Reflections on Kosher Cruises

STAR-K Certification’s heartfelt condolences extend to those who have lost loved ones in the recent horrific tragedy of the capsized cruise ship, Costa Concordia. Rescue operations continue to search for those who remain unaccounted for among the 4200 passengers onboard the liner when it hit the rocks off the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy.
“A tragedy like this brings home the issue that travel at sea has its dangers,” says STAR-K Kashrus Administrator Rabbi Zvi Goldberg. “The Rabbis instituted the brocho of “hagomel” after disembarking from a voyage. Although, statistically, travel by ocean liner may be safer than travel by car, one still must recite that blessing of thanksgiving nowadays.

“There are many halachos one must consider before deciding to embark on a cruise,” adds Rabbi Goldberg. “Kashrus, tznius, Shabbos, and davening bring their own unique challenges onboard. Making sure that one is keeping those mitzvos properly would surely be a zechus (merit) to ensure one’s safety.”

Although, presently, STAR-K does not kosher certify any cruises, it would like to present just some of the several questions that Torah observant cruise passengers must face:

KASHRUS: What arrangements have been made to accommodate kosher food preparation? Is a kitchen dedicated to kosher food preparation, or has only a portion of a non-kosher kitchen been designated for kosher cooking? Will there only be a small percentage of the passengers who are kosher, making an especially problematic shared kosher and non-kosher situation more likely? Are you confident that everything will be cooked before Shabbos, and that the mashgichim will ensure that the staff follows the intricacies of the Shabbos laws of food preparation?

TZNIUS: Is it likely that your fellow passengers will show a lack of modesty, particularly if you are sailing to a sunny destination?

SHABBOS: Does the cruise leave within three days of Shabbos or Yom Tov, which Chazal have decreed is forbidden if the ship does not dock before Shabbos and remains in port during that Shabbos?

KABOLAS SHABBOS: How will you know when to accept Shabbos since, for security reasons, cruise lines are reluctant to release data to passengers and it is difficult to know exactly where the ship will be at any given moment?

ELECTRONICS: Will electronic cabin door locks, electric eye automatic door opening mechanisms, and sinks and toilets controlled by an electric eye, that have become commonplace on cruise ships, create a challenge on Shabbos?

SECURITY: If you return to the ship after a Shabbos stroll, can you be guaranteed that you will not set off alarms or lights at the metal detector? How will you get around showing your ticket (which may be muktza and forbidden to carry) and/or passport upon returning to the ship, so as not to cause Shabbos violations?

Answers to these questions and more can be found in Kashrus Kurrents “Don’t Miss the Boat: Halachic Guidelines of Kosher Cruises”