Anti-Catholic, anti-priest move by Celebrity Cruises

For the following, keep two points in mind.

Priests will tell you that they often hear some pretty amazing confessions when they visit a parish where they are not usually assigned, or even when they are traveling.  It is a common opinion among priests that this is because people are feel freed up by even greater anonymity.

We also know that anti-Catholicism is on the rise.

His dictis, a reliable and very well-known priest friend sent the following about the decision of a famous cruise line to severely curtail providing for priests on board their cruises, who say Mass, hear confessions and see to the spiritual needs of passengers and crews.

The note was sent out by the Apostleship of the Sea and it concerns Celebrity Cruises.

            I am a member of the Apostleship [of the Sea] even though the only time I have made use of this was to be chaplain [once]. It is a good group providing priests on board various cruise lines around the world. Personally, I have heard some very moving and deep confessions on board, probably due to the fact that faithful felt freer to pour out the hearts to someone they would never see again (another good reason for the grill, but I digress).
            This just came from them regarding a new policy from Celebrity Cruises which smacks of anti-Catholicism, or at least a profound misunderstanding of the role of the priest in the lives of the Catholic faithful verses that of ministers.

Apostleship of the Sea of the United States of America

[NOTA BENE…] My thought is that if the Faithful themselves knew of this decision they might want to make other arrangements in the panning of the choices for cruises.   [In other words, don’t use Celebrity Cruises]

I have never been on any cruise and haven’t been inclined to this point.  But I must agree with my priest friend.  This is a really bad move.

Here is the message sent out about this, which was attached to my friends e-mail.

Dear Friends,
We have received word from Celebrity Cruises [File that name away… Celebrity Cruises which doesn’t want priests….] that a significant change will take place for the year 2010.
Celebrity Cruises will only require priests for Easter and Christmas sailings in the year 2010.  This does not include Ash Wednesday or Palm Sunday cruises. [Which are two huge days also for fallen away Catholics! And let’s not even talk here about people who want daily Mass.]
We know that many of your have already volunteered for and been assigned to many cruises for Celebrity for the year 2010.  However, only those assigned to Easter or Christmas sailings will now be sailing.
This is a great shock and disappointment to us, and we clearly know that this is a tremedous disappointment to each of you as well.
Please see the message from Celebrity [which doesn’t want priests…] below [This comes from Celebrity Cruises… which doesn’t want priests…]:
Celebrity Cruises values the relationship and partnership with the Apostleship of the Seas. It is with great confidence that we can use the services of the AOSUSA to ensure that all priests are properly vetted, supported, and are in good standing with their own church.

While we do meet the needs of many guests onboard by supplying a priest, we have recently encountered a great deal of negative feedback pertaining to the "selective" support of one particular religion/faith. While Celebrity Cruises is unable to provide one minister/religious leader of every faith onboard every sailing, we have had to make areduction in the number of Roman Catholic Priests placements onboard.

After many internal discussions, external research, and marketing investigations,[of course!] Celebrity Cruises [which doesn’t want priests] will only place Roman Catholic Priests on sailings that take place over the Easter and Christmas holiday. This has not been an easy decision for the corporate office, and many hours of meetings, reviews, emails, discussions, and conversations took place.

This change will be effective upon the first sailing of each vessel in 2010.

I will be in touch with the dates of 2010 that will require a Roman Catholic Priest. Thank you for your understanding. Please let me know if there are any questions.

The note from the Apostleship of the Sea continues:

AOS USA regrets this decision by Celebrity Cruises
[which doesn’t want priests]. We have always enjoyed a wonderful working relationship with them.  We are thankful that they have chosen to stay onboard with our program to ensure valid priests in good standing for those cruises that they choose to place priests onboard.
We know that from time to time, there have been some negative comments from non-Catholic passengers, as Celebrity mentions in their note.
[How many members of other churches or religions have a practice of a daily service?] However, we also believe that some of the recent issues with improper conduct from some of our priests and/or their guests onboard, has unfavorably weighed in on this decision as well[Is this really the issue?  It sounds like an excuse.]
When we received this note last week, we initially requested that Celebrity
[which doesn’t want priests] allow those assigned to January thru March cruises to sail. We also requested continued placement of priests for Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday cruises. However, it was stated that the new policy authorizes priests only for Easter and Christmas.
We have requested further instruction from Celebrity
[which doesn’t want priests] regarding how airfare cancellations or revisions will be addressed. We have not received response to this as of this time.


Eash [sic] of these sailings have already been filled.  So please do not apply for these.
We have asked Msgr Harriman and Fr. Dominic Hahn with Holland America Line to work with priests whose assignments are now cancelled, to see if we can transfer some of them to similar cruises where possible.  [So… Celebrity doesn’t want priests, as a matter of policy.  Holland American does.  I hope that helps you make any decisions about travel.] They have both kindly agreed to do so. I will give more information on how to proceed with this in another note.
We know your disappointment, as we share in it.  This will significantly impact the number of cruises we have for placement of priests in the year 2010.  We are currently renewing membership for 2010. If you choose not to renew at this time, we will certainly understand. 
We appreciate those of you who have been true representatives of Christ onboard, and hope that you will continue to pray for the ministry to the People of the Sea and those who serve them. Pray too that they year 2010 will bring more cruise lines onboard.

If you are planning any vacation involving cruises, remember that you won’t find a priest on Celebrity Cruises.

You probably will on any other cruise lines, but not Celebrity Cruises.  They aren’t interested enough in the needs of Catholics to provide for priests for their time aboard. 

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Gregory DiPippo says:

    Proposed solution: tell Celebrity Cruises that if they yield to this kind of bigotry, NO priests will be present on future cruises. Bigotry is bigotry, and it is as unacceptable to be opposed to the presence of a priest as it is to be opposed to the presence of a rabbi.

  2. irishgirl says:

    You tell ’em, Gregory!

  3. wanda says:

    Notified Priest’s in our Parish cluster of 5. Way to go Celebrity.

  4. Here is the link to an email form. I wrote to them to tell them that “my next cruise WILL NOT be on Celebrity” due to this decision.

    Fight back brothers and sisters!;jsessionid=0000a6HgG2LUsL6ZVbVZ-Vz91bW:12hdbcveb

  5. wanda says:

    David in T.O., Thank you for the link to Celebrity. I’ve e-mailed them my opinion on the matter. I told them I would be passing the information along to our Priests and to the Parishioners in my area.

  6. Rellis says:

    To inject a bit of levity in this otherwise serious situation:

    “The people of the sea and those who serve them?”

    Sounds like the snorkels and their slave race, the little Mermen.

  7. momaburke says:

    Before threatening to cruise with another line, keep in mind that Celebrity was one of only two that guaranteed a priest on every ship. So they’ve just joined all those others in not providing a spiritual guide. A priest friend of mine sailed Royal Caribbean a few months ago, and when he boarded he was told his services would not be needed. So be sure you contact every cruise line and tell them you won’t be sailing with them, too. Not that I support Celebrity–I certainly don’t! I’m very disappointed. But they’re far from alone with this policy.

  8. chonak says:

    This is also a burden for the crewmen of cruise ships, many of whom come from Catholic countries. They deserve respect for their religious needs.

  9. dimsum says:

    chonak……you are so right. In the cruises that I’ve taken, I have noticed that a great number of the crewmen were from the Philippines.

  10. Tradster says:

    “However, we also believe that some of the recent issues with improper conduct from some of our priests and/or their guests onboard, has unfavorably weighed in on this decision as well.”

    (Sigh) Is this the tired old pedophile excuse yet again? If so, will they decide to exclude public school teachers, too?

  11. Random Friar says:

    I will play Devil’s Advocate here on behalf of Celebrity. IIRC, part of the requirement for priests on these cruises is that they also provide an non-denominational Christian service of the Word for our separated brethren. Now, this means that in essence only Catholic priests could be chaplains for the most part, since obviously Catholics would not accept Mass from one of our separated brethren’s ecclesial bodies.

    So what happens? Well, if Reverend Smythe from 1st Protestant Church wishes to be a chaplain, he/she would be turned down, because he/she could not fully carry out the tasks needed (i.e., Mass). To them, it might smack of favoritism. That, and all our separated brethren would wonder why so often their minister is Father Doe.

    The way our culture is nowadays (can you say “litigious?”), anything that smacks of preferential treatment for one body will bring about a suit eventually. I imagine this may be what happened. I can’t say for sure, but this is what it smells like to me. My humble suggestion is this: do not blast Celebrity for prejudice or bigotry. I do not think this is the case. Rather, exhort them and tell them how necessary and wonderful having a priest would be for the cruise, and that if not, you regret that you will have to find another cruise that carries a priest (but again, many do not, period, so you can’t just say you’ll run to cruise line “Minnow” for their three hour tour).

    For the curious, the compensation for most chaplains was free room and board, except for the mandatory gratuities. They normally had to pay their own plane fare, unless they covered for a last minute cancellation, or for a cruise longer than 14 days, IIRC.

    This also happened with airport Masses. People were getting all upset because Father Doe would say Mass in an airport chapel on Sunday, and this would be announced over the public address system. It was harder to get other faiths to cover their faithful as well, so yeah, airports got threatened with lawsuits as well.

  12. Random Friar says:

    And as for the improper conduct, what that normally refers to is alcohol. Yes, a few decided they were really on vacation and had one or two too many. No one cares if the guy in the loud Hawaiian shirt is a little tipsy and obnoxious. They do if they know it’s the chaplain.

    And priests are treated as “independent contractors,” so yes, the cruise line could tell them what to do and what not to do, in a limited sense. At least in some cruise lines, I know priests would not be allowed to go to the bar (at least in their clerical attire).

  13. Random Friar says:

    Just to be clear, I do not support or like the decision taken by Celebrity, but in this day and age, it is not surprising.

  14. KAS says:

    How very sad. I guess I shall have to be certain to ASK if I am planning to take a cruise about the availability of a priest on the ship.

    If there are not any cruises with a priest on board, then I guess I shall have to find another way to spend my holiday or be sure to travel with a group which is bringing their own priest along!

  15. Mitchell NY says:

    How many thousands, have found the service of a Roman Catholic Priest in times of peril or imminent danger both comforting and necessary. Think Titanic, Lusitania, and many other situations across history and the globe. I would think that when others are planning their lawsuits they are NOT in a moment of peril or danger. A sad decision indeed.

  16. Subvet says:

    Is there a good source of information that lists those cruise lines providing priests?

  17. Random Friar says:

    Subvet: As far as I know, Apostleship of the Seas is the only “broker” for priests, to ensure that only priests in good standing are assigned to a cruise. They don’t have that specific information online, but their website is:

    They include a contact page for queries. You may also contact the cruise line directly, and ask which, if any, of their cruises would include a priest chaplain.

  18. Subvet says:

    Random Friar, thanks for the information.

  19. boko fittleworth says:

    They work those Catholic Phillipinos’ tails off. This is more abuse, akin to depriving the worker of his just wages, that cries out to heaven. It’s not (just) about the cruisers, it’s about the crew.

  20. Francisco Cojuanco says:

    Exactly, Boko. Remember, the chaplains don’t exclusively serve the passengers, but the crew as well.

    And depriving most Filipinos of the sacraments is like asking them to cut off their arms and sell their organs – they’ll only ever endure it if the alternative means their families starve. Unfortunately, in today’s society, companies like Celebrity are more interested in the well-to-do, latitudinarian customers who give them profit than the devout workers.

  21. Jerry says:

    There are articles regarding the cruise priest program on pages 9 and 10 of the March 2009 Catholic Maritime News:

  22. yellowstone says:

    I am not sure why we as Catholics should expect a company like Celebrity to provide us with a priest on every ship. They have 12 shops each sailing about 50 times a year….600 cruises. Why would we expect them to give a cabin just so a Catholic could have Mass every day during vacation. They do not say that a Catholic priest could not say mass if he were on a cruise, just that they will not pay for a priest on all 600 cruises every year.

    If having daily Mass is that important to a Caholic taking spending thousands on a cruise, why not take your local pastor on the cruise with you?

    Sometimes I think all of us Catholics expect too much prom companies and priests. We expect mass on Sunday every hour on the hour, expect daily Mass even when on a cruise ship, expect someone else to pay for it ect.

    Maybe a religious order or lay organization should take this ministry of providing a priest on every ship and every line. I bet someone could do it for less than a million dollars a year.

    I am just not sure why we should expect someone else to pay for our convience of attending daily mass when on a vacation?

  23. GOR says:

    I have some mixed feelings about this. First, my concern is about the Sunday Obligation. On the one hand I see a need for providing Catholic crew members an opportunity to fulfill their Sunday obligation. All companies should make provision for this. In the case of cruises, whether this means ensuring that a chaplain is on board or providing for the crew to attend Mass in port on a Sunday may be a question of cost or logistics.

    As to the passengers, that is a different matter. They chose to go on this cruise. They have a choice. The crew does not. Whenever we are away from home, or on vacation, it is our responsibility to make provision for attending Sunday Mass. When my wife and I have been away from home on a weekend, by design or ‘act of God’ (we were once stranded in Springfield Illinois, in a snowstorm on a weekend…), our second objective – after securing lodging – is to find the nearest Catholic Church and determine Mass times.

    Before embarking on a cruise or being away from home on a Sunday, that should be planned for – by all Catholics everywhere. That the trip organizers may provide for this is a bonus, and may be a ‘selling point’ for them – but the responsibility lies with us individually, not with them.

    That a priest can do good work on a cruise or anywhere, I don’t question. But, pace the Apostleship of the Sea, whether schmoozing with passengers on a cruise ship is an appropriate venue I would question. Much like I question assorted ‘pilgrimages’ – touted as ‘led by Father X’ – which so many travel agencies promote…

  24. yellowstone says:

    Any Catholic before accepting any employment should make sure they will have the opportunity to attend Sunday (or Sat vigil) Mass. Even if it is in a port. If they would not regularly have the opportunity, they should not take the position.

    Giving crew members the oppotunity to attend religious services in a port is one thing. Paying for a priest in a cabin on every cruise is something way together different.

    If the cruise company is forcing the crew to work “round the clock” hours on the weekend, they still would not be able to attend Mass in a room on the ship set up for travelers.

  25. Random Friar says:

    Yellowstone: Ships do not force people to work at all hours, but obviously someone has to be on duty on a ship 24/7. IIRC, the priest chaplains were usually to offer a morning Mass for the passengers and an evening Mass (10 PM was the norm, I believe) for the crew.

    Most cruise ships also make regular port visits, which allows for Sunday obligation, usually (the itinerary is always listed before you sail, so you can plan accordingly). The idea is to see as much of the various ports as possible, not so much to behold the fearsome magnitude of the ocean. The way cruise ships are now, they are essentially a floating Vegas casino, complete with every kind of show, store and convenience.

  26. Baron Korf says:

    Lame excuse. Protestant/ecumenical services can be led by anyone, Catholic services can only be led by a priest. So they are telling us they only want us twice a year, lovely.

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