Johanna Jainchill
Johanna Jainchill

*logoRoyal Caribbean International CEO Richard Fain struck a nerve with readers last week when he said in a blog post something that most frequent cruisers probably agree with: The muster drill at the beginning of every cruise "is a royal pain in the ass -- an important pain, but a pain nonetheless."

And with that, Fain said that the line is changing the way Royal Caribbean passengers muster.

Starting with the 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas, the line will not require passengers to retrieve the life jackets from their cabins and then meet at a determined place onboard to file into lifeboats in the event of an emergency.

On the Oasis, the life jackets will be stored at the muster stations.

Fain explained that hauling around the bulky life jackets is a "laborious, uncomfortable, manual process that can actually distract from the important safety purposes for which it was designed."

The advantages to the new system "are so overwhelming that you have to wonder why we haven't done this before," Fain wrote. And, he said, Royal Caribbean knows it works because it has been running tests on other ships, which will also eventually use this system.

Most Travel Weekly readers agreed with Fain.

"Pure genius!" one fan posted in response to the report on "Brilliant!" gushed another.

"Excellent idea," said one reader. "I always worry about tripping on the steps with the life jacket straps hanging down. This will eliminate problems like that."

But the plan has some detractors, as well.

"I can foresee the pandemonium when people forget their muster stations, rush to the nearest one and grab life jackets," wrote one opponent. "After boarding, I always look for our life jackets when I arrive in the cabin and would certainly prefer to have it with me when I go to the designated muster station."

Geoff Edwards, a travel writer and frequent cruiser, is one of the few people I know who has had to put on a life jacket during an actual emergency on a cruise ship. His take?

"I was on Royal Viking Sun when we hit a reef in the Gulf of Aqaba," Edwards wrote in his blog. "I grabbed my life jacket and had it on before the emergency whistle blew. Stepping on the balcony, it was obvious we were listing 10 degrees or more and still going over.

"Getting to my lifeboat station, I found passengers without jackets wandering around, having no idea where to go. Our assigned lifeboat would not lower to the deck; watertight doors on a lower deck were closed as that deck flooded. For all I knew, we might have had to jump into the ocean.

"Thanks for the thought, Oasis, but I want that 'bulky' lifesaver in my room, easily within reach in case I leave the water running."


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