Mass obligation on vacation


We’re scheduled to depart on a cruise this week, and I’ve just realized that attending Mass on Sunday might be problematic. This will be our sixth or seventh cruise, and the situation has never arisen before. Most of these were Sunday-Sunday trips, so we could attend the Saturday vigil Mass, an early Mass before departing for the port, or a Sunday evening Mass. In addition, there was usually a priest on board who said Mass daily. On the cruises that did not have this option, we simply attended Mass in whatever port we happened to be on Sunday.

However, I just really noticed that we will be at sea on Sunday; the itinerary doesn’t list the day of the week, just “Day 3 - at sea.” I’ve called the cruise line and they cannot verify that there will be a priest on board who will offer Mass. We won’t be in port late enough on Saturday to attend a vigil Mass.

I attend daily Mass and do not take my Sunday Mass obligation lightly. If I have missed Mass for any reason (illness, unsafe road conditions, city-wide power outages after a storm) five times in the past ten years, it’s a lot. If we are travelling, we drive many miles/hours to find a church. I’ve spent almost $100 on cab fares to get to Mass on more than one occasion. My family used to veto any vacations the second week in August so we didn’t miss an additional half-day of vacation on the feast of the Assumption. (I must confess that I actually enjoy visiting new churches and seeing the dynamic there. I loved the calypso-ish beat of the hymns in Barbados.)

So, what’s my obligation here? It’s entirely possible that there will be an opportunity to attend Mass on board; the cruise line simply will not commit one way or another. I’ve tried to wheedle this information out of them, to no avail. They don’t even want to say that a priest is scheduled to be on board in case he canceled and they could be accused of giving out misleading information. We are outside the period in which it would be possible to get any refund at all so I would lose a lot of money (five figures) and my family DD, DSIL, DGSs) would lose its only vacation for the year. And that may be for no good reason since there may be Mass on board.

Must I cancel if I cannot guarantee that we will be able to attend Mass?


Seems to me that you have done everything reasonably possible to determine whether or not a Mass would be celebrated on the ship. If it turns out there is no Mass offered you would not be missing intentionally so I don’t think it would be a sin.

You might also consider explaining the situation to a Priest to see if you might be able to get a dispensation from the Sunday obligation on the date in question.


I can only give my personal opinion, which is that you have not put yourself intentionally in a position where you would miss mass. From your post there is still a possibility that mass may be available. I suggest checking in with your priest - I would be surprised if he said anything other than enjoy the holiday, hope for mass and if it isn’t available, go as soon as you are reasonably able.


You can ask your pastor for a dispensation, then you’re covered if you can’t get to Mass. And if this is something important to you then you might include it when planning for your next vacation.


We are only asked to do the possible, not the impossible.
If it is not possible to attend mass while traveling, for example due to missing connections/travel delays/flying across time zones etc, dont worry about it.
If you are not intentionally skipping mass and it is beyond your control you are not negligent.

Maybe spend some extra time in prayer reading the Mass readings for the day or the like.


A cruise company must be in a position to tell you if Mass will be celebrated on the ship. Not telling you in case the priest cancels is simply ridiculous. That would not be your fault or theirs. I would press them on this matter.
Meantime I would try to get a dispensation but next time it would be better to check about Mass before you book and pay.


Hi Book Worm,

You’ve done your due diligence. I would speak to your pastor and ask for a dispensation. Given the circumstances, I can’t see why he wouldn’t grant one.

If you find out there is mass, then the dispensation was meaningless and you can go. If you cannot attend mass, you should still celebrate Sunday with the family with an hour in worship. Maybe read Scripture, sing hymns, etc.

There shouldn’t be any reason to cancel the cruise.

Hope that helps!


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