What brings the Vice President of one of the world’s largest cruise lines to the Jewish state? Quite a bit, according to Norwegian Cruise Line’s Nick Wilkinson, the company’s Vice President and Managing Director.

Wilkinson, who is currently visiting Israel as the company launches its latest expansion into the Jewish state, told Arutz Sheva that Israel is a surprisingly hot market, calling the growth in demand for cruises “staggering”.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with the Israeli market over a large number of years, and the growth for cruise in the Israeli market is quite staggering. If you look… from an international perspective, Israel is the sixth largest cruise market for Norwegian Cruise Line.”

“It’s a very important market for us.”

According to Wilkinson, NCL has become the primary provider of cruises for Israelis sailing from abroad back to Israel, adding that his company’s primary competitors in the Israeli market are not other cruise lines, but traditional land-based resorts.

“Our competition is not the other cruise lines. Our competition is the land-based [resorts]. The difference with Norwegian Cruise Line is that we’re floating resorts. We’re trying to break down the barriers between the land-based holidays to attract those guests to come and cruise with us on our floating resorts and seeing so many incredible ports and destinations around the world.”

To kick-off the company’s 2018 season in Israel, NCL held a special event in Israel this week, and offered Israeli clients a special buy one, get one half off deal.

“In the global cruise sector, Israel is in the top ten markets outside of the US for Norwegian. There are projected to be 85,000 Israeli cruise passengers generated in 2017 and, with an expected double digit growth in 2018, we are committed to this growing market. Both the brochure and special offer demonstrate this commitment and we are looking forward to developing our brand presence further throughout the coming years.”

As NCL expands its operations in the Israeli market, the company has adapted to the special requirements of Jewish passengers, most notably with regards to culinary requirements.

“If you look at the Jewish market, it’s a very important segment,” Wilkinson” said. “So the guests can actually pre-order their Kosher meals 30 days prior to sailing.”

The company has even found ways to help religiously-observant Jewish passengers avoid desecrating the Sabbath during their cruises.

“Simple things like a lift [elevator] being allocated, with a lift attendant there. On the hotel side, there is when the room stewards or stewardesses there ready to open the doors through to the actual cabins,” said Wilkinson, noting that at present, all the “cabins have electronic keys.”

Wilkinson said he hopes ultimately that NCL will be able to offer “100%, fully kosher cruises”.

“That is my dream. Absolutely,” said Wilkinson, said he and other senior officials have spent years discussing how to launch “a dedicated Kosher departure.”