Kosherica Kosher Cruises once again surprises and delights! The creative company never seems to rest on its laurels. They just announced a brand new (and for many of us, much desired) type of specialty cruise. It is now proudly added to the large variety in the menu of Kosherica’s Luxury Kosher cruises.
This particular cruise, which will take place from July 9-19, 2019 aboard the Costa Pacifica is specifically designed for guests with a profound emotional and intellectual interest in the roots and history of our Jewish heritage in Poland, Lithuania, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Stockholm and Berlin. With a scholar on board, Rabbi Steven Weil, acting head of the Orthodox Union, passengers will explore first-hand and in-depth Jewish life in Europe through the ages.
During the 10 night cruise aboard the Costa Pacifica, the lucky travelers will feed their spirit, body and mind with the best in grand Kosher cuisine, high art and culture and intellectual expansion. I suspect most will return home somewhat changed for the better. Proud of our people, their resilience, courage and achievements. More knowledgeable, aware and enlightened.
Now, just for the sake of clarity, this is not by any means a trip devoid of fun and the light, relaxing joy of vacationing.
The entire package is filled with never-ending excitement. The Costa Pacifica has three theatres and offers great secular entertainment to balance out the intensely deep insights and lectures of the Kosherica programming.
Then of course there is the Kosherica calling card: the finest Glatt Kosher food on the planet, served with the usual classy elegance. The main meals, plus an afternoon tea room and the traditional midnight snack. Dinner will be, as always, a mouth-watering multi-course event, with several options for the entrée, white glove service, unobtrusive and polite. The dining room is sparkling with glass, china and silver. Lights are lowered for the perfect five-star dining atmosphere, the fragrance wafting in from the kitchen is irresistible. Guests share the day’s events as they savor their food, Kosher wine or other beverage. Dinner is often the midpoint of the night’s activities, and an excellent one it is.
The ship embarks in Kiel, a Naval Bavarian city by the water, a port which serves as a famous waterway to the Baltics. Kosherica’s Jewish travelers get a taste of what’s awaiting them on this wonderful exploration as soon as they board.
There will be a gathering for the group, with a welcome buffet, which will include an introduction to Rabbi Weil who will lead the travelers through the most marvelous excursions in every port visited. Right afterward it’ll be time to retire to everyone’s respective staterooms, refresh after the flight to Europe, unpack and get ready for dinner.
People will be aware by then of the available programs and lectures, get pre-booked tickets for shows and shore excursions. Since this will be a very special cruise, I trust the connection amongst the travelers will be getting deeper as the days go by. Kosherica’s exceptional personnel and Rabbi Steven Weil will be available for questions and support as you go through your personal journey.
There will be very deeply detailed insights into Jewish life through the ages, with extensive lectures which will be enlightening and possibly life-changing. To experience the paths of our forebearers in these parts of the world is bound to make one think differently of their own life, appreciate and honor the people who bravely clung to their faith and communities despite every obstacle harshly put in their path. More about this, specific to every stop.
The St. Petersburg day will also contain a visit to the famous Winter Palace Hermitage Museum, where the most exquisite pieces of art can be seen. Many of them of a Jewish interest such as Rembrandt’s famous “The Jewish Bride”. The final cherry on this magical trip is a special post-cruise Shabbat in Berlin, with a deeply Jewish theme, honoring and celebrating the sacred day, while learning more about our heritage.
In the body of this blog I’ll mention the ports of call and their uniqueness but first let’s speak of Costa Pacifica and the delights awaiting any Kosherica Kosher cruiser.
On the Costa Pacifica everything amazes, transports and entertains. There is a strange and yet wonderful fact which must be mentioned – the Pacifica is being reviewed by some top travel magazines in 2018 and it’s given 4.5 stars, more than it did back in its inception in 2008. There is something dynamic and powerful about the less than mammoth size ship, its beautiful large rooms and energy. It’s very personal and perfect for the purpose of this cruise.
The first day of the cruise will be spent at sea and then on Thursday, July 11th you’ll arrive at Gdansk, Poland or better known as Danzig in Jewish folklore. This city is one of the most beautiful in Poland and has a complex and fascinating Jewish history which goes back to the 11th century. The community was comprised of merchants and traders, and later of intellectuals and brave underground fighters who saved and guarded the Great Synagogue on Kristallnacht and organized aliyah to Palestine. There is a bronze monument to the Kindertransport by sculptor Frank Meisler, himself a child of the brave mission. During the excursion travelers will be taken to all the places of Jewish importance and discover a treasury of knowledge. As preparation I’ll attach a link –
The lectures and tour will deal with all of that, but for the eager beavers among us, it’s a chance to come prepared to see it all in real-time.
Next morning the ship arrives in Lithuania, in the port city of Klaipeda on the Baltic Sea. The city was part of Germany and was named Memel. After WWI it got annexed to Lithuania and by 1939 Memel had 7,000 Jews, constituting 18% of the city’s population.
The city, which has been bereft of Jewish presence for many centuries at a time has a very long and important Jewish history. There was a Jewish influx to Memel since the 15th century, for obvious reasons. The city never froze in winter and had easy access to the Baltic Sea. Jewish traders and merchants kept returning, despite being repeatedly expelled and for some centuries even banned from a single overnight stay. There were short-lived exceptions but they did not last until the 19th century. At this point the city’s Jewish population grew tenfold, became a center for Torah Studies, the founding of the Musar’ movement, building synagogues, hospitals and a cemetery.
The city is credited with being the cradle of modern Orthodox Judaism. ;
After Hitler’s rise to power the Jews escaped to Kovno but all their property was destroyed or seized. By 1941, the Nazis murdered most of remaining Lithuanian Jewry.
On the evening of the 12th, after a moving day in Lithuania, it’s time to return to the ship and get ready for Shabbat. Candle lighting and shul, with Rabbi Weil at the pulpit will have an extra special flavor. I believe the entire day of Shabbat, which will be spent on the ship will be an amazing experience with great food, minute attention to detail by Kosherica staff to help in observing the Shabbat, Shul services, Shabbat kiddush and lunch, a brilliant lecture and time to digest it all, reflect and relax.
Sunday and Monday will be spent entirely in the great city of St. Petersburg. Aside from the amazing visit to the Hermitage, one of the greatest art collections in the world, you’ll have a mind blowing experience of art, culture, intellect, and Jewish contribution to the highest forms in these forms of expression.
When visiting the art collection at the Hermitage Art Museum, look out for some of the world-famous pieces by Rembrandt which depict Jewish themes. You’ll mainly spend the time visiting the rich Jewish Heritage sites of this incredible city.
Russia hasn’t been kind to its Jews but at times this city, home to European intelligentsia, was more benevolent to its Jews, many of whom were world leaders in different fields of intellectual and artistic pursuits.
There will be a visit to the majestic grand Choral Synagogue, to the Jewish Museum, the Jewish cemetery and the Ethnographic History Museum. There is enough material in all those places to cover the entire story of Russian Jewry, its trials and challenges, triumphs and great achievements.
The next day is Tuesday the 16th and the ship docks in the very beautiful Helsinki, Finland., The stunning Helsinki Jewish Orthodox Synagogue with its vibrant Orthodox Community is located in the center of town. You will be introduced to the past and present of the Jewish population in this charming city, see some of the best the city has to offer and enjoy a peaceful day where joy envelops you and the beauty you see isn’t clouded by anything.
The 17th of July is the last excursion on this cruise: Stockholm, Sweden. A beautifully different experience than most other places, Sweden has no connection to the Holocaust – it was in fact the country to hide Jews and protect them from Nazi atrocities.
It has a Jewish community and has three synagogues, the largest and oldest of which is The Great Synagogue, located at city center. The impressive vast building inaugurated in 1870 serves as the center of Jewish life in the city. It has a separate women’s section yet is Conservative affiliated. A tour of the city will be delightful, you’ll see the little mermaid and some other sights and hear amazing stories of heroism by Swedes on behalf of their Jewish fellow men. Most touching and inspiring!
The final day is spent at sea and when you arrive, Kosherica and the Rabbi will take you for Shabbat to Berlin to spend the day in reflection and celebration of our people.
P.S. A children’s program can be created if needed.