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Can I go on a cruise that extends over Shabbat?

Can I go on a cruise that extends over Shabbat?

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Being a passenger on a seafaring vessel on Shabbat per se does not present a problem, provided that the ship is owned1 and maintained by non-Jews, and the majority of the passengers are not Jewish.2

However, there are some issues of which you should be aware:

  • One may not embark on a sea journey on the three days preceding Shabbat. This means that you may not initially board a cruise after sunset on Tuesday evening.3
  • A little known rule is that it is forbidden to travel more than 2,000 cubits (approximately 0.6 miles) outside a populated area on Shabbat. This is called the prohibition of techumin. Now, this does not affect sea travel because techumin does not apply if the traveler is more than 10 handbreadths above the ground, and the boat is more than ten handbreadths above the seabed. But a traveler is affected by the laws of techumin if he disembarks on Shabbat. Consult a rabbi if your plans include a Shabbat disembarkation.
  • If you do disembark on Shabbat, ascertain that you are not carrying anything with you—including ID cards and boarding passes.
  • We may not operate electronic automated doors on Shabbat. So scout out the ship before Shabbat to see which doors you should avoid.
  • Another possible issue is keycards. Like many hotels, the passengers' doors on cruises are often operated by electronic cards—forbidden on Shabbat. You may, however, ask a non-Jew to open your door for you.
  • If you are having pre-packaged meals served to you by the galley staff, be aware that you may not eat any meals which were heated for you on Shabbat.4

While these are more-or-less the standard issues facing cruise goers, you would be well-advised to discuss the particulars of your trip with your rabbi, as there may be other issues unique to your situation.

Yours truly,

Rabbi Menachem Posner

P.S. May I suggest that you explore the option of taking a "Jewish cruise"? A simple Google search will find you several companies that offer such cruises on top-flight cruise ships. You can dine on delicious kosher cuisine instead of pre-packaged fare. You will also have access to prayer services and even Torah classes. A luxurious way to pamper the body while remaining mindful of the soul's needs too!

FOOTNOTES
1.

Practically speaking, this would preclude joining a cruise owned by an Israeli company if it will extend over Shabbat.

2.

On Shabbat, it is forbidden for a Jew to benefit from "work" that is done for his benefit by a non-Jew. If the majority of the passengers are not Jewish, then the work that the non-Jewish crew is performing is primarily for the non-Jewish majority.

3.

Code of Jewish Law, Orach Chaim 248.

4.

Ibid. 325.

Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for Chabad.org. He lives with his family in Montreal, QC.
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Discussion (13)
August 29, 2014
This is great! Thank you so much for posting this!
Anonymous
June 30, 2014
food heated on shabbat
If the food is pre-cooked, and heated by a non-Jew on Shabbat. What is the problem with that? Why can't I eat it?
Anonymous
November 30, 2012
Cruising and departure dates
Next January, 2013, Kosherica has a cruise sailing out of New York on a Friday, with several prominent guest speakers and singers on board, all frum. I thought we were not allowed to board a cruise that sails on a Friday (or Thursday, or Wednesday, for that matter). Any one knows how to explain this?
Chaim
Wisconsin
April 27, 2011
Cruises from Israel
I would like to consult you about travelling on cruise ships on Shabbat.

We recently went on a kosher cruise to Greece on a Mano Line ship, organized by AACI.

The ship did not leave Israel on Shabbat but travelled on Shabbat.

The ships is not owned by Mano but rented from a Panama based company.

The cabin and dining room staff are Asian and we were told that the ship's crew was comprised of non-Jewish Russians, thus overcoming the problem of operation of the ship on Shabbat by Jews.

We booked a subsequent cruise but then an announcement was circulated by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate claiming the Kashrut supervison was inadequate and travelling involved Chillul Shabbat.

On personal clarification with David London, the manager of AACI, I was satisfied as to the stringent Kashrut supervision. However when I queried the crew operation of the ship on Shabbat, he told me that some of the crew were Jewish.

Therefore I cancelled the cruise.
Anonymous
Petah Tikvah, Israel
August 2, 2010
Leaving 3 days before Shabbos
How would this apply to a cruise which leaves on Sunday, makes several port calls, and is at sea on Shabbos, where the initial boarding is more than 3 days before Shabbos, but the last port calls are less than 3 days before Shabbos?
Yehoshua
New York, NY
July 25, 2010
getting off at a port
Assuming that you are not carrying anything and are careful about the techum, you can go out and explore the port.
gershon
July 25, 2010
cruise
If the ship stops at a port on a Shabbat, is it permissible to get off and explore the port?
Anonymous
London, U.K.
July 16, 2010
Meals
I once asked a rav about this, and he told me that it was not okay. One problem is that the rule of ain bishul achar bishul does not apply if there is any liquid being warmed up.
Gershon the Talmid
July 15, 2010
Shabbos Cruising regarding meals
I am under the impression that the pre-packaged food is "pre-cooked" and therefore the kitchen staff on the ship is warming it in a microwave oven.

Is it permissible if we do not ASK for it to be warmed up or reheated (ain bishel achar bishel)? Is this food okay to eat on Shabbos?
Yehuda
Yesodot, Israel
May 22, 2009
to Chaim
There are indeed many parallels between ships and planes. However, there are some very big differences which rule out air travel on Shabbat. One of them is the fact that very few (if any) flights last long enough for you to board before Shabbat and remain there until after Shabbat. Another difference is the fact that even a docked ship floats many feet above the seabed making techumin less problematic than that of an airplane which rests on the earth.
Menachem Posner for Chabad.org
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