I’m not sure who dreads the muster drill more: cruise ship passengers or the crew responsible for conducting them.
There you are, enjoying a cocktail and preparing for sail away when the dreaded announcement comes. The bars will be closing so that everyone on board can prepare for the required safety drill.
Now, we all know that it’s important, and that every ship has to do their version of the mandatory safety drill.
But we also know that during the drill, the mind sometimes wanders a bit, especially for those who’ve sat through them repeatedly.
And what does one think about as the drill is unfolding?
Well, these are the pathways down which my thoughts have meandered in the past.
1) “Wait, there are how many lifeboats?”
During most drills, the person doing the announcements will say something along the lines of, “This ship comes equipped with 18 lifeboats and 12 life rafts.” And while I’m sure this isn’t their intention, I immediately start doing math in my head.
Anyone who knows me knows that math is definitely not my strong suit, so I inevitably find myself convinced that there are approximately 546 too many people to fit on the available lifeboats. (This, of course, without any knowledge whatsoever as to how many people each one holds.)
2) “They make it look so easy!”
At a certain point, crew members stand up and begin demonstrating the proper way to wear a life jacket. Of course, they’re doing it on a pleasant day, standing in the middle of the dining room. Something tells me that, as they say, “were this to be an actual emergency” the whole process would be a bit more chaotic.
“Wait, where am I supposed to put the extra strap?” (If you’re very lucky — or unlucky, depending on your point of view — you’ll be traveling with someone who is both calm under pressure and funny enough to come up with a quip about exactly where you can stick your strap.)
3) “Which bar will be the least crowded after this thing?”
The moment the muster drill is over, everyone makes a break for it. Those seated the farthest from the exit might as well sit and wait, because they ain’t going anywhere anytime soon.
But those closest to the easiest way out? Those are my people. They’re the ones who entered the room having already mapped out in their head the quickest route to the bar.
But not just any bar. See, my people know that the nearest one will be swamped with post-muster folks trying desperately to make eye contact with the suddenly swamped bartender.
No, my peeps are bypassing not only that bar but the elevators, instead heading to the watering hole most likely to be empty. And yes, we checked the hours to make sure it would be open.
4) “Bored now.”
We know the drill is important, and we know that on many ships, it’s the only thing standing between us and the sail away party. But many of us also know the entire spiel by heart.
There’s the general emergency alarm, the warning about tossing anything overboard, the admonishments against smoking and the reminder you can get all this info from your in-room TV.
But our favorite part is the reminder that everyone must attend the drill, no matter how many previous cruises they’ve taken, as new information might be provided this time.
Quick survey: Who has actually encountered new information during the drill? Anyone?
5) “Who would I want to be in a lifeboat with?”
You have about as much chance of actually ending up in a lifeboat as you do of hitting a $10,000 jackpot in the casino. Heck, you probably have a better shot at the jackpot.
But muster drills make you think about the possibility.
Next thing you know, you’re glancing around as if you’d have some say in who you share that space with. “No, not him, he’s a loud-talker. That’d get annoying really quickly. And she brought a massive purse when specifically told not to!”
Just keep in mind, someone in that room is probably sizing you up, too!