Cruise Ship Muster Drills Tips for Autism

In recent years, there have been some emergency situations and even tragedies in the cruise line industry.
In June 2015, the deadliest boat disaster in China in almost 70 years occurred when 456 people, mostly older citizens, were on board a cruise when disaster struck, and only 14 passengers survived.
In 2010 and 2011, the Carnival Splendor and Carnival Triumph respectively had engine fires, and there were several passengers injured.
In 2012, one of the worst maritime disasters in modern Italian history occurred when the Costa Concordia sank, and 32 passengers died, and 64 were injured.

As much as we don’t want to think about things going wrong on our planned holiday, travelers need to learn what to do when emergencies happen.So just like airlines have their flight attendants explain emergency procedures in the event of emergency landings, the cruise lines conduct their muster drills.

Cruise Ship Muster Drills Tips for Autism kids

What is the Muster Drill

Though each cruise liner has their method for carrying out a muster drill, they are mandatory, and the aim is to familiarize all guests and even the crew with valuable information.
By law, the drills must be done immediately before setting sail, but a minority of cruise lines do it the next day once the ship has already left port.In the past, the drill was done outside on the decks in the actual mustering stations, but in recent times, it is performed indoors where people can sit comfortably instead of stand for 20-30 minutes.

Years back when we first started cruising, we were told that muster drills were compulsory for every passenger –much like cough syrup: it tastes awful, but it is good for you.’ Dressed in uncomfortable life jackets, standing outside in the hot afternoon sun we all tried to listen to the lengthy presentations accompanied by loud sirens.
Many times we didn’t even get there; it all depended on the extent of our son’s whining, complaining and crying that day. I  distinctly remember several instances when I got lectured by crew members after my son wondered off.Eventually, we got more savvy and learned to avoid the comments and looks all together.
On one of our voyages, someone at Guest Services suggested we asked the cruise lines if we could get away with sending a family delegate to the muster drill instead of trying to make our son attend.
They agreed, and it made a positive difference in our cruising experience.

But that all changed for the better with the new trend of having the drill indoors.
During our past cruise on the Golden Princess,  all passengers assembled in the ship’s  air conditioned amphitheater and listened to a much more interesting presentation.

Cruise Ship Muster Drills Tips for Autism speech
Our Takeaway from the Presentation

During this drill, additional safety information was presented, and passengers were taught what actions needed to be taken in the various situations.
The most important guideline was for everyone to have their medication and cruise cards ready to grab from their cabins at all times.
Furthermore, everyone needed to have an item of warm clothing handy because it can be chilly out on the open sea during a potential evacuation of the ship.
The presentation continued to explain that in a time of any emergency; there would be crew members that would direct the passengers and assist with life jackets and direct travelers to the lifeboat and life rafts.

 

Cruise Ship Muster Drills Tips for Autism crowds

Autism Travel Tips

  • Ask customer service for a private room or an exemption if your child can not attend but it is important and recommended that your child is still taught by you what to do in a time of a crisis.
  • The drill; anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes in length, contains loud noises, including the sounds of the signals so if your child is sensitive to noise, bring noise canceling headphones.
  • Make sure to visit the actual muster station with your kid to familiarize him/her with the place – the location is clearly marked on the back of your cabin door.
  • Have your kid watch the video  (link below) in increments so that he or she remembers what to do and is prepared.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess pin

Owned by the Princess Cruise Lines, this vessel is a Grand-class cruise ship that entered service in 2001. Sister ship of Grand Princess and Star Princess she can carry more than 3,600  passengers and crew.
Last month while the ship was traveling between L.A and the Mexican Riviera we decided to book a weekend cruise and enjoy the outstanding Princess amenities provided onboard.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess movies

What Makes it Family Worthy?

As we mentioned before we are huge fans of cruising since it is a way to enjoy a great vacation at a reasonable price, visit several ports yet unpack only once.
Though this particular ship offers less family friendly activities than its counterparts on competing cruise lines, it still had multiple venues to engage passengers of all age groups.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess blue

Fellow Travelers

Depending on its itinerary this vessel attracts more retirees and couples. However, families still make a decent sized segment of onboard guests.

 

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess piano

Décor

The ship decor was modern using vibrant colors with wood accents throughout the vessel. The dining spaces were designed in hues of tans and browns while the entertainment areas looked more glitzy dressed in pinks, purples, and golds.

Neutral colors like cream and silver were prevalent in our bathroom, but the floor consisted of blue and white tiles arranged in a checkerboard pattern. The bedroom area was mostly decorated in white and other neutrals with lightly hued wood paneling throughout. There was also red patterned carpeting and a blue chair in our cabin blending some color to the overall design scheme.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess muster

Family Entertainment


As mentioned before, this particular ship had fewer entertainment options than other ships we had previously vacationed on.
With that said our son with autism enjoyed some of the ‘grown up’ activities that he had never tried before.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess pool

We all tried the outdoor activities like the pools, water slides, mini golf, giant chess, shuffleboard, virtual bowling (WII) and ping pong games. He discovered Bingo which though a bit of a money pit helped him practice, his social interactions with staff and fellow passengers. Also, he found the cupcake decorating class fun so he went back the next day to do it again.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess chess

For evening entertainment, we did sit through a Broadway review of the British 60’s invasion songs which was mediocre, and we were disappointed the movie under the stars was canceled due to high winds.
Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess show

What was surprisingly good was an acrobatic show in the lobby area that we watched mesmerized, and the pretend New Year’s countdown party, a Princess tradition.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess cake

The ship featured several spots to dine throughout the cruise.
Apart from the Horizon Court  Buffet and regular dining restaurants it had pay for purchase restaurants like  Sabatini’s, serving Italian fare, and the Crown Grill, offering steakhouse style grub.
We dined at Sabatini for 25$ Prix fix menu per person and had an overall enjoyable experience.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess bar


Our Cabin

Our family stayed in the P303  cabin on Plaza Deck Five.
We were greeted by balloons and a celebratory poster tacked to our cabin door in honor of our son’s birthday, which was a nice touch.

Our cabin had a  porthole window providing an excellent view of the outside. The safety information found on the back of the door was clearly marked to let us know where our muster station was in the event of an emergency.

 

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess curtain

Upon entering our cabin, the bathroom area was on the left. Just across the small entryway, there was a closet that contained all the lifejackets in the case of any unforeseen emergency. It had ample amount of storage space and could easily hold lots of our luggage.

The cabin itself had two beds with nightstands in between them. There was also a pull out bunk bed that could be opened at night and closed during the day for our son. It contained a safety bar that helps keep sleepers from falling out.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess tv

Our cabin’s television was placed over the desk, as was a large mirror. The latter feature allowed the space to function as a vanity. A hairdryer was attached to the wall nearby to further facilitate this usage. More in keeping with the desk’s traditional purpose as a workspace were the additional shelves and drawers that were included in its design.

There was a phone and some beverage glasses on the desktop for our use, and one of the cabinets beneath it contained a mini fridge. There were also a fair number of outlets provided, but travelers who find that they need more may want to bring their electric strips.A visible thermostat helped complete the picture as it allowed the room temperature to be quickly adjusted to our liking.
Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess safe

Our Bathroom

The bathroom was incredibly well organized with several hooks for hanging towels and wet clothing. There were two fully stocked towel racks above the commode. Extra toilet paper could be found under the sink just in case it was needed. There was a sizeable open cabinet at one end of the sink counter that was capable of holding even more personal belongings.

Under the sink was a shelf that held the waste bin but it could also be used to store supplies. The shower itself was fairly ordinary in design.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess towels
However, it had excellent water pressure and featured raised up edges along the bottom so that water didn’t get splashed all over the floor. The shower was separated from the toilet area with a curtain.

The cabin also contained a full-length mirror near the bathroom area so that we could check our outfits before departing their room to go anywhere.
Overall, though the room was not large, it turned out to be functional and well organized.

 

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess glasses

Autism Travel Tips

  • The shower in the cabin has a safety handle so that those who need to do so can use it.
  • We discovered that walkie-talkies were useful devices on cruises and recommend that other families bring along their own sets to communicate with each other.
  • Gluten free and other diet observing passengers should let the cruise line know ahead of time whether they plan to stay on the ship while in port so they could be accommodated.
  • Parents to kids with autism should ask guest services for  restaurants and show seating arrangements .t
  • Word of caution about the coffee shop on the ship; the hot beverages are served at a very high temperature so parents should remind their kids to take extra precautions to avoid scalding themselves,
  • Parents should pack a set of noise canceling headphones or earplugs if their kid wishes to attend the ultra-noisy new year’s or sail away parties.

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