Last year, Royal Caribebean began sailing from Haifa for the first time. They were a super welcome addition to the available cruises from Israel as they really raised the bar of quality and availability.
As observant Jews, my husband and I went on a 7 night cruise to Greece for our honeymoon and had the time of our lives. Let’s breakdown some questions you probably have about the experience!
Shabbat Aboard a Cruise Ship
We were a bit concerned about a few of the logistics of keeping Shabbat on a cruise, but we were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was. The biggest issue for us keeping shabbat on board was having to give up one of the ports as we docked in Cyprus on Saturday morning.
The cruise left Haifa on a Friday afternoon which is a bit tricky when it comes to Halacha as many people hold that you should not board a ship within 3 days of Shabbat, meaning not to get onto a cruise ship after Wednesday. The reason for this is that the rabbis feared that due to seasickness, one would not be able to enjoy Shabbat. Boarding a ship by Wednesday should give passengers ample time to acclimate before Shabbat comes in. After speaking to our local Orthodox Rabbi, he informed us that it would be okay to board the ship but that we should bring with us motion sickness medication to be safe and try to board as early in the day as possible.
I would recommend bringing kosher wine with you on board, although there was a group kiddush led by the cruise rabbi after Shabbat davening. Also you’ll probably want some games or a book to pass time during the day. There are tons of places to sit down, hang out, and relax and there was even a shabbat elevator.
We were hoping they would have keys for us but alas they did not so we had to find a solution. We spoke to our stewardess and she told us that a few other people had asked her to tape their door open. This meant that the door wouldn’t lock and though it wasn’t the best option, we went with that route. We put all our valuables away in a safe and knew there were video cameras everywhere so we felt safe enough and thankfully nothing happened.
Kosher Food Options on Board
The kosher set up aboard the Rhapsody of the Seas was truly fantastic in our opinion. There were lots of options and we were SHOCKED how much the entire staff knew about kosher law. While there was a kosher meat dining hall on board, it costs 25 USD a day per person to eat there. (This price is subject to change and I have heard rumors it is going up to $75.) As a vegetarian, and knowing we’d be off the boat eating in the ports much of the time, we chose to save the money and eat in the main dining hall. We spoke to the head server on our first day on board and asked for fish and vegetables wrapped in foil which they were happy to bring us and they were quite used to the request. There were “kosher assurance” people stationed at the door of each dining room to help you navigate the kashrut on board. We avoided the buffet entirely except for grabbing coffee or drinks here and there.
In the main dining hall we were served by Amit and Placidus (two of the head waiters on board) who are totally fantastic and made sure we had wrapped fish, potatoes, and veggies every night for dinner as well as freshly cut salad and kosher dessert. If you prefer, they offer paper plates and plastic cutlery as well. If you are on board, check to see if they’re around and most definitely ask to be put in Olga’s section. She was simply the best!
There is a free dairy dining hall open for the majority of the day. Located in the adult pool area, Park Cafe serves a breakfast of bagels, oatmeal, baked goods, and fruit. In the afternoon until 6:30 pm and from 9:00 pm to 1:00 am they have pizza and salad! (Ask for gluten free and they’ll make it fresh for you!)