Luxury tour operator plans kosher river cruises for next spring: Travel Weekly

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Luxury tour operator iWorld of Travel and two Israeli companies will launch a quartet of kosher river cruises next year.

Two of the 2022 crossings will be promoted to the Israeli market in May on the Danube and Rhone, and the other two, targeting American cruisers, will sail on the Danube between Budapest and Passau, Germany, in June and July.

The crossings will compete with Kosher River Cruises, which runs a series of full-boat kosher cruises across Europe, the Mekong and the Amazon.

Cruises marketed by iWorld of Travel will be operated by Gordon Cruises, an Israeli tour operator that has been providing river cruises for the Israeli market for 30 years. IWorld of Travel will handle sales and marketing in the United States, while Traveland, a Connecticut-based agency, will handle reservations.

Gordon Cruises had planned to launch kosher cruises for the Israeli market in 2020. These were sold but were canceled due to the pandemic, according to Shiri Gordon, CEO of Gordon Cruises.

While the company in recent years has operated kosher kitchens on ocean liners and in hotels around the world for Israeli travelers, Gordon said, being able to operate a fully kosher ship is “a dream come true.”

The lobby aboard the MS River Voyager 5. Photo credit: IWorld of Travel

Indeed, it is a large-scale enterprise. Gordon Cruises will have a team on board, including a rabbi, who will oversee the efforts, from sanitizing all food preparation areas on the ship between regular crossings, to providing kosher food for both the ship and during excursions.

Boating hours are also scheduled to follow Shabbat (Sabbath) rules, including disabling door locks and assisting with the operation of elevators.

There will also be a synagogue on board.

IWorld of Travel CEO Michael Gelber said the initial adoption in the United States was promising, with more than half of the cabins on the ship, the MS River Voyager 5, already booked for the two US crossings.

Gelber estimated that there are tens of thousands of American Jews who follow Judaism’s strict guidelines for diet and food preparation, and they represent a significant demographic for the river cruise industry.

“It’s a very rich market,” he said. “And they usually travel in groups.”

The crossings also give non-Jewish travelers and Jews who violate kosher food restrictions the opportunity to explore Europe while learning more about Jewish heritage, Gelber said.

He described kosher cruises as “a destination within a destination” with guests able to watch and learn about kosher food preparation and Judaism on and off the ship.

Scheduled excursions on the Danube crossings offer a mix of traditional sightseeing with sites related to Jewish heritage.

In Budapest, for example, the first stop will be at the largest synagogue in Europe, the Neolog Synagogue, also known as the Dohany Synagogue, followed by a visit to the Jewish Museum.

In Bratislava, Slovakia, guests can start Shabbat with a visit to Chatam Sofer’s burial site and a synagogue tour with a local Jewish community.

And in Vienna, which in the Middle Ages was home to a thriving Jewish community, options include a visit to the Jewish Museum, which offers a lively virtual tour of Jewish life in the city during medieval times.

There are also a variety of 1- to 7-night pre-and post-Jewish heritage tour packages in Hungary, Germany, Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.


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