My husband loves going on cruises. Me, not so much. But there was one destination we both agreed we had to see from the deck of a ship: Alaska’s Inside Passage. While I looked forward to the majestic scenery, I wasn’t exactly excited by the frozen kosher meals I had arranged for us to dine on during our Alaskan adventure. And if the meals we received the first night onI was more than a little excited! board our cruise were any indication, it was going to be a long trip with us feasting on nothing but peanut-butter sandwiches, fresh fruit and veggies.

Thankfully, G‑d had another plan.

The next morning, as I was standing near a bank of elevators, someone came over to me, and asked if my husband and I were the other “kosher” couple. I answered that yes, we keep kosher.

“We’ve been looking for you!” he said, explaining that there were five other couples on the cruise ship who were Shabbat- and kosher-observant, and they were eating their meals together. Not only that, but a tour group from Israel was also on board. The group, which numbered about 30 or 40 people, had arranged for daily minyans and kosher meals. We were invited to join them for breakfast and dinner every day—meals that included freshly baked bread, salmon and eggs.

Needless to say, I was more than a little excited to relay this information to my husband. Goodbye, peanut butter! Hello scrambled eggs, roasted veggies and toast with butter!

Still, the food didn’t compare to the beauty that we enjoyed during our one Shabbat at sea. Just after lighting Shabbat candles (though we could not light an actual candle at sea), my husband and I went down to join the Friday-night prayers. I ended up standing by the door to a card room that the tour group had transformed into a makeshift synagogue.

Throughout Minchah and Kabbalat Shabbat, the door to the room remained open, drawing some curious glances from cruise-goers on their way to dinner or a show. A few people peeked in and smiled. One woman broke off from her group and asked if she could join us for services. I didn’t hesitate to welcome her and share my siddur.

A few minutes later, a man came in with his children and asked if he could pray with us. His two daughters sat behind me, while he and his son joined the men. An extra siddur was somehow found for father and son.

Then there was the older gentleman. Well-dressed and obviously on his way somewhere, he was drawn to the doorway by the Jewish tunes and Hebrew words.

He stood quietly, sadness in his eyes as he listened to the prayers. I asked him if he wanted to join us. He shook his head. “It’s been many, many years since I’ve been inside a synagogue.”

I assured him it would be fine if he came inside the room, but he turned and left. The look in his eyes said it all: His Jewish soul had called out and, for those few minutes, he had answered it.

It wasn’t just the praying that turned into a welcoming gathering for Jews on board. As our little group settled down for Friday-night dinner at our usual table—where, to my delight, loaves of fresh-baked challah were waiting for us—I happened to glance around the room. Sitting right behind us, at the very nextThe door to the room remained open, drawing some curious glances table, was the father who had brought his children to our services. The rest of his family was there, too.

After a little chit-chat and the recitation of Kiddush by one of the men in our group, the mother at the other table said: “I didn’t even think of getting challah for Shabbat.”

I reached into the basket on our table, pulled out several challah rolls and passed them to the other family. They were unbelievably happy to have this little taste of Shabbat on vacation.

Needless to say, what was supposed to be a cruise full of packaged meals and solo praying became one of the most moving, inspiring and amazing Shabbat experiences of my life.

Editor’s Note: If you will be traveling on a cruise over Shabbat, consult a competent rabbinic authority. Also see: May I Go on a Cruise on Shabbat?