A kosher cruise causes chaos at Island Crust

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Elianna Rothstein

Cruise passengers waiting at Island Crust

On August 21, Mercer Island kosher pizza restaurant Island Crust was swarmed with so many people that they had to close early, leaving many people hungry. 

On that hot summer day, dozens of kosher observant hungry Jews came to Seattle to board a kosher Royal Caribbean Alaska Glacier Cruise. Island Crust employees were not prepared for this, saying they had no warning. Customers waited for hours with their luggage, speaking different languages and with small children complaining of hunger.  

“I wish we were informed by the cruise or people attending the cruise,” said Ashley Herrin, an employee who was working that day. “We only found out when all the customers showed up. We didn’t have time to prepare.” As the restaurant got more crowded, the employees had to decline many orders because they were starting to get overwhelmed. By the end of the day, they took 40 orders out of about 70 customers. “It was really stressful, people don’t really understand we can only do so much,” Herrin said. “We only have one kitchen, and usually one or two chefs and one other employee, including me, and I believe it was her first day.”

Judah Vogel, a teenager from New Jersey who attended the cruise, said that Island Crust told him and his family that they were not taking orders, but he recognizes how it can be hectic for the Island Crust staff. “I can imagine that especially in a community that isn’t as big when you have a ton of people come in for the cruise… it probably makes things way crazier,”  he said. 

In addition to declining orders up-front at the cashier stand, Island Crust put up a sign outside saying they were no longer taking orders or phone calls. This left many passengers of the cruise outside with their suitcases waiting for a ride-share to pick them up from the restaurant after just arriving from the airport.

A local customer, Jessica Rudnick, said she tried calling but none of the employees answered the phone. Rudnick then went to the restaurant and was told they were no longer taking orders. “I was pretty upset that they closed on everyone, and I feel like they did not handle the situation properly,” she said. “I like Island Crust and I like the owner but I think they could have done a better job.” 

Another local customer, Betsy Babani, who visits Island Crust regularly, also had a bad experience with the restaurant on that day. “They were very frazzled and they wanted to take care of [customers on the cruise], and they were telling us, the locals, ‘we’re closing, we’re not taking any more orders after… 6:30,’” she said. “They don’t run a smooth operation, and you would think that after all these years that this crew has been there that they would know what Sunday can be like in the summertime. They just need to be prepared, but they’re forever giving you the excuse ‘well, we’re understaffed,’” she said. 

While Babani waited for her food, the Island Crust employees gave her and her two grandchildren (who accompanied her to the restaurant) free French fries and drinks. In the end, it took an hour and twenty minutes to receive their food.

Rudnick believes a warning could have led to a better result. “I think that if the cruise company or the visitors would have warned Jewish places in Seattle, like shuls and restaurants, we could have welcomed them in a better way.”