Portland OR – A ten day luxury cruise that will include on board minyanim, a Sefer Torah and elegant kosher dining has travelers splurging thousands of dollars for what could be a once in a lifetime trip to Antarctica.
The polar voyage is the brainchild of Dan Eleff of Dan’s Deals fame and landscape photographer Moishe Hersko, as reported by The Jewish Press.
Both had previously traveled to the North Pole where they snowmobiled among polar bears and icebergs, but it was an unsuccessful attempt to win a trip to Antarctica in a Starwoods auction that got Eleff thinking about a trip to the only continent he had yet to visit.
A conversation with Hersko about traveling to the Frozen Continent had the two brainstorming on how they could arrange a glatt kosher luxury trip that would be compliant with numerous halachic challenges including traveling on a boat on Shabbos and putting on tefillin in places where the sun doesn’t set for days.
“You are not supposed to board a boat on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday because it detracts from your oneg Shabbos,” said Eleff. “Boarding on Sunday wasn’t an option because it meant having to be in Ushuaia, Argentina – the southernmost city and commercial airport in the world and the departure point for Antarctica cruises – for Shabbos. Leaving on Tuesday was also a problem because it meant we would have gotten back on a Friday which also meant spending Shabbos in Ushuaia. So the only day we could possibly leave was on a Monday.”
Because Orthodox Jews can only be on a ship over Shabbos if they are among the minority of passengers, the two had to piggyback their travel plans on an existing trip. Further complicating matters was the issue of kosher food – since local laws prevent bringing prepared food into Ushuaia, they had to find a vessel that could be pre-stocked with food by a kosher caterer before it docked in southern Argentina.
In the end, Eleff and Hersko found one ship that met all their requirements. The RCGS Resolute, a polar expedition cruising vessel, would be coming from Canada where it could be fully stocked with kosher food. It is scheduled to leave Ushuaia on the last day of Chanukah, December 10th, its only Monday Antarctica cruise for the next two years.
And because it is traveling to the Arctic Peninsula in the beginning of the summer when much of the polar ice has yet to melt, the Resolute would be unable to travel south of the Arctic Circle, where the sun doesn’t set throughout the summer months, circumventing the tefillin-related problems.
Travelers who are able to afford the cruise’s per-person price of $14,000 to $24,000 will have the opportunity to travel among icebergs, fjords, whales and penguins and go snowshoeing and hiking, with some enjoying an icy overnight camping trip in Antarctica. A final day polar plunge will give daring passengers the opportunity to swim in the 32 degree waters; Eleff has yet to decide if he is up for that particular challenge.
Both Shabbos and Asara B’Teves, which falls out during the Resolute’s return trip to Ushuaia, present interesting timing issues. The earliest time that Shabbos can start is approximately 10 PM, with havdala on Motzei Shabbos scheduled for just after 1 AM. And Asara B’Teves, normally the shortest fast of the year, will run a full day for passengers on the Resolute.
Eleff admitted that he was initially hoping to just get the ten passengers he needed to make the trip happen, and was surprised by the number of people who registered for the luxury cruise. An auction for a twin cabin on the ship run by Eleff to benefit Chabad of Cleveland raised $106,886 from 648 contributors, with a California native walking away with the grand prize.
“The winner was the eighth person who bought a raffle ticket,” Eleff told VIN News. “It was so ironic that the cruise departs on the eighth day of Chanukah and the eighth guy was the one who won.”
After posting a breakdown of raffle ticket sales on his site, Eleff was asked by readers to do a second raffle this past Tuesday night. Eleff agreed to work with another charity and within moments was contacted by Rabbi Chaim Wilhelm who wanted to run a fundraiser to benefit Chabad of Northeast Portland.
“I had 20 organizations from all over the world emailing me and he was the first one,” said Eleff. “Even today I still had people contacting me asking if they could run a raffle.”
Rabbi Wilhelm said that in less than two days, he has already sold 146 tickets to 72 people. The Chabad of Northeast Portland raffle will be held on September 4th.
“It is a unique opportunity,” noted Rabbi Wilhelm. “People want to be able to take advantage of something like this.”
Eleff said that only five spots remain in his group for the cruise, with travelers hailing from all across the United States as well as Israel, Australia and Canada.
“We have people who daven Ashkenaz, Sefard and Nusach Ari,” said Eleff. “We have people in their twenties ranging up to someone who is 75. So far our passengers are about 65 percent couples and 35 percent singles. So many people call us up and tell us that this is a bucket list item for them.”