More on Celebrity Cruises and bias against Catholic priests

Remember when I wrote about the probable anti-Catholic bias evidenced by Celebrity Cruises?   They have eliminated the services of Catholic priests for pretty much all of their cruises.

The Catholic League has this…


January 14, 2010

Bill Donohue explains why the Catholic League is sharply critical of Celebrity Cruises:

Ten days before Christmas, we learned that Celebrity Cruises had just announced that beginning in 2010, it would no longer have priests on board to celebrate daily and Sunday Masses. We immediately followed up by questioning the cruise line about its new policy. Just this week we received a reply that said, “Out of respect for our guests of all religious faiths, Celebrity has chosen to align the religious services provided for Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Interdenominational faiths effective January 4, 2010.” It added that religious services would be provided for “the major High Holy Holidays of each respective faith.”  [Get that?  "align".]

What this statement failed to note is the reason for the new policy. The following is an excerpt from the letter it sent to Catholic priests affected by the change in policy: “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. After many internal discussions, external research, and marketing investigations, Celebrity Cruises will only place Roman Catholic Priests on sailings that take place over the Easter and Christmas holiday.”  [Who could have complained?]

In other words, because some anti-Catholics objected to daily Mass onboard the ship, Celebrity Cruises threw the priests—and the lay Catholic men and women with them—overboard. [That’s about it.] Instead of standing on principle and telling those generating the “negative feedback” that no one is forced to go to Mass, and that tolerance demands respect for religious freedom, officials at Celebrity Cruises decided to yield to the bigots.

The Catholic League advises all Catholics to shop around the next time they plan to take a cruise, but not to waste their time checking out Celebrity Cruises.  [As I also suggested.  Choose another line.]


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  1. edwardo3 says:

    I’ll stick with Cunard.

  2. Supertradmom says:

    Despite the coolness of the article, this is an important step away from meeting the desires and needs of those who travel on cruises. As to who would complain, someone who is uncomfortable around those who stop their vacation events to go to Mass. For those who can afford this, choose another line, but not the lines own by the Disney corporation, who have the lesbian and homosexual cruises (Disney Cruise Line)

  3. TJerome says:

    supertradmom, thanks for the info. Walt Disney must be rolling over in his grave. Tom

  4. I have never been on a cruise, but I think it would be an interesting experience… especially if people were coming to Mass!

  5. mousy says:

    What about the crew? I used to work in the cruise industry, as did my husband – both of us worked on board. Our ships had a priest, but most in attendance at Mass were crew. Our cruise lines employed a very large number of Filipinos. This was during the 80’s thru 2006. Could be different now. Very sad!

  6. Mousy: Apparently Celebrity Cruises doesn’t think the crew is important.

  7. Margaret says:

    Someday DH & I will get away on a cruise. Whenever we don’t have a baby or toddler underfoot. Which hasn’t happened yet in 17 years. But I digress…

    For me the appeal of a cruise is the “one-stop shopping” aspect of it– everything is right there. Food, entertainment, recreation, exercise, sleeping quarters, etc. And daily Mass!!! Right there, along with everything else. Like everything else, easier then at home, because I won’t need to grab my keys and purse and drive anywhere. It would be a huge factor for me when deciding where to spend our hard-earned vacation money. I will be dropping them a line and encouraging my friends to do the same.

  8. Marysann says:

    We took the Queen Mary II to Southhampton last summer, and Mass was offered everyday. The large auditorium where Sunday Mass was offered was packed. The Cunard people know better than to drop this service.

  9. Charivari Rob says:

    I was on a 10 day cruise on Royal Caribbean a few years back. We had daily Mass onboard except maybe one port day. I was under the impression that it was a senior/”retired” priest who was taking a cruise holiday himself. I took a quick look at their website just now – found references to “providing” a priest for Easter/Christmas.

    Space was made available to accomodate. I believe it was usually morning Mass – an otherwise down time for a stern club/lounge space that also hosted karaoke, bingo, and “sit and stay fit” toner exercise sessions. Mass attendance ranged from a few dozen to a couple of hundred (on the Sunday) for an off-season cruise – about a thousand passengers on a ship that could host 2300 (+ crew)

    Regarding Celebrity – if they’re moving towards pigeon-holing some groups who acknowledge the existence of a higher power, are they also prepared to treat AA as badly? On our Royal Caribbean cruise, there were daily AA meetings in a function room.

  10. Adam Welp says:

    I received the same canned response from Celebrity when I sent a complaint email. Does Carnival offer Daily/Sunday Mass on their ships?

  11. thouart says:

    “Celebrity has chosen to align the religious services provided for Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Interdenominational faiths”

    I thought that was what Vatican II was supposed to do.

  12. wilky says:

    Does anyone know if the priests on cruise ships are priests in good standing in their dioceses, or are they ex-priests for some reason or another? Friends of mine on a long cruise from San Francisco to Australia gave up on the daily Mass because the priest was constantly intruding his inane comments into the text of the readings,comments such as “Yeah, would would believe that?” after a miracle worked by the Lord. They ended up going to a protestant bible study on the psalms.

  13. Magpie says:

    Would this be the same Celebrity Cruises which doesn’t want priests? ;-)

  14. Adam–

    My mother just returned home from a Carnival cruise to the Yucatan peninsula and was very upset that no priest was on board. She missed a holy day of obligation and a Sunday day of obligation.

    Wilky- There is a priest from our archdiocese who says Mass on cruises for most of the year–Fr. Leven–he is retired. As far as priests go in our diocese, he says Mass the way many priests do–he adds some prayers that aren’t a part of the rubrics, etc. Nothing too crazy (of course, we assist at a TLM as often as possible because it is difficult to find a Mass that doesn’t have some problems around here). To his credit, there was a time when I was about to leave the Catholic church many years ago to go to some kind of non-demoninational Church and Fr. Leven was a guest priest at the last Mass I planned on ever attending and his extemporaneous prayers made me remain a Catholic. Sorry for going on so long!

  15. TJerome says:

    I recall that at one time Mass could not be said on a ship without an indult. Is my recollection correct, or am I having another “senior moment.” Tom

  16. tzard says:

    They’re owned by Royal Caribbean – I wonder if they’d be intrested.

  17. Mark Windsor says:

    I’ve spent 25 years in the travel business.

    I can assure you, there are no angels in the industry when it comes to this kind of thing.

    One major industry association even has a specialty training program in “lifestyle travel”.

    If a group offered to hire an entire ship for a week, it doesn’t matter what supplier or what group, they’d take it. They’d say that the NRA’s money spends just as well as that of the Rainbow Coalition.

  18. M. K. says:

    “. . . Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Interdenominational faiths . . .”

    I’m curious what they take the “Interdenominational” faith to be, and what would count as the holy days of said faith. More seriously, though, it strikes me that providing Catholic priests is a different matter from providing Protestant or Jewish clergy given that those faiths (at least as far as I know) do not have anything analogous to the Catholic obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and certain holy days. Thus, I would think that adherents of those faiths would be less anxious about having clergy onboard than Catholics would be – in other words, I don’t think the “pastoral need” for non-Catholic clergy on cruises is as great.

    In response to wilky’s comment on the standing of priests on cruises, I have known a number of active diocesan and religious priests who took annual cruises and served annually as cruise chaplains – this was a kind of working vacation for them, as they were able to take a rest from their usual ministry while still providing the sacramental needs of the faithful. I remember from speaking with these priests that they were required to submit up-to-date documentation from their dioceses and/or religious communities to show that they were priests in good standing, so this was certainly a concern for the cruise lines in question.

  19. Father Totton says:

    As a priest who recently returned from a cruise vacation on Royal Caribbean (the parent company of which also own Celebrity) I would like to weigh-in on this decision and the comments being made here.

    First off, I should disclose that I have never gone on a cruise through the Cruise Ship Priest Program of the Apostleship of the Seas and the two cruises I have taken have been vacations in which I have paid full fare as would any passenger on board. That being said, I, and my priestly traveling companions have said Mass aboard daily, albeit, privately in our stateroom. I have not been on a cruise ship on a Sunday or any other Holy Day of Obligation.

    I think the AOSUSA is a good program and I have long been impressed that cruise ship companies (any company) would offer such a courtesy to its guests (and crew). AS I understand it, those lines which engage the services of a chaplain provide his basic room and board (basically the full fare that any paying passenger would receive) in exchange for saying daily Mass(es) for passengers and crew (the Mass times are generally separate) and being available for on-board pastoral encounters (of both sacramental and non-sacramental nature). The cruise line gains a chaplain, the priest is given a change of scenery in which to exercise priestly ministry in a more laid-back venue (that is not to say that he throws the rubrics overboard!!!) It seems a good deal for all involved, ship, crew, passengers and priest. The cost to the cruise line of providing a priest is negligible as the cabin he is given may otherwise go empty!

    Because of the shortage of priests (on land, in the military, and elsewhere) the availability of priests for long or short-term service on cruise ships is a premium. Perhaps lines have, in the past, “guaranteed” the presence of a priest on-board every cruise, this is no longer possible – due to priest shortage. I think it would be foolish for any cruise line to “guarantee” such a thing in this climate. It is still a fine ideal to strive for, to provide a priest whenever possible, but to “guarantee”??? That hardly sounds reasonable to me.

    If on-board priests have behaved like baffoons – and passengers (be they Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, etc.) have complained, then shame on that priest.

    If the cruise line feels, out of a sincere, if misplaced, sense of “fairness” that they would likewise have to engage the services of (or even “guarantee” – again, let me know if you can figure this one out) a protestant minister of a Jewish Rabbi, or an Islamic Imam, or a Pagan Shahman, or any other religious figure, and they deem it too much trouble, I would not say that they are anti-Catholic to drop the provision of a priest.

    If I were a Catholic billionaire tycoon who owned a cruise line, I would make the conscious decision to continue to strive to engage the services of a Catholic Priest on every cruise (especially those sailing on a Sunday or Holy Day of Obligation) thought I would never make it a “guarantee”.

    As a conscientious traveller, I will try to support those companies (cruise lines among them) that still go out out their way to provide services for my co-religionists, and I will not fault my fellow Catholics for doing the same – reward those who are willing to go that extra mile.

    Bill Donahue and the Catholic League often cry foul where there is none, or where it is not nearly as offensive as they claim. Celebrity has made a business decision (a poor one, I will concede) but I fail to see this as an example of anti-clerical or anti-catholic behavior.

    My hope is that readers of this blog will check with the various cruise lines before booking passage over a weekend or Holy Day.

    I do feel for the crews of these lines, they contract for up to eight months at a time and are on-board ship virtually every hour of those eight months. Many of the Catholics on those crews are unable to attend Mass due to lack of a priest on-board. Given the circumstances of thier employment (like that of a firefighter or a nurse – though I concede there are differences) such crew members may not be culpable for failing to attend Masses on these days, though some could make the argument that they should simply look for other work – I don’t know if it is that simple.

  20. MichaelJ says:

    Father Totton,
    Much of what you wrote sounds reasonable, but I truly do not understand your statement that “I will try to support those companies (cruise lines among them) that still go out out their way to provide services for my co-religionists”

    I could, I suppose, agree that a company should not prohibit the practice of a false religeon, but to suggest that a company should actively promote a false religeon just seems wrong.

  21. Father Totton says:

    Michael J,

    Perhaps my phraseology was a bit awkward. I did not intend to give the air of indifferentism, as if I thought it okay to worship a false god or gods, only to point out that I could see Celebrity’s point from a purely business perspective (though myopic), and that, as a Catholic, I would give my business, whenever possible, to those merchants who are willing to accommodate Catholic sensibilities (ie. a desire tto attend daily Mass, esp. on Sundays and Holy Days).

  22. Father Totton says:

    I don’t rightly know why I am going on like this, but I would add that I would see it as anti-priest bias if I were told that I could not wear clerical attire aboard the ship, or if I were treated in an inferior manner because I was identified as a priest. I do lament the limited avvailabilty of Holy Mass aboard ship, but a cruise line does not have a moral obligation to provide it. Hopefully, other cruise lines will continue to see the provision of Mass as a service well-appreciated by their passengers and crew and will continue to make such services available. FWIW, I was told that the owner of Carnival is a “devout” Catholic and yet, they have long had little Mass availabilit aboard their sailings. I thinkk Princess and Holland America are two lines that still make a concerted effort to provide Mass.

  23. everett says:

    Fr. Totton,

    For what its worth, Carnival owns Princess and Holland America. That being said, each of the three companies has different target demographics that could certainly lead to more or less priests depending.

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