Alaska Inside Passage Christian Cruise Review

An Unforgettable Alaska Cruise with Dr. Charles Stanley and In Touch Ministries

Skagway Alaska
Bill Fairchild

After years of dreaming about an Alaska cruise, my husband and I were delighted when Templeton Tours invited us to join Dr. Charles Stanley and friends of In Touch Ministries on a 7-day Inside Passage Alaska cruise. We had heard from experienced travelers that an Alaska cruise is a journey like no other, but we couldn't fully appreciate their enchantment until we'd taken the trip ourselves.

Now that we've seen Alaska's spectacular coastline, its untouched wilderness, majestic mountains, endless waterfalls, and enduring sunsets, we know firsthand that the beauty and adventure of Alaska is truly unforgettable.

From a logistical standpoint, every aspect of the trip handled by Templeton Tours and Holland America came together flawlessly. We were impressed with the seamless organization of both companies, as we sailed through our vacation without a ripple. Traveling in the faith-building environment of a Christian-themed cruise only added to our enjoyment, making it one of the most memorable and spiritually uplifting times of our lives.

But, before diving into the details of this review, I'd like to invite you to share some of the highlights of our trip through this day-by-day overview of our adventure:

Alaska Inside Passage Christian Cruise Log

While our Christian cruise to Alaska surpassed all of our expectations, many aspects of the experience deserve careful evaluation, especially if you're considering booking a similar Christian vacation.

Pros

  • An unforgettable, spiritually uplifting vacation of a lifetime.
  • All essentials of the trip are included in one price.
  • Plenty of space and luxury on the mid-size ms Zaandam.
  • All clean, family-friendly entertainment.
  • The advantage of visiting many spectacular places with the convenience of no additional travel.

Cons

  • High cost of cruise package may be prohibitive for many travelers.
  • Alaska's optional shore excursions are quite expensive.
  • Not being a freestyle cruise, dress code in dining room and church services may be uncomfortable for some travelers.
  • Alaska's variable weather complicates packing and may add to overall expense.
  • Lack of variety in Christian entertainment, particularly musical entertainment.

Consider the Cost

When compared with other cruise packages, our particular Alaska tour was quite expensive, most likely owing to our accommodations on a superior ship, the ms Zaandam of Holland America Line. Beginning with its friendly crew, we were pampered by the predominately Indonesian and Filipino personnel who served us with warmth, grace, humor and great care.

Designed specifically for passenger comfort, the Zaandam featured plenty of space and luxury. All cabins, including our outside stateroom (with a window), afforded more room than most larger capacity cruise ships. It boasted a queen-sized bed, a small sitting area and vanity, a decent sized bathroom with mini tub, as well as adequate closet and storage space. Even in the ship's common areas, lounges, dining rooms, meeting places, and decks, we never felt crowded.

If your cruise budget is tight and includes the added expense of long-distance travel to your city of embarkation, you can certainly shop around and find a better deal.

Just keep in mind, the less you pay for your cruise package, the less comfort and luxury you are likely to enjoy.

Setting Aside Prep Time

Unlike other vacations, my husband and I found that our Alaska cruise required quite a bit of planning and preparation prior to travel. We set aside a couple of days just for packing and reading over all of the cruise documentation. If you want to make the most of your trip, we highly recommend this. You don't want to spend your last minutes before travel frantically throwing your bags together. You also won't want to waste valuable time aboard poring over papers, trying to decide which of the many interesting shore excursion to choose. As a matter of fact, some of the optional side tours require special outdoor gear, so you'll want to come prepared.

Alaska's variable weather, which can go from cold to hot, too rainy, all in the same day, also complicates packing.

If you're like us, this can tend to make you over pack and overspend on rain gear and clothes for layering. If you do happen to end up with too much luggage, we highly recommend using Holland America's "Signature" baggage handling service, especially if you have a long flight home. This allowed us to check our bags right from our stateroom all the way to our final destination. For the convenience, the minimal fee was worth every penny.

Thinking Over Shore Excursions

As I've mentioned, one great thing about an Alaska cruise is that each port of call offers several exciting shore excursions with something for everyone's taste; however, many of these adventures are high-priced. While you're certain to have a great time ashore, even if you don't book any excursions, we recommend setting aside at least $500 to $1000 in your vacation budget for additional outings.

A mistake we made was trying to do too many tours. Because our budget was restricted, we chose 1-2 excursions in each port (a total of 6), selecting mainly from the lower-priced options. While we thoroughly enjoyed each one, if we had it to do over again, we would have splurged on just 2-3 of the higher-priced, more adventurous options, such as a whale quest or a flightseeing tour. By selecting less excursions, we would have had more time to shop and explore each port on our own.

Our most scenic and memorable shore excursion was a ride on the famous White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad. Built in 1898, the narrow gauge railroad is an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

As we climbed 3000 feet in 20 miles to the summit, we marveled at the panoramic, breathtaking views. Just the chance to glimpse the original Chilkoot Trail to the Yukon Klondike Gold Rush region was a thrill worth the $100 ticket fee. It's no wonder this is the most popular cruise excursion in Alaska.

Focusing on the Christian Cruise Aspect

Catering to Christian guests, the ship closed all of its bars and casinos for the duration of the cruise. As an alternative, the on board entertainment was replaced with Bible studies, Christian music concerts, comedy routines, inspirational speakers, seminars, and a church service.

We appreciated the Bible studies, especially getting to hear Dr. Stanley in person as he taught two casual lessons on the topic of friendship.

We enjoyed a few laughs with the comedians and particularly valued the "Geology and Genesis" and "Scenic Splendor" lectures given by geologist Billy Caldwell. Mostly, however, we spent as much time as possible outside taking in the glorious views.

By far, the highlight of our cruise was the morning we entered the sheer-walled fjord known as Tracy Arm. The five hour round-trip voyage to Sawyer Glacier was narrated from the bridge by Dr. Caldwell, as he shared from a Christian Naturalist's perspective. We learned facts about Alaska's glacial history, the surrounding rain forest, the massive icebergs, and the abundant coastal wildlife. As we reached the magnificent glacier, the ship parked at an awe-inspiring vantage point while Dr. Stanley conducted a brief service from the bridge. Together we sang the hymn, "How Great Thou Art," and then a quiet calm settled in the canyon, creating an indescribable moment of worship.

Many of us were moved to tears as we reflected on the majesty of our God.

These were the kinds of spiritual experiences that made a Christian cruise to Alaska so appealing and impressive. It's important when choosing a Christian cruise to carefully consider the type of experience you want to have. Would you prefer to travel with a traditional church group or would you feel more at home with a less traditional, inter-denominational group of passengers?

For example, dress code might be a factor for you, as it was for us. "Sunday dress" (a suit or sport coat and tie for men, and a dress, skirt, or dressy slacks for women) was required at the church services and at the Captain's Reception and formal dinner. Since we're used to "come as you are" attire for church, bringing dressy clothing not only added to our expenses, it created a certain degree of discomfort.

Our only true disappointment, however, occurred as we were approaching our first Port, Juneau, and we couldn't help but feel torn between attending the indoor, Sunday church service with Dr. Stanley, or standing in awe of God's amazing creation on display from every point on deck. That morning we sighted our first whale and viewed mountainous shoreline we'd never seen before and might never get to experience in this way again. It was a difficult dilemma and an unfortunate decision we had to make. This could have been easily remedied by holding the services on Saturday when we were at sea with nothing to compete with our attention. Perhaps a less traditional hosting group might have been open to holding the worship service on Saturday or at another not so scenically stunning time.

In addition, we would have preferred more variety in the musical entertainment offered. While all of the performers (6 groups in total) were of high-caliber, three of them were trios with a southern gospel sound. Since we like a variety of musical styles, including Christian rock and contemporary worship, we lost interest in attending the concerts. This, however, was hardly a let down in our cruise experience, as our attention was drawn toward the outdoor wilderness "entertainment."

Not Forgetting the Food

By now many of you are wondering, when will she get to the food? It's the thing everyone raves about on a cruise. While the cuisine on our cruise was very good, well-presented, generous in portion, varied in selection, and available at any time night or day, neither of us thought the dishes rated in the gourmet category. We had expected our taste buds to be wowed with every morsel, and instead we were simply satisfied. This, too, was not in the least bit disappointing for either of us, as the meals were not a primary focal point of our vacation.

Coming to a Conclusion

The central priority of our trip was savoring the incredible handiwork of our great God and thanking him for allowing us to enjoy it. In fact, being in Alaska continually made us think of heaven and how tremendous it will be to spend all eternity exploring the wonders of creation. Being able to praise God openly, unhindered, and in communion with other believers was a particular pleasure, giving this vacation a significant advantage over other tours.

Our Christian cruise to Alaska was truly a spiritual journey of a lifetime. My husband and I feel so blessed to have had the experience. We're absolutely sure it will long be regarded as one of our most worthwhile and gratifying vacations.

For more detailed highlights of our trip visit this day-by-day travel log.

View our Alaska Christian Cruise Pictures.

To learn more about the ministry of our host, Dr. Charles Stanley, please visit his bio page.

To learn more about Templeton Tours and their Christian travel opportunities, check out their website.

As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary cruise accommodation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this evaluation, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.