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.
Considering the CostWhen 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
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
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.