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Close-up of a Life preserver ring onboard a cruise ship, with port city in the background
Life preserver ring onboard a cruise ship (Photo: maxart/

Cruise Muster Station and Muster Drill: What Are They?

Close-up of a Life preserver ring onboard a cruise ship, with port city in the background
Life preserver ring onboard a cruise ship (Photo: maxart/
Susan Moynihan
Marissa Wright

Last updated
Feb 16, 2024

Read time
3 min read

Historically, the word “muster” has been used in the military to assemble troops quickly for inspection, exercise, or display. What originally started as the Latin word "monstrare," meaning “to show,” has transformed through the ages from Latin, then to French, and finally to current Modern English to signify a group of people coming together for a purpose.

Here's our breakdown on what "muster" means on a cruise ship, what to expect from muster drills and more.

What Does Muster Mean on a Cruise Ship?

Close-up shot of an orange life jacket onboard a cruise ship
Cruise line muster drill (Photo: Pavel L Photo and Video/

To muster means the act of assembling or gathering people, which is what passengers and crew do during the mandatory safety briefing on every cruise that's referred to as a muster drill.

Per the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, all passenger ships must have a cruise muster drill during the first 24 hours of the trip. The drill mimics a nautical emergency, allowing passengers to familiarize themselves with the sound of the alarm and to learn all of the information they'll need to know to stay safe in the event of an emergency at sea.

What Is a Muster Station?

Cruise ship muster drill (Photo: Cruise Critic)
Cruise ship muster drill (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Every ship has designated muster stations, which are meeting points for passengers during an emergency, typically on the open decks by the lifeboats.

They are usually organized by proximity to cabin location, and the crew keeps a record of all names assigned to that muster station so they can take a roll call and ensure everyone is accounted for.

Cruise ship muster drills usually call for passengers to meet at their muster stations (designated on the safety sign in your stateroom), though, on mega-ships, passengers might assemble in a larger space, such as the theater, that can accommodate more people for instruction.

What Is a Muster Drill?

A woman does her e-muster drill while a man holding a clipboard talks on Adventure of the Seas
E-Muster Drill on Adventure of the Seas

An emergency siren sound signals a muster drill and is the beginning of the drill itself.

A muster drill is an event held at the start of a cruise and familiarizes all travelers with safety procedures like where life jackets are and how to don them quickly. (Passengers often need to bring their life jackets to the muster drill and put them on once there.)

Crew members will also explain the best escape routes in case people need to leave the ship in an emergency situation. Think of muster drills as a required class for cruise ship safety and how you’ll exit the ship safely in the case of an emergency.

Does Everyone Need to Attend a Muster Drill?

Everyone -- even children -- must attend the muster drill, even if they've sailed on the same ship or cruise line previously. Passengers should also remain quiet and follow instructions during the drill so everyone can hear the safety briefing.

Attending a muster drill is required when cruising and you may not skip. The practice drill includes basic cruise ship safety information that every traveler should know.

What to Expect During a Muster Drill

During a muster drill, the siren will go off, and cruisers are expected to assemble at their muster station quickly. (The muster station information should be on the back of the cabin door).

Walk with your party to the muster station and wait for instructions from staff. During the muster drill, staff will share important safety information and ensure all passengers are accounted for.

Come prepared to listen to instructions and learn where to find life jackets, how to wear them, and where the escape routes are in case of emergency. We also recommend using the bathroom before attending the muster drill.

During COVID, some cruise lines started using an e-muster drill. An e-muster drill is a detailed video explaining to cruisers where to go and what to do in nautical emergencies. Some cruise lines still opt for the e-muster drill option or a combination of electronic and in-person drills.

Publish date January 08, 2020
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