“Summertime, And the livin’ is easy…” especially if you are heading for a cruise vacation. Ahh, the fresh sea air, the beautiful sights and the glorious gastronomic feasts that will certainly be served. While some cruise-lines offer short three or four day sailings, a real vacation cruise generally lasts a week. If a cruise lasts seven days, it always includes Shabbat.
The question of traveling on a ship on Shabbat is not a new one. However, whereas in the past people traveled on ships out of necessity (business, immigration), the question today is most often associated with pleasure.
When booking a cruise, it is best to determine which day of the week the cruise begins. Departing less than three days before Shabbat raises the concern that seasickness (and the inability to get truly settled in) will impede a person’s Oneg Shabbat (enjoyment of Shabbat). Therefore, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday are considered the best days for departing, although some authorities include Wednesday.
Once a person has taken (temporary) ownership of their cabin, thus making it their “home” and the ship has left port, the same rules of Shabbat apply as if one is staying in a hotel (i.e. electronic keys would be a problem). If a ship comes to port and docks before Shabbat, then one may continue to consider it no different than a hotel and may come and go as one wishes. However, if a ship docks on Shabbat, passengers must remain on board until Saturday night.
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