Question about travel


Hi everyone,

Sorry if this is posted in the wrong place or kind of a trivial question. My husband and I are going on a cruise to Alaska in September and we will not be in a port on Saturday or Sunday and thus will be unable to attend Mass. I was told that it is doubtful that a priest will be on board, but that they offer a inter-denominational Christian prayer service.

My questions are:

  1. Is it still a sin to miss mass? We did not book the cruise on these dates with the intention of missing Mass, of course, but it seems it will not be possible to do so.

  2. Do you think we would be obligated to attend the prayer service since it is the closest thing we will have to Christian fellowship that Sunday?

Thank you for your help!



Talk to your Pastor and go by what he says.
And enjoy your cruise.

  1. While it is not official teaching that travel dispenses one from attending Mass, it has commonly been held that impossibility due to physical distance negates the obligation.

Get a dispensation from your priest and, if possible, hear an extra Mass before you leave (or after) and you should be more than AK – OK! :):slight_smile:

2). There is no requirement to attend an interreligious prayer service, as it does not replace Mass in any case. But it may be worth your while to do so.

I’ve been on one of those Alaska ships (was able to hear Mass in Seattle both before and after) and there was a Bible study group on board, quite an experience.

Bon voyage and ICXC NIKA!


As pianistclare said, talk to your priest. He will probably grant you a dispensation if you ask.

When my wife and I wanted to go on a cruise back in 2013 aboard Princess that would have had us at sea on both Saturday and Sunday for one weekend (Princess, like most cruise lines, makes no real effort to place priests aboard their ships other than maybe Christmas and Easter if they feel like it), I asked my priest if that was ok. He granted us a dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass that weekend, conditional of course upon there being no priest aboard by the time we departed. There ended up being no priest aboard when we asked at check-in.

If you’re interested in cruising in the future with a line that is almost guaranteed to have a priest aboard, go with Holland America. They work with the Catholic maritime ministry that’s been around for ages, to try to have priests placed aboard all of their ships. I don’t know of any other cruise line that makes an effort to have priests aboard outside of Christmas and Easter.


Good to know! thanks!


Thank you for your replies! I will do as you suggest. And thanks for the tip re: Holland America. We are on Princess this time around (first time cruisers!)

  1. We are allowed to travel, even on Sundays, even for leisure;
  2. we are allowed to travel to places (or on things) where Mass won’t be available;
  3. God does not command us to do the impossible.

If we are therefore traveling on a Sunday and getting to Mass is genuinely impossible, or involves great difficulty (or risk), then IMHO we are dispensed automatically.

Asking for a dispensation for travel on a mode of transport where Mass is impossible isn’t really asking for a dispensation, it’s asking for permission to go and no clergy has the authority to permit or forbid you from traveling to and from where you please.


Bon voyage! I was on Grand Princess my first time. Great!!!

Another option would be specifically Catholic cruises; I think Catholic Answers has adviertised such in the past.



This is not meant as in opposition. However, I have heard that within some cruise ships (lines?) there are either men who have been ordained and have left the priesthood (with or without laicization) who are, if you will, “rent a priest” in status, and will either say Mass or perform marriages.

Short of getting into a discussion with the individual on board, is there a way of checking on the authority of the priest? Certainly, they could hire retired priests in good standing with the Church, and possibly provide free cruises to priests currently active in the Church.

With the “rent a priest”, I would presume validity but illicit activity on his part; but then there are some more grey areas where one gets outside the confines of the church in terms of ordination as a starting place.

I know Catholic Answers has sponsored cruises; I certainly would not doubt any priest attached with them.

Just curious - since I probably won’t be taking any cruises.


Speaking relative to Holland America, and having taken a number of cruises with them, it’s my understanding that they are contractually obligated to provide valid, licit priests to render ministerial services to their Filipino crew; Mass for passengers is a by-product of this arrangement. I’ve also sailed with Princess where the priest identified himself relative to his parish and that he was part of an association of priests who provide cruise ship services via a central registry that arranges such “working vacations.” I’ve also met a retired priest who was part of that association.


That is awesome, and thank you for the specifics. It is not a matter that I pay much attention to, as I have absolutely no intention of ever taking a cruise. However, some time ago there was a bit of a dustup over some line(s?) which had what I refer to as “rent a priest”; while not recalling all the details, it appeared they were freelancing. The article indicated the matter was loosey goosey.

Your information is helpful, particularly to others who might be contemplating a cruise. Thank you.


That was a problem with a couple of cruise lines in the past, who wouldn’t do much in the way of vetting the priests. Sometimes they’d get real priests, but only sometimes.

Holland America doesn’t have that problem because they work with Apostleship of the Sea to ensure they have priests in good standing aboard. That good standing includes the permission of their bishop to be working in maritime ministry, doing things like hearing confessions at sea or in a port outside of the borders of their own diocese. AOS is overseen by the Vatican and is concerned with ministering to mariners of all varieties, such as employes of cruise lines. And passengers aboard those ships as well.

It’s a shame more cruise lines don’t make use of the services of AOS.


Yes, but when we plan trips somewhere there are no priests every weekend…

… it must say little about our faith.


“Must?” No, I don’t think so. Such trips as were the subject of the original post - thinking of cruises or land trips to distant places - would typically be a once a year - or even once in a lifetime - thing. I don’t think it’s right to infer something about such people’s “faith” based on a vacation destination and what it takes to get there. The real problem for the Church are the folks who can’t be bothered to drive 5 miles (or less) to their local parish of a weekend, and failure to do that seems more to do with apathy and indifference, and not weekend getaways.


I don’t think that’s a fair statement. I travelled to Rome last November on oblate business, and missed Mass on the way home due to my travel schedule, 6 am departure, short connection in Frankfurt, and long transatlantic flight, on a Sunday. While in Rome I stayed at Sant’Anselmo monastery, attended daily Mass and daily Divine Office.

Others have reasons of their own to miss Mass due to travel. Travel even to places where Mass isn’t available (or can’t attend due to the travel arrangements) is perfectly licit, is a personal choice, and is absolutely no reflection on a person’s faith.


Depends on one’s priorities, I guess. :frowning:

I know when I used to travel, I’d first look for places which celebrated the Latin Mass and plan around that. But that’s me.


Yeah, that’s just you. Some people have to abide by strict schedules and is, as said, “absolutely no reflection on a person’s faith.”


People who have strict schedules and emergencies have my sympathy. Been there, even on Christmas mornings.


If someone wishes to never travel where they would be in a position of not being able to attend Mass, they are certainly free to do so. However, the Church, which is less rigid than those who make that choice, allows individuals to travel (such as on a cruise line where they may not be able to attend Mass). The ultimate bottom line is, as another poster said, the intention of the heart.

What makes this discussion difficult is the attitude of those who simply would not make any such plans, when they come back with not so subtle judgmental comments of others who do take such trips, such as "it must say a little about our faith (implication - your faith must be a bit weak if you would make such a plan…) or “depends on one’s priorities, I guess” (same implication).

Rigorists insist they are right, and others are at least impliedly wrong, and certain not as good a Catholic.

Kind of reminds me of Christ’s parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in prayer. The Pharisee certainly was excellent at keeping all of the commandments; in fact, if I recall (and I have not looked it up), he was pretty good at telling God how good he was at keeping the commandments… and how others “priorities” were not as focused…:shrug:


I’ve known people (and perhaps you have too) who use the excuse “There’s no Mass in English” and therefore rationalize not going on that basis.

Maybe it’s the Pharisee in me that forces me to go to Mass this evening as they predict up to a foot of snow tomorrow, thereby depriving me of an EF this weekend. :wink:

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