According to our sources at Apostleship of the Sea, Celebrity Cruises, and their sister cruise line Azamara, have recently announced that beginning in 2014 they will no longer participate in the Apostleship of the Sea cruise priest program.
Apostleship of the Sea is an Apostolate of the Catholic Church that screens priests for certain cruise lines to be sure that they are priests in good standing.
Celebrity and Azamara have announced that they will be using a manning agency to get priests for their sailings. However, manning agencies do not have the ability to do the screening process that Apostleship of the Sea does to ensure valid priests in good standing on board.
If being able to attend Mass while on a cruise is important to you, then you have some fairly limited choices. The only lines to promise a priest on every cruise are Holland America, Costa Cruises and Crystal. The first two do participate in the Apostleship of the Sea program so you can be sure of a priest in good standing. We are not sure about Crystal and have asked them for clarification, but do applaud their efforts to have a priest on board.
Some other lines, such as Royal Caribbean, do have priests on board for Christmas, Easter and re-positioning cruises. These priests have been provided to them through the Apostleship of the Sea priest program.
We realize that choosing a cruise involves many factors, but if having a priest on board is important to you, then let the cruise line know it. Thank them if they do, and if the don’t, politely ask them to consider it in the future.
There are millions of Catholics who cruise every year, so make your voice heard! Or, as Pope Francis might say, go out there and shake things up.