Grab the Dramamine. When Essie Sue's latest fundraiser transports Ruby and the congregants of Temple Rita from Eternal, Texas, to a Caribbean cruise ship commanded by a Jewish sea captain, seasickness is the least of their worries. Essie Sue has conducted a scientific poll that would put Dick Morris to shame, revealing that her beloved Rabbi Kapstein's job approval rating has fallen to an all-time low at Temple Rita. In a last-ditch attempt to improve the rabbi's 'charisma quotient' (in answer to the question 'Is our rabbi as dynamic as you thought he would be?' Kevin scored 'one percent'), Essie Sue decides to showcase his leadership ability by having him conduct a tour for temple members. She learns through the kosher grapevine that a long-lost cousin is currently sailing Caribbean for Bargain Cruise Lines -- Motto: We Pass Waters Where Others Fear to Tread -- A bargain! What could be wrong with that? And when the cruise line is willing to move cabins wholesale for fund-raising purposes, a discount deal is sealed. Though Ruby loves to travel, this is not the trip of her dreams. The Cruise from Hell begins when Professor Willie Bob Gonzales, the ship's lecturer, dies suddenly in the embarkation area, leaving a laptop full of notes on the Conversos -- Jews who became Christians to escape the tortures of the Spanish Inquisition, and who were known to have emigrated to the islands. The food is terrible -- Ruby groans from the chef's version of island delights with the flavor of yesterday's Taco Bell, and struggles with the consequences of a bargain voyage -- portholes sealed with bubblegum and nightly entertainment by Elvis impersonators. And to make things perfect, Captain Goldberg has the hots for her. Ruby manages, as always, to discern the hubris from the humor, but almost pays with her life. The good news is that she finds romance on the voyage. The bad news is that he may be a killer. Sharon Kahn, a rabbi's wife for thirty-one years, knows the territory.
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