While it’s fairly common knowledge these days that couples can arrange to to have their wedding during a cruise and that other celebrations such as birthdays and anniversaries are easy to organize, there’s little information available about other types of significant celebratory occasions that can be held during a cruise. When the Krauss family of Tucson, Arizona, decided to make their son Sam’s Bar Mitzvah a truly unique and memorable adventure, they opted for a 7-day Caribbean cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s 3,100-passenger ship Adventure of the Seas.
Starting a year in advance, Sam’s mom Amy worked with Ellen Paderson of Bar and Bat Mitzvah Vacations, Inc., of Easton, Mass., to plan a trip to appeal to a broad age range , with the right mix of age-appropriate activities, sightseeing, and Bar Mitzvah/cultural components.
Paderson, who helped pioneer the concept of cruise and destination Bar/Bat Mitzvahs during her 20 years in the travel industry, recommended a Caribbean cruise, embarking from San Juan with stops at St. Maarten, St. Kitts, Grenada, and St. Lucia. They opted to sail from Puerto Rico is because Adventure of the Seas was the only ship scheduled to dock at St. Thomas on a Monday. Bar and Bat Mitzvahs can only be held on Mondays, Thursdays, or Saturdays.
“It was a great ship with great service,” said Amy after the trip. “The only downside: We were so busy, with a different island to explore each day and just one full day at sea, the kids didn’t get to the onboard pool. Though that may have been due to their preference for the rock climbing wall, and inline and ice skating.”
Following Paderson’s advice, the bar mitzvah was held at the only synagogue on St. Thomas, the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas, founded in 1796. The rabbi officiated and provided guests with a history of the island, its synagogue, and the Jewish community. The sand floors aren’t just for effect; they’re part of a Sephardic (Spanish/Portuguese) tradition dating back 500 years to the Spanish Inquisition when Jews were forced to pray secretly in basements and used sand to muffle the sounds.
After the bar mitzvah, the Krauss party spent the rest of the day snorkeling with Captain Max. Other highlights included more snorkeling off St. Kitts, and tours of chocolate and nutmeg factories and a rum distillery in Grenada.
Paderson handled myriad details so the Krausses could relax before and during the trip. Upon their return, Amy Krauss emailed Paderson, “Many thanks for all of your help, hard work and expertise. You were patient with my questions, answered every email, and provided solid advice all the way around.”
Cruise passengers with special needs and requests need to be represented by agents who know their situations well. Ellen Paderson has cruised on most ships and completed numerous certifications and training, including Royal Caribbean’s University of WOW training program and Princess Cruises’ Commodore certificate through its Princess Academy, among others. For more information, contact Ellen Paderson by phone: 508-238-4088; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit Bar and Bat Mitzvah Vacations or Smiles and Miles Travel.