When the muster drill is about to commence, guests are instructed to take their stateroom key cards with them and report to their assigned muster drill assembly station. There, a muster station assembly leader checks the guests’ names off a list or by scanning their stateroom key cards. The virtual muster drill is somewhat similar to the in-person drill, however, guests will no longer have to congregate in close quarters with one another in an assigned location. The Coronavirus has thrust this much anticipated change upon the cruise lines for all-time sake. The in-person drill is no more. The virtual muster drill can be attended in one of two ways. Prior to sailing day, guests can log into their reservation profiles and view the virtual muster drill. They can access the virtual muster drill video via their tablets, and smart devices. On sailing day, they can easily watch the virtual muster drill on their stateroom TV. Once they have viewed the virtual muster drill, they can move on to the next step. The next step is checking in with their muster station assembly leader. Just like doing so in the traditional drill, they will confirm their attendance. Having done so, and have confirmed that they’ve viewed the virtual muster drill, guests can enjoy the rest of the ship without interruption. Once all guests have checked in with their muster station assembly leaders, their vacation can officially begin.

What is the reason for this change in sailing operation? Of course, the Coronavirus has been known to spread via large crowds. The cruise lines and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have come together and agreed on this new sailing day protocol. That’s the least of the reasons. First, it is easier for guests to view the virtual muster drill on their own time before sailing day or just prior to sailing. Second, it will be significantly easier for the muster station assembly leader to tend to guests’ emergency-related issues if necessary. Third, guests are known not to pay much attention during the drill and carry on their whisper conversations. It makes it that much harder for the muster station assembly leader to take charge of such a hectic matter. Lastly, the ship can sail without having to pause all on-board operations. Further, it is vital for all guests to continue their movement throughout the ship, without exposing themselves to each others’ germs (worst case scenario). Once the virtual muster drill has been viewed by all guests, they can get on with their long-awaited vacation as planned.

Cruising, without a doubt, has come a long way. Having encountered the Coronavirus, things are about to evolve even further. The Coronavirus has prompted much change in the travel industry; particularly with the cruise lines. Sailing day will see changes including embarkation, the buffet, and more so-the muster drill. The traditional muster drill will be a thing of the past. With technology being at the head of this new normal, guests will be instructed to participate in the virtual muster drill. No longer will guests have to congregate in close quarters in an assigned assembly area. Whether via smart devices or on their stateroom TVs, guests will be able to participate in the muster drill on their own time. Yet, they will need to check in with their muster station assembly leader prior to sailing. The virtual muster drill may be the new normal moving forward, but it is a promise of better things to come in the world of cruising. Not only is it more than cruise ships adjusting to the winds of change, but a true sign of moving “full speed ahead”.

About Author

David Kriso has been a travel writer since August 2011. He is a contributing writer for both of his hometown's newspapers, The Gazette, and The Observer. His articles focus on cruise and railroad travel. David is also published online at ProwsEdge.com, a cruise magazine based in Vancouver, Canada and at Amtrak's story site, Whistlestop.Amtrak.com. David also writes for the publication Examiner.com. On Examiner.com, he writes about cruise and rail travel. David is a long-time train traveler, avid cruiser, and a Disney traveler since age 4.

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