Kosher cruises are designed for Jewish vacationers who want to adhere to Jewish dietary laws while they travel. Since the companies who specialize in kosher cruises, like Kosherica and Kosher Cruises, cater specifically to Jewish individuals, a kosher cruise might also feature other elements of Jewish tradition (like daily prayer services), or they might take you to destinations of particular significance in the Jewish worldview. There aren’t many of these types of cruises per year. However, since individuals who eat kosher often confront dietary problems when they travel, a kosher cruise to some people is simply any cruise that offers kosher dining options. (In other words, a “kosher cruise” doesn’t need to be entirely centered on one’s Jewish faith.) Below you will find some information about who offers kosher cruises, as well as how to book a kosher cruise.
There are a number of different companies that help kosher travelers find kosher cruises. Essentially, these companies act as travel agents that specifically serve the Jewish community. They make arrangements with cruise lines (often major ones, like Holland America and Norwegian Cruise Lines), and then passengers book the cruises through these third parties. Perhaps the largest Jewish-centered travel agency is Kosherica (they claim to “have pleased more Jewish Travelers then all cruise and tour companies combined”), and this company has a website with a list of kosher cruises. You can look through the different cruises offered and then select one based on your desired criteria (where it departs from, where it sails to, how long it lasts, and so on). This can be done entirely online, requiring you to select your preferred accommodation and provide your personal details in an online form, or you can call one of their numbers (which one you call will depend on what part of the world you live in) to get assistance from one of their agents. Other companies, like Kosher Cruises, require you to call them, meaning you can’t book directly through the website. In the case of Kosher Cruises, this likely has to do with how specialized their service can be; for instance, if you are planning some sort of group event, they can work out an itinerary with you and handle all the logistics.
In order to take a kosher cruise, understood in the more limited, dietary sense of the term (i.e., a cruise that has kosher dining options), you don’t need to book through one of the travel agencies referenced above. You can go about planning your cruise entirely on your own, and the only extra step you need to take is to make sure that the cruise line offers kosher dining options. (You can do this by looking up their dining options online or calling a representative from the cruise line.) Lots of major cruise lines can accommodate kosher diets, but you often have to make the cruise ship aware of your needs well before it departs. Keep in mind that these options may be neither extensive nor particularly great, and since eating is one of the primary things passengers seem to revel in on board a ship, this could be a problem for you. The companies that specialize in setting up and booking passengers on kosher cruises are far more preoccupied with supplying high quality kosher meals to their clients – their dining expertise and the lengths they go to make sure good kosher food is offered is one of their main selling points – so that is one reason why people might be inclined to work with one of these third parties.
To conclude, a kosher cruise can basically mean two different things. In its most general sense, a kosher cruise is merely any cruise that offers kosher food. Tons of cruises fit this minimal criterion, and so technically there are tons of kosher cruises. There are far more thoroughly kosher cruises, however, where the cruise vacation is essentially centered on Jewish life. To take a kosher cruise in the former sense, you can do all the booking yourself; for a cruise of the latter sort, you may want to use a travel agency that specializes in kosher cruises.
If one is an observant Jew, there are many restrictions or requirements besides the dietary ones. For instance, the restrictions of the Sabbath. The ship may not dock or undock on the Sabbath (except of course, if there’s a life or limb threatening emergency). One many not operate electronic locks which are commonplace on ships. One may not flush the toilets commonly found on ships on the Sabbath, which are electrically operated (not just automatic sensors, a true motorized action). This is an unacceptable sanitary nuisance. For ultra-Orthdox Jews, there is a requirement for gender separation for swimming, dinning, and other activities.