(February 13, 2014 / JNS)
By Malcolm Ginsberg/JNS.org
There is a plethora of choices for people considering leaving the cleaning and cooking behind and opting for a Passover getaway this year.
Many Jewish families will be taking to the high seas for the festival. The mighty Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas is offering a trip out of Miami for either three or seven nights, organized by the Passover Kosher Cruises company. All the ship’s attractions are available, including high-standard shows and an ice rink.
Another company, Kosher Expeditions, is taking over one of the high-quality Amadeus river ships for 10 days. Operating Vienna to Vienna along the Danube, it should prove an exhilarating experience along the scenic river as it meanders towards the fascinating city of Budapest.
The all-inclusive Kosher Expeditions program includes glatt kosher cuisine under strict supervision, seders, and an on-board synagogue with daily services. Additionally, the package offers fascinating local tours and a program with on-board historians, lecturers and educators. The vessel has just 70 cabins, each one with free Wi-Fi, a flat screen television, and amenities to the highest standard.
On dry land, dozens of operators are offering kosher Passover vacations, typically on a full board basis throughout the holiday, with a traditional rabbi or cantor leading the seder nights and services throughout the week.
New York’s Mark David has taken the whole concept one stage further by taking over an entire five-star resort. Down in sunny Naples, Fla., at the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort, Britain’s new Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis will be leading some of the services. A youth director will be running programs for tots to teens.
Another New York operator, Presidential Kosher Holidays, has offerings including the Fairmont Mayakoba, a beach resort on the Riviera Maya in Mexico, the legendary Scottsdale Princess in Phoenix, and Turnberry Isle in Miami, which is somewhat warmer than the famous Scottish golf venue after which it is named.
Israel-based Eddie’s Kosher Travel and Tourism will be hosting more than 1,000 families across five Israeli hotels. CEO David Walles said that one of the company’s strengths is its ability to meet the needs of different generations. “We’re known for our warm, family atmosphere that’s fun for kids and teenagers—as well as their parents and grandparents,” he said. “Each guest is treated as our most valued client.”
David Segal, managing director of UK-based West End Travel, said that Europe is proving popular for this Passover. “Apart from the traditional clientele always travelling to Israel, I have noticed a surge in interest for European inclusive Pesach programs, notably to Villars in Switzerland as well as further afield to the USA with excellent Pesach arrangements on offer in New York, Florida and Arizona,” he said.
Ophir Tours, one of Israel’s leading operators, offers programs at three hotels: the Crowne Plaza on the most central part of the beachfront in Tel Aviv, The Sharon Hotel in Herzliya with its private beach club and extensive grounds, and the Daniel Hotel & Shizen Spa at the scenic Dead Sea.
Joey Freudmann, vice-president of Ophir Tours, commented, “The fact that we continue to do well here is a testament to the quality of our educational and enrichment programs.” He said, “Most of our guests are drawn from the English speaking community in Israel. However, every year we have more guests from abroad, looking for a unique Pesach holiday experience in Israel, many of them joining large family groups.”
Raphi Bloom, who has been tracking Passover trends since 2001, said that the lively market for Passover vacations this year underscores the fact that “kosher holidays are booming.”
Bloom, CEO of totallyjewishtravel.com and co-publisher of the Jewish.Travel magazine, said, “This Passover, more than 120 hotels are advertising on totallyjewishtravel.com and in Jewish.Travel, representing destinations located around the world. There are some 60 French Pesach operators, and many are recognizing that they also have to market to the English speaking world.”
Bloom said that there is excitement about the large range of resorts for this Passover.
“We are seeing the traditional locations—Florida, California and the North Eastern USA—continue their strong tradition, but they are being joined by new locations across Canada, Europe and even South Africa and Morocco,” he said. “More so than in a long time there are hotels and destinations to fit every level of observance and just as importantly, budget. But make no mistake: Pesach operators need to maintain high standards. With social media, one bad Pesach can mean bad reviews and comments spreading like wildfire, which can be catastrophic and they know this.”