Royal Caribbean just figured out how to improve the worst part of cruising
There hasn't been a lot of upbeat news for cruise fans coming out of the world's cruise lines in recent months. But on Friday, Royal Caribbean Group finally gave them something they could get excited about: A plan to greatly shorten and simplify the safety drill process.
The parent company of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Silversea and Azamara said it had developed new technology, which it is calling eMuster, that will let passengers complete most of the safety drill that is held at the start of every cruise on a mobile device or interactive cabin TV instead of in a big, crowded, unwieldy muster station.
Under the new system, passengers will review all the same information that they have been getting in a group setting until now -- details on what to expect and where to go in case of an emergency, and instructions on how to properly use a life jacket -- on their own using the new technology in the hours leading up to departure.
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After reviewing the safety information on a mobile device or cabin TV, passengers then 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.
Every passenger still will be required to complete the safety drill process before departure, as required by international maritime law.
Royal Caribbean Group is calling the new process Muster 2.0.
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“The health and safety of our guests and crew are our number one priority, and the development of this new muster process is an elegant solution to an outdated, unpopular process,” Royal Caribbean Group chairman and CEO Richard Fain said Friday in a statement. “The fact that this will also save guests time and allow the ship to operate without pause means that we can increase health, safety and guest satisfaction simultaneously.”
Royal Caribbean Group began working on the new technology long before the coronavirus outbreak began. But its development is expected to go a long way to solving one of the biggest hurdles to bringing cruising back in an era where the virus still is a concern: How to keep passengers socially distanced during safety drills.
On a typical cruise, the safety drill is one of the times when passengers are in the closest proximity to each other, as every single passenger must assemble in a limited number of spaces.
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“Muster 2.0 represents a natural extension of our mission to improve our guests’ vacation experiences by removing points of friction,” Royal Caribbean Group senior vice president of digital Jay Schneider said in a statement. “In this instance, what’s most convenient for our guests is also the safest option in light of needing to reimagine social spaces in the wake of COVID-19.”
Royal Caribbean Group said it worked with international regulators including the U.S. Coast Guard to ensure the new process met all safety requirements.
The company has patented or is in the process of patenting the eMuster technology in countries around the world and plans to license it to other lines. It said it is waiving its license fee during the coronavirus pandemic so other brands can begin using the system immediately. It said it already has granted a license to Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, the parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
The technology will debut in the coming days on the ships of German line TUI Cruises, which is in the process of resuming limited cruising out of German ports. Royal Caribbean owns part of TUI Cruises through a joint venture.
Royal Caribbean Group tested a mock version of Muster 2.0 in January on Symphony of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship.
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