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Kosher food - snacks too!


Keeves
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Tomorrow will be my first cruise ever (Mariner from Miami to Bahamas), unless you count the Glatt Yacht, which did dinners around Manhattan in the early 1980s. I haven't even been to a resort hotel since the Homowack a"h. So I'm quite the newbie at this, and my plan is to post my experiences to help other newbies.

I've done what research I can, both on RCCL's website and googling what various people have posted (CruiseCritic, Chowhound, here, and elsewhere), and almost all of it concerns the actual meals. Almost nothing is about snacks, between meals, Windjammer, etc. For example, I did find one post where they wrote that the free coffee around the ship has paper cups. But that post was almost five years old, and policies may have changed. So my plan is to concentrate on my experiences between meals, though I expect to comment on the meals too.

What I've read is about 90% positive, so I'm expecting to enjoy the meals, but I really have very little idea of what to expect between meals. I understand that virtually all the food on board will have been made on board, and therefore presumably nonkosher. I expect that there will be nothing to eat at the Windjammer except fruit and drinks. I will be pleasantly surprised if there is even an occasional bag of potato chips with a hechsher on it, and that's the sort of thing I'll be reporting on. I've heard that the ice cream on board is kosher, but I don't remember hearing a brand name. And while I'd be satisfied with rinsing the scoop if the large container has a hechsher, I'd be much more wary about soft-serve machines.

Obviously, I'm not makpid about cholov yisrael, but if I notice something that is, then I'll report on it. Don't think that it's impossible! A friend of mine was on a cruise once, and the staff invited him into the kitchen to see what they could find, and behold, a whole bunch of still-sealed Empire chickens were available. (I guess the cruise line found them on sale or something.)

Okay, I'm headed off to the airport in a few minutes, and probably won't post again until we board tomorrow afternoon. Meanwhile, everyone else with similar concerns can please join the conversation. I'm no expert on vegan or halal food, for example, but this can be the place for us to put out heads together!

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First and foremost, I'm not Orthodox so my knowledge of Glatt Kosher foods is limited.  I follow some, but not all of the Kosher rules and definitely do not eat in a Glatt Kosher style. So I apologize in advance if I get something wrong here.

I have seen some Orthodox families on a cruise or two but never investigated as to what steps they took to ensure a Glatt Kosher experience.

You can certainly choose to eat Kosher foods (i.e. avoiding shellfish). No issues there.

If you are looking for food to be prepared and declared Kosher, I suspect you will need to contact RC.  Since there is likely no Rabbi onboard to bless the food as Kosher, you may be limited to the frozen meals that can be arranged. I recall years ago at Disney World trying a Kosher meal for the sake of trying it and it was a microwaved pre-prepared meal.

This advice may be too late, but contacting the ship in advance with a dietary restriction is a good idea.  Moreover, once onboard, touch base with the Head Waiter/Maitree D to ensure your arrangements are correct.

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Matt is totally correct. They do get kosher meals from a local place, but RCCL rules require something like 6 weeks notice to make sure that they are ordered and stocked. We boarded about a half hour ago and are now in the Windjammer for lunch. We spoke with the staff, and we already knew that the first lunch is a little crazy; they will try to get some of the catered meals, and I'll let you all know.

Meanwhile, here's a few photos. The sweeteners all have the OK and there is nice fresh fruit. I didn't look closely at the teas yet.

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The staff brought us some paper plates and plastic utensils, and I was okay with making a saladof the fresh peas, corn sunflower seeds and cut tomato. No cut onions, and some of the other veggies I just don't like. I would've take cut cucumbers but didn't see any. My wife was able to see the containers of salad dressing - One flavor had a hechsher, another didn't, and they had six other flavors!

The waiter says they're heating a packaged fish lunch. We'll see.

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I said that I would focus on between-meal snacks, so I will begin by telling you about the soft serve ice cream. This afternoon we passed by the self serve ice cream machine, just as the staff was refilling it. This gave us the opportunity to check out the source of the ingredients, which was Tiller brand "Frozen Dessert Mix." The container had a KD on it, so I phoned them (we had not yet left the port, so I still had my phone service) and they claimed to be under the Kof-K. I called the Kaf-K to verify, and was pleasantly surprised to hear that the product is indeed under their hashgacha.

Dinner, on the other hand, was a disappointment.  My wife is less forgiving, and would probably call it a disaster. I understand that the first day of any cruise is very difficult, and that most of the staff is new, but they were unaware that we spoke to someone at lunch and gave them our dinner order. They hoped that we would go with their double-wrapped salmon offer, but we had asked our rav about that, and he said that because of Bishul Akum, we would have to either place it on the fire or at least adjust the heat. The chef would not allow passengers in the kitchen, so that option was out. Anyway, they finally did bring us our meals, and only about 5 minutes after the rest of the table got their main course, but it was clear that mistakes were made. I must add that everyone seemed truly eager to help, which makes me suspect that the problem is systemic in some way. We'll see what happens in the next days.

The meals we got were from a OU company called Kosher 4 U (as in the lunch photo above), and not from Weberman's, as I had been told. The quality was again like an airline meal. There was no appetizer, but we did get a large chocolate brownie for dessert; the hechsher was CRC Satmar (I don't remember the manufacturer).

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Not of the Jewish faith but fascinated by your posts.  I have always had a keen interest in other religions and their rituals/beliefs and you have sent me pouring over Google to understand the terminology and how it relates to your faith.  Hope you don’t mind me tagging along for the education.  Safe trip!

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Thanks, Pooch! Welcome aboard!

It's morning now, and be breakfast dining room is not yet open, so we are at the Windjammer for some coffee. In many ways it is not as good as getting coffee at a gas station or convenience store. On request they will fill a ceramic mug with regular or decaf, and then you can sweeten it however you like. They have pictures of milk, and those tiny little plastic containers of non-dairy creamer, which do have the cuff K on them. But there are no flavors, such as if you like vanilla or hazelnut. Also, I like my coffee very hot, and therefore ceramic is disappointing even for general heat reasons, having nothing to do with kashrus. Fortunately, we had the foresight to bring along our own disposable cups, and if we run out of them, we'll deal with that then. The star-k has an excellent article about Starbucks coffee, and the footnotes there help one understand how to deal with coffee and other situations as well.

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In the Windjammer,  Kellogg's cereals were labeled with a simple typed  label. This photo is from the dining room, and it gives me a lot more confidence that the cereals served really are the Kellogg's cereals, and that they're not substituting something else.  From what I hear, cruise lines have a very good reputation for  caring about cross-contamination and other problems. They do not want to find themselves on the front page of the newspaper  with another outbreak  of some kind of digestive problem. You decide for yourself.

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Breakfast was very pleasant. We came to the dining room, and within just a couple of minutes they brought us our paper plates and plastic cutlery. They did not have disposable bowls for the cereal, wish they apologized for, and without us asking they brought us large disposable coffee cups for the cereal. Also, as you can see in the picture small boxes of milk (which did not have a hechsher). Soon after, they brought us some paper plates with bagels, and lox, and also packages of cream cheese which had an OK.

The bagels and lox were not packaged, so I asked to see the packages that they came from. That took quite a while, perhaps 20 minutes, but in the end the bagels were OU and the lox had an OK. You decide for yourself what the odds are, of them substituting other brands.

Netilas yadayim for the bagels: Anyone eating in the Windjammer has it easy; there are many washing stations at the entrance, and washing is required before entering, so all you need is to bring some kind of cup. The dining rooms don't have theae washing stations (just a Purell dispenser) and the only reasonable solution we found was the nearest bathroom. 

Which is a great way to segue into the problems of Shabbos on these ships. From what I've seen so far, EVERY public sink, and the great majority of public toilets, turn on via motion detectors. I don't know how people deal with this. I am pleased to report that the lights and thermostat and sink in my cabin are all old fashioned, i.e., not controlled by a motion detector.  One exception is the door, which is operated by the SailPass card. And I'm really not sure whether toilet is controlled by a manual dlush or an electric switch. See the photo, and maybe someone can recofnize it.

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15 minutes ago, Keeves said:

And I'm really not sure whether toilet is controlled by a manual dlush or an electric switch. See the photo, and maybe someone can recofnize it.

I'm not a plumber, so I can't say exactly how these toilets work. But based on the sounds I heard during flushing, and the fact that you essentially have to close the lid in order to push the flush button, what I think is going on is that flushing is handled via vacuum tubing, to ensure that everything can properly make it to the septic tanks on board. From what I could feel, the button did seem to be an actuator for some kind of mechanical system to open up a valve that exposes the toilet to the vacuum flow and allows flushing to happen, quickly followed by the valve or whatever closing so the tank can refill.

Just from an engineering practicality standpoint, I would imagine the ship designers don't want electrical systems controlling things like the toilets, as if one breaks down at sea it could be near-impossible to fix. Sticking with old-fashioned mechanical systems for something like this, where they have thousands of connections and hardware bits, keeps things economical and easily repaired.

Honestly, this seems like exactly the sort of random ship minutia kind of question for @monorailmedic. I wouldn't be surprised to find out he not only knows the mechanicals of this, but what diameter piping they use, the O-rings for valve seals, and sealing grease brand. ?

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Kosher foods to toilet mechanicals.  Hmmm.

The system is vacuum based.  While in a home on land gravity works (usually) on a ship there may be lateral (horizontal) lines and you can't guarantee on a ship that may rock, lean or tilt that gravity can get stuff where it needs to go all the time.

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What JLMoran and twangster wrote makes an awful lot of sense. So I  tried the toilet again, and everything about the flushing reminded me of flushing on an airplane, which is surely vacuum based. Thank you!

Regarding today's lunch, I have little to say. But the little that I do have is entirely complimentary. Today we have docked at Nassau in the Bahamas, and many including us are going ashore to see the city. We weren't sure when we would choose to go, and so we told the dining staff not to worry about us, we would simply make do with a salad or something in the Windjammer. We had brought along a few packets of tuna, and we mixed that into the salad and it was an excellent lunch. But I must point out that as soon as we took our seats, the staff saw us and came over to offer paper plates and silverware which we gratefully accepted. Nothing fancy but healthy and delicious.

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The staff brought me those chicken tenders while they brought appetizers to the rest of the table. I thought that it was my main course and they simply brought it to me early, but I was mistaken. I left those tenders uneaten, so that I could eat them while everyone else was eating their main course. And then later on they brought me my main course which was braised beef. A minor problem,  and to be honest i suppose maybe I'm the one at fault.

It seems that Elegant Desserts is their dessert supplier, last night too.

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I took this screenshot of our tv early Tuesday morning. One channel shows this constantly, and updates it every few seconds. On the top left you see the latitude and longitude, so if you're a math nerd like me who likes to calculate zmanim, there you go. And if you're not, then you can just look at the bottom right for the next upcoming sunset or sunrise.

Another big plus is the compass on the bottom left. Anytime, you can figure out which way the ship is pointed, and that way you know which way is east for davening. By the way, my wife insisted on a balcony room because they are nicer. I didn't care so much about that, but it provides a great place for davening in the morning. My wife can sleep or dress or whatever, and I'm outside in a separate room. I'd call it beautiful if not for the yucky humidity. (But as someone once said, "You can't always get what you want, but ... you get what you need.")

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If you don't mind gluten-free products. You might want to ask at Cafe Promenade or in Windjammer if they happen to have any UDI brand cookies. Doing a quick look on their site it states most of their products are certified kosher.

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Thank you, CGTLH, but no such luck.

I cannot stress this strongly enough, and in fact I'm thinking about starting another thread about it for the general non-kosher population. There are virtually no branded pre-packaged foods available on this ship. The only exceptions would be the milk which is served in those juice box containers, and the condiments and sweeteners, and tea bags. And the multitude of alcoholic beverages, of course. Branded products which are served without their packaging, would include Kellogg's cereals at breakfast, and the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine. I suppose Ben & Jerry's would also count, and maybe there's a name brands pizza shop or something like that and other restaurants.

I have been asking my fellow passengers, "If you wanted a candy bar or you needed a toothbrush, is there a place on board to get it?" And the answers have been uniformly No. Why is it that every other hotel has a gift shop but this one doesn't?

I don't understand why the Windjammer would have six different varieties of tea, but for coffee drinkers the only choices are regular and decaf, and they only have milk or low-fat milk, there is no cream or half-and-half (not to mention vanilla or hazelnut). Maybe it's because this ship used to be in the Far East, I don't know. The worst convenience store at home has more coffee options than this ship.

I suppose it's because I'm a newbie on my first cruise ever. So I'll stop ranting now. Thank you listening, and I apologize if I was annoying.

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Thank you, ellcee. We made our reservations, and notified RCCL about kosher meals in February, and at that time they confirmed everything, and sent us a Kosher Meal Overview and a Sample Kosher Dinner Menu, which are both attached to this post.

Several of our experiences fell short of the description in the Overview: the cereals were not individually packaged, and the yogurt had no hechsher of any kind, and there were no wrapped muffins/cookies (not even non-kosher).

Click here to read what someone else posted about his cruise on Royal Caribbean recently in January 2018. The menu he posted seems identical to the one that I posted. He also shows photos of the appetizers he received, including challah rolls, soups and salads, whereas none of those appetizers were available for us.RCI- Kosher Meals overview.pdf

RCI- Kosher- Sample Dinner Menu.pdf

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OMG.>I couldn't imagine travelling outside of my own kitchen if I had to adhere to these types of beliefs/regulations/rules...whatever you want to call them.

To each their own and we all have our own cross to bear when it comes to religion(so to speak) but this would ruin any type of travel experience for me to say the least.

It's one thing to avoid a certain food or two..but when every morsel in your mouth is subject to that much scrutiny.....no thanks.

But then again...I would feel the same way about traveling if I had kids so....

Good luck with your endeavors......your on a  ship that caters to 4000 ppl...can u imagine if we all had such strict rules to follow...those types of vacations could never work.

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To the extent that we grew up with these beliefs, and that we sincerely believe them, we usually don't feel deprived. There's no denying a certain amount of difficulty on a practical level, but we accept it as a "given", much like the salary that gets withheld from my paycheck for taxes - I don't miss it because I never realistically saw it.

In any case, I keep reminding myself about people with unusually severe allergies. Compared to them, I have it very easy.

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1 hour ago, Keeves said:

In any case, I keep reminding myself about people with unusually severe allergies. Compared to them, I have it very easy.

@Keeves, I find your post interesting and am somewhat aware of eating Kosher from past bosses.  I also find your attitude to be tremendous considering some the items you would really like (like Vanilla or Hazelnut for your coffee!) not being available.  You appear to be a very humble man. I hope you re enjoying your first cruise!

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On ‎7‎/‎4‎/‎2018 at 3:14 PM, Keeves said:

I have been asking my fellow passengers, "If you wanted a candy bar or you needed a toothbrush, is there a place on board to get it?" And the answers have been uniformly No.

I would have asked customer service the questions you had concerning the toothbrush candy bar question every ship in the royal fleet I have been on have had a section a lot of times in the liquor store that carries many toiletries womens items chips candy headache remedies etc  asking the average cruiser is probably a great second choice but a lot of them are probably on there first cruise or at the least first timer on this particular ship but beware the price of the item you want will shock you it cost me 5.00 for a travel bottle of listerene I buy at wally world for 1.00 best to bring these items with you cruise on my friends 

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I have just finished reviewing the wonderful selection sent on the kosher menu sample from royal if I were you I would ask to speak to the hotel director immediately show him what happened someone dropped the ball to be offered chicken strips and soggy flounder when so many wonderful items would have been available is inexcusable also in many ports there is a minor resupply warehouse whjch may be able to offer some of the items you require not sure but it is worth a shot if not there are grocery stores near the ports that they can get you the food items you require I have a small understanding of your plight as my cousin was the head Rabbi in new York till his retirement this year  

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1 hour ago, henrysea13 said:

I would have asked customer service the questions you had concerning the toothbrush candy bar question every ship in the royal fleet I have been on have had a section a lot of times in the liquor store that carries ... ...

You may have missed where I posted that I did ask this at the Customer Service desk. She answered that toothpaste is available at Port Merchants, but candy is not. It turns out that both categories (and some others too) are indeed available at Port Merchants, except that none of those items are visible from the Promenade. From outside, it looks like they sell nothing but liquor.

By the way, I did not actually need any candy or toothpaste. I was simply surprised that the ship did not have the sort of gift shop where one could buy these things. But once I actually entered Port Merchants, and discovered the area where they did have these things available for purchase, I found and purchased a USB hub, so that I could charge two of my devices on the same 110-volt outlet in my cabin.  I told the workers there how frustrating it was to finally discover that these things were available, and they seemed to sympathize, but what could they do about it?  once I get home, I do plan to write to Royal Caribbean about these problems.

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Those files are still unavailable. I apologize. I don't understand. I'll figure it out when I get home I hope.

So here we are, and during the normal chaos of the morning before leaving the ship, having our breakfast in the Windjammer. By magical miracle, half-and-half is suddenly freely available all over the Windjammer. The brand is Cream-O-Land, Kaf-K, the same brand that has been supplying us with the little containers of non-dairy creamer all week.

On the one hand, the sudden availability of a new product onboard ship, should surprise and shock even the non-kosher passenger. But for the kosher passenger it highlights the importance of checking, rechecking and then checking again. When we first got on board the Heinz ketchup packets had an OU, but through the week the percentage got steadily higher of European Heinz, whose kashrus status I have no information about. It is all too easy to grab a familiar logo, and not realize that it is from a different supplier.

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  • 1 month later...
On 7/3/2018 at 11:07 AM, JLMoran said:

I'm not a plumber, so I can't say exactly how these toilets work. But based on the sounds I heard during flushing, and the fact that you essentially have to close the lid in order to push the flush button, what I think is going on is that flushing is handled via vacuum tubing, to ensure that everything can properly make it to the septic tanks on board. From what I could feel, the button did seem to be an actuator for some kind of mechanical system to open up a valve that exposes the toilet to the vacuum flow and allows flushing to happen, quickly followed by the valve or whatever closing so the tank can refill.

Just from an engineering practicality standpoint, I would imagine the ship designers don't want electrical systems controlling things like the toilets, as if one breaks down at sea it could be near-impossible to fix. Sticking with old-fashioned mechanical systems for something like this, where they have thousands of connections and hardware bits, keeps things economical and easily repaired.

Honestly, this seems like exactly the sort of random ship minutia kind of question for @monorailmedic. I wouldn't be surprised to find out he not only knows the mechanicals of this, but what diameter piping they use, the O-rings for valve seals, and sealing grease brand. ?

Just caught this.

The button itself is pneumatic (like a hot-tub button) and the flushing operates off a vacuum bus.  Branches off the bus are dedicated to a set number of staterooms.  This means that it can run off a small number of vacuums, yet if there is a leak in the system it only affects a small number of rooms not every unit on that same bus.  Every however-many staterooms you'll find a small main panel in the hall when  the vacuum can be checked, adjusted, etc - along with other electrical, mechanical, and plumbing stuffs.  When you hit the button it's pushing air through a tube to open the valve that lets the force of the vacuum pull everything from the toilet.  

Not sure about the brand of grease.

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  • 1 year later...
On 7/2/2018 at 5:46 PM, Matt said:

First and foremost, I'm not Orthodox so my knowledge of Glatt Kosher foods is limited.  I follow some, but not all of the Kosher rules and definitely do not eat in a Glatt Kosher style. So I apologize in advance if I get something wrong here.

I have seen some Orthodox families on a cruise or two but never investigated as to what steps they took to ensure a Glatt Kosher experience.

You can certainly choose to eat Kosher foods (i.e. avoiding shellfish). No issues there.

If you are looking for food to be prepared and declared Kosher, I suspect you will need to contact RC.  Since there is likely no Rabbi onboard to bless the food as Kosher, you may be limited to the frozen meals that can be arranged. I recall years ago at Disney World trying a Kosher meal for the sake of trying it and it was a microwaved pre-prepared meal.

This advice may be too late, but contacting the ship in advance with a dietary restriction is a good idea.  Moreover, once onboard, touch base with the Head Waiter/Maitree D to ensure your arrangements are correct.

Hi Matt,

Are there any vegetarian food stalls in Windjammer in the QUANTOM ?
Can I be sure that vegetarian food stalls in Windjammer in the QUANTOM  are free of clams, crab, seafood, etc.?

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Just now, chaim said:

Hi Matt,

Are there any vegetarian food stalls in Windjammer in the QUANTOM ?
Can I be sure that vegetarian food stalls in Windjammer in the QUANTOM  are free of clams, crab, seafood, etc.?

Yes, you will find a good mix of vegetarian and meat-based foods.  Most of it is pretty clear if it is vegetarian or not.  You can always ask the crew if there's any concern.

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