Dining on kosher cruises
- John Fogelman
How good is the dining on Kosher cruises? What has been your general experience with Kosher cruises? Also, how are the kosher alternatives on regular cruises - is it more or less TV dinners?
Celebrity Cruises will go you kosher frozen meals free of charge. Royal will get them for you but charge extra. Carnival won't even get them for you. I found this out last year on my first cruise. My wife and I took Celebrity Zenith from Tampa for a week and had a great time. My wife is flexible about fish. I ate only the frozen meals and fruit and cereal. You can get more info at some Cruise specific sites ie www.travel.yahoo.com - click on cruises. Non-kosher cruises are much, much cheaper but of course you will be eating frozen food as a rule.
I specialize in kosher travel arrangements. You need to be aware that there are programs with freshly prepared kosher meals. In this case, the tour operator brings on his own caterer who works with the ship's crew. They bring all their own dishes, etc. They are given a portion of the galley which they kasher. They supply all the meat, poultry, fish and also bring along a mashgiach to assure that the preparation is done according to halacha. Each company has a heckshir from the caterer's local bet din or rabbinical board. Some of these programs include extra Jewish oriented entertainment. With all of this, most of these programs are substantially more expensive than the standard pricing for the same sailing offered directly by the cruise line.
Eating frozen TV dinners, though, does not give you the same cruise experience as eating freshly prepared meals. Most of the cruise lines (except Carnival) do offer frozen sealed meals. I have never had a cruise line charge for the meals, unless the person was ordering more than one plate/person/meal. We have tried the meals on Holland America and Crystal Cruise Lines. They are surprisingly good, but it doesn't compare to freshly prepared meals.
One other advantage to traveling with a kosher group is that you can be fairly sure to find a minyan on a daily basis. They normally have a meeting room set aside for the group to use twice a day.
Finally, you need to be sure of the level of observance of the particular group. Most of the kosher groups are modern orthodox. There is one company that specializes in Chabad cruises. Also, if it is of importance to you, you need to be sure that there is access to an Shabbat elevator and that there will be someone to unlock your stateroom door on Shabbat (most of the ships have cabins with electric door locks). Off hand, I can only think of one ship with mechanical locks.
We are an ultra orthodox Jewish couple that eats strictly kosher food and went on a cruise with Royal Caribbean to the Bahamas, I must stay it was a great experience, they where accommodating our kosher needs in every possible way.
At first they do offer pre packaged kosher food prepared by "Webermans Traditional Food of North Miami", we expected bad pre packed kosher food as given on most airlines, but where pleasantly surprised of the great tasting food and menu variety (they even had soups) supplementary we brought along our own frozen pre packed foods which you can get in allot of kosher delis these days, that pack them double wrapped especially for travelers, overall we where well fed by all meals.
Just a few tips, first thing as we got on board the cruise ship, I looked for our tables head waiter in the dining room and explained to him the situation, he was EXTREMELY helpful and very respectful to our needs, it seemed like he served plenty kosher cruisers like us before and was well aware of all the restrictions and so forth, btw his name was “Nunu” on the Majesty of the Sea By Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (send him our best regards).
He advised us of calling in room service to store our food, and then he even offered us a separate private table in the dining room since we wanted our privacy with the kosher food, At every lunch and dinner he came by with full menu from webermans to ask us, what we would like at our next meal and he warmed up that particular meal and meal time, he even offered us double and triple portions just to make sure we get fed, supplementary he got our own frozen pre packed food from room service and warmed it up for us.
As for breakfast, we are simply not breakfast eaters, so our own pasties and bottles of milk that we stored with room service did the job just fine,whenever we asked for the milk, it was in our stateroom or even in the café within minutes.
Overall it was a great experience, Thanks to the Royal Caribbean Staff and our head waiter “Nunu” that understood our needs and where ready to help in every way, kudos to Webermans for providing delicious pre-pared kosher food, we never felt hungry on our entire cruise, we will go again and encourage other Jewish couples that eat strictly kosher food to do the same.
HAL serves the same frozen meals as everyone else - Webermans. You should order 2 meals for each person per adult. Also they will double wrap the fish, potatoes and vegies. The rice is from a rice cooker. Boiled eggs may be from a egg cooking machine. French fries at the pool are cooked in a kosher oil in a french fry cooker. I believe only the diet chocolate ice cream is kosher.
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