September 14, 2009

Kashrus on the High Seas

Spending Shabbat on the Aegean Sea wasn’t any different on this huge ocean liner than at any other luxury hotel. For my wife and I and nearly 100 others who were aboard the Costa Fortuna with its near 3,500 passenger load, the kosher cuisine was remarkable. Ofi Schiffman, part of the family that owns Kosherica, made sure that the visits to ports in Italy, Greece and Croatia was more than just a cruise aboard an elegant ship. He and a team of four mashgichim oversaw a glatt kosher presentation that was sumptuous, fresh, and creative. The Kosherica team had high praise for the ship’s crew and management that enabled the Orthodox Jews to enjoy the upscale glatt kosher meals as well as a synagogue on board that included Torah lectures and even dance classes for women led by Dassy Schuster. Headed by David Behri, the mashgichim made sure that kashrus standards were scrupulously observed. Glatt kosher meat was from Alle Processing in New York and Cholov Yisroel products were from France. The mashgichim koshered a large barbecue grill that enabled the kosher guests to enjoy two sessions. But perhaps most intriguing was the kosher bakery that provided for fresh breads and pastries every day on the 7-day cruise.

The cruise industry has for many years courted the kosher traveler, recognizing that it was a growing and loyal clientele. Almost every major cruise company makes arrangement for a kosher traveler much like the airline industry by providing the sealed frozen meals. But several companies like Kosherica, Eddie’s Travel and Lasko Tours have managed to arrange special kosher tours to worldwide destinations that offer haute kosher cuisine as well as cater to the other needs of the Orthodox traveler. Some kosher industry sources say that they expect continued growth in the kosher cruises in the years to come. My experience with Kosherica and its cruise to the Greek Isles was that it was like being in a luxury hotel that offers superb kosher dining and touring major destinations without having to pack your bags to each magnificent destination. My wife and I have become instant fans in a method of travel that combines the best of kosher with luxury.