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Taking a cruise over Shabbat
Is it permissible to take a cruise over Shabbat?
- According to Ashkenazim, many authorities forbid boarding a ship that will travel on Shabbat unless one boards the boat during the first three days of the week (Sunday through Tuesday), however, some permit boarding on Friday. According to Sephardim, many authorities hold that one may not board a boat within 3 days of Shabbat, meaning, preferably during the first three days of the week and if that’s not possible then even on Wednesday. However, some say that one is permitted to board a cruise/boat even on Friday. This is all on condition that the captain and crew are non-Jewish and that a majority of the passengers are non-Jewish. 
- If the ship is owned by Jews, consult your local Rabbi. 
Boarding the boat on Shabbat
- It is forbidden to board a boat on Shabbat if it will travel on Shabbat even for mitzvah purposes. 
Leaving the boat on Shabbat
- If the boat arrives to its destination on Shabbat one should try to stay on the boat until after Shabbat, however, if one is unable to do so, one may not carry his belongings (even his passport) with him off the boat rather one should ask a non-Jew to carry his belonging for him. 
Traveling by boat for business
- If one is traveling for the purpose of a mitzvah it is permissible to board the ship on Friday. Many Sephardic authorities hold that one must stipulate with the captain that the ship shouldn’t travel on Shabbat and then even if the captain does continue on Shabbat it’s permissible, while Ashkenazic and some Sephardic authorities hold that one doesn’t need to stipulate if one knows that the captain will not agree. 
- Traveling to Israel even for a temporary visit is a mitzvah (for this halacha) as long as one will walk 4 amot in Israel.  This is all on condition that the crew is non-Jewish and majority of the passengers are non-Jewish (see above).
- According to Ashkenazim, traveling for business is a sufficient reason to permit boarding a boat on Friday. However, according to Sephardim this isn’t sufficient reason. 
- The Gemara Shabbat 19a quotes the Briatta which states that one may not board a boat in order to travel on Shabbat unless one got on before 3 days before Shabbat (whether or not this includes Wednesday will be addressed later).
- The Rif (Shabbat 7a-b) explains that the reason for this restriction is that if one boards a boat within 3 days of Shabbat it will negatively impact the passenger’s oneg Shabbat (enjoyment of Shabbat), however, if it’s started earlier the passengers will get used to it and be able to enjoy Shabbat. The Rif adds that if the boat will travel lower than 10 tefachim (to the ground of the river) there could be a violation of leaving the Techum and in such a case one wouldn’t be able to leave any day of the week. The Rosh (Shabbat 1:38) and Rambam (Shabbat 30:13) agree with this reason.
- However, the Baal HaMoer (on Rif) explains that the reason that one may not board a boat close to Shabbat is because it’s likely that there will be life threatening danger which will necessitate a violation of Shabbat. However, when it is begun earlier there’s no issue because the obligation to prepare not to violate Shabbat even for life threatening danger doesn’t begin (fully explained in Mishna Brurah’s introduction to 248 and 248:8).
- The Bet Yosef 248:1 writes that according to the Baal HaMoer it seems that it would be forbidden to board the boat on Wednesday because Gemara Gittin 77a says that Sunday through Tuesday is part of the previous Shabbat and Wednesday to Friday is connected to the upcoming Shabbat. Then the Bet Yosef infers from the Rosh that it is permissible to board the boat on Wednesday. Mishna Brurah 248:8 writes that this question of whether Wednesday is a major dispute between the Magan Avraham who forbids and the Gra who permits and Mishna Brurah leaves it unresolved. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 30:66 is strict only to allow entering the boat before Wednesday. Kaf HaChaim 248:7 writes that preferably one should be strict not to board on Wednesday but if it’s not possible one can be lenient. Menuchat Ahava (vol 1, 1:1-2) is lenient to permit entering on Wednesday unless it’s definite that there will be a violation of Shabbat (because life threatening situations).
- Menuchat Ahava (vol 1, 1:2) writes that nowadays since the boats are calmer and it’s less likely that it will ruin one’s oneg Shabbat it’s permissible to board the boat on Friday. Rabbi Yisrael Belsky (OU Kosher Webcast, December 2011, min 3-9) says that nowadays the minhag is to be lenient and there is what to rely on. However, Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 30:66 rules that trips for vacation may only board the ship on the first three days of the week even nowadays. (Rav Herschel Schachter (min 77) seems to agree.) VeDaber Davar (Rav Shmuel Pinchasi, 1:25), Chut Sheni (Rav Nassim Karlitz, vol 1, pg 72), and Daily Halacha by Rabbi Mansour agree with Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata. Similarly, Yalkut Yosef (Shabbat vol 1, pg 48) argues that one should not be lenient unless one frequently travels by boat and isn’t bothered by the travel.
- Menuchat Ahava (vol 1, 1:2) writes that if the crew or captain is Jewish and will work on Shabbat it’s forbidden to board the boat any day of the week. Yalkut Yosef (Shabbat, vol 1, pg 48), Sh”t Yachava Daat 6:16, and VeDaber Davar (Rav Shmuel Pinchasi 1:22) agree.
- Menuchat Ahava (vol 1, 1:2) writes that it is only permissible if a majority of the passengers are non-Jewish, otherwise, the crew is working on Shabbat for the benefit of Jewish and would be forbidden (as Amirah LeNochri). Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 30:66 (and note 221) adds if the ship travels on a schedule and would travel with or without passengers then it would be permissible even if there’s a majority of Jews, but if without the Jewish passengers they would cancel the trip it wouldn’t be forbidden.
- Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 33:66 (not 222) writes that one should consult a Rabbi. See also http://www.yeshiva.org.il/ask/eng/?id=5290 who expressly forbids if it's owned by Jews.
- Menuchat Ahava (vol 1, 1:4) forbids boarding a boat which will begin to travel on Shabbat even for the purposes of a mitzvah. Mishna Brurah 248:2 writes that it's forbidden to board a boat which will begin to travel on Shabbat but if it's for mitzvah purposes there's a dispute whether it is permissible.
- Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 30:67, Yalkut Yosef (vol 1, pg 53)
- The Briatta in Gemara Shabbat 19a writes that for a mitzvah purpose it’s permitted to board the boat on Friday and Rebbe holds that one must stipulate with the captain that he will not travel on Shabbat and then even if the captain afterwards does continue to travel on Shabbat it’s permitted, while Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel argues that one isn’t obligated to do so.
- The Rambam (Shabbat 30:13) rules like Rebbe, while the Tur 248:1 rules like Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel. S”A 248:1 rules like the Rambam that even when one is traveling for a mitzvah one must make sure to stipulate with that they not travel on Shabbat. Mishna Brurah 248:3 concludes that if the captain is unwilling to stop for Shabbat it is still permissible to board the boat Friday for a mitzvah purpose. Yalkut Yosef (Shabbat vol 1, pg 48) is lenient not to require one to stipulate if one knows that the captina will not agree to stop the ship on Shabbat. [Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 30:66 seems to agree because he simply doesn’t mention this condition at all.] Kaf HaChaim 248:4 and Menuchat Ahava (vol 1, 1:3) are only lenient where the captain is unwilling to stop if one will miss the opportunity to do that mitzvah.
- S”A 248:1 writes that for a mitzvah purpose it’s permitted to board the boat on Friday. The S”A 248:4 gives making Aliyah (moving to Israel) as an example of a mitzvah. Mishna Brurah 248:28 writes that according to some this is only a mitzvah when one moves to Israel with intent to live there while others hold that it’s a mitzvah even to simply walk 4 amot in Israel. Mishna Brurah concludes that according to the Rama (see later) then certainly one can be lenient according to the second opinion. Kaf HaChaim 248:45 seems to agree with the second opinion.
- The Rama 248:4 writes that traveling for business or to see a friend is considered a mitzvah for this purpose. Mishna Brurah 238:34 writes that it’s permissible for business even if one already has money. Mishna Brurah 248:36 adds that if the minhag is not to leave to travel by boat for business on Friday then one shouldn’t be lenient because some poskim disagree with the Rama that it’s only permissible for an actual mitzvah. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 30:66 rules like the Rama regarding traveling for business.
- However, the Kaf HaChaim 248:52 quotes a number of opinions who disagree with the Rama. Yalkut Yosef (Shabbat vol 1, pg 48) also seems to hold that one shouldn’t rely on the Rama.