Does Richard Fain ever stop thinking? He just comes up with one new idea after another – and they all seem to make perfect sense. Not content with introducing surf simulators and shopping malls to the ships of Royal Caribbean, and real grass lawns and croquet to those of Celebrity Cruises, he has now turned his attention to an idea which could be followed by every other ship.
I’m talking about lifeboat drill, which international maritime law makes a compulsory event on every cruise.
If you have sailed before you will be familiar with the routine. Before, or in some cases soon after, departure, the ship’s alarm will sound and passengers must collect lifejackets from their cabins before heading to their designated muster station.
The procedure varies between cruise lines; some gather passengers together in public rooms, and demonstrate how to put on the lifejacket after a brief safety announcement from the captain. Others require passengers to assemble by the lifeboats, already wearing them.
In each case, one of the announcements will state that in a real emergency, there is no need to return to your cabin to collect a lifejacket because they can be provided at the muster station.
Richard turned his thoughts to this ritual and decided it was time for a change. Here’s how he explains it: “Safety regulations require that our guests practise mustering at the beginning of every voyage. This drill ensures that every guest is familiar with the safety procedures. But it is a royal pain in the ass – an important pain, but a pain nonetheless.”
He decided things would have to change on Oasis of the Seas, the world’s biggest cruise ship, which will make its maiden voyage from Florida in November.
“We decided to see if we could make it better and more efficient,” said Richard. “The biggest issue was making the guests return to their staterooms to get the lifejackets. But there really is no benefit to making them do this and we intend to get away from this practice. On Oasis, we decided to store the lifejackets at the muster stations, which also frees up a smidgen more space in every stateroom.
“The advantages are so overwhelming that you have to wonder why we haven’t done this before.”
On other ships in the Royal Caribbean and Celebrity fleets, passengers are no longer required to take their lifejacket to safety drill, as I discovered last week on Celebrity Equinox.
Now if only Richard Fain had influence over airline safety procedures as well. I promise you, I do know how to fasten a seatbelt – and I’m sure everyone else does too. So is it really necessary for a cabin stewardess to demonstrate how the buckle works?