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:
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.
- 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.
- 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, to 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.