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Friday, October 28, 2016

Muster Up! The Drill and What Else Will Keep You Safe Onboard

Sometimes, it’s in the casino. Sometimes, on the ice rink. And sometimes, it’s under the sun.

Wherever it is, you need to be there.

Here’s the drill and why it’s important. And what else will keep you safe in your new home on the sea.

If you’ve never been through one, know that the muster drill starts with a PA announcement that it’s coming. Then another one that it’s coming soon. And probably yet another that it’s really on its way.

Then, ear-splitting sounds. If you’re in your stateroom, you won’t be there for long. The crew will come banging on your door.

The good news? On many ships, you no longer need to drag along those massive orange vests, their cords dangling behind you like Linus’ dust.

You’ll come as you are, crew will be everywhere holding signs, and you’ll assemble someplace. It will be the first time—and maybe the last—that you’ll ever feel overwhelmed by the vast numbers of people on your ship.

Like the “seat-cushion-can-be-used-as-a-floatation-device” speech you tune out on the plane, you might feel like tuning out this one too. But don’t. Just in case.

Cruising is uber safe. In fact, more people are cruising than ever, but issues like fires and breakdowns are quite rare and have been declining.*

But they still can happen. And you want to be prepared in case they do.

Safe cruising, though, shouldn’t stop at the muster drill. Here are some other ways for you to stay ship-shape from when you walk up that gangway to when you walk back down:

Bring your own. First-aid stuff costs a lot on the ship. And some stuff you won’t find at all. I found out the hard way. Some good things to pack before leaving home are aspirin, cold medication, nose drops, digestion stuff, ear wax removal, first-aid ointment and band-aids.

Sea sickness remedies. While the cruise ships are massive and steady as tanks, you will, from time to time, be reminded that you’re not on land. If you’ve ever been prone to motion sickness, while you most likely won’t need it, just having it with you will give you peace of mind. My spouse has brought it on 19 trips. He has not used it once.

Wipe it clean. The crew, of course, work like crazy to keep the staterooms clean, but it never hurts to do a bit of your own cleaning too. Consider bringing some sanitizing spray or wipes to clean door handles, phone and TV remote—the areas that get a lot of hand holding.

Sanitize your hands. Often. While most of the ships have hand sanitizers near the eating areas, in the buffets, you’re holding the ladle, reaching for the salt shaker—and then handling the hot dog as it makes its way to your mouth. We bring our own wet wipes, and use them constantly.

Sun-bathing sense. We’ve seen it over and over again—folks with skin as pure as the driven snow spend their whole first day at the pool. The next day, they’ve traded that milky complexion with a bright red one. And spend the next several days burning up in pain.

Pool precautions. There are no lifeguards at the pools. When you swim, you’re on your own. And so are your kids.  
It’s wet on deck. With folks and kids coming in and out of the pools, showers and saunas, the decks can get pretty wet. Walk gingerly and watch your step.

Be a defensive diner. The buffet can be a treacherous place. Steaming hot coffee can be coming at you from one direction, and a crew member with a tray piled high with plates can be coming at you from another. Be a defensive diner and you’ll enjoy your food at the table—instead of taking a trip to the infirmary.

See the light. Having a flashlight by your bed will be invaluable for those night-time bathroom runs.

Don’t go overboard. The banisters on the decks and balconies are there for a reason: to keep a safe
distance between us and the water. Enjoy the drink packages. But we don’t want to fish you out of the sea.

* CLIA’s website,, “Safety at Sea,” G.P. Wild International Limited  Report on Operational Incidents, 2009 to 2014.