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Stories & Songs: MercyMe’s Robby Shaffer on Music and Travel

Our MercyMe at Sea cruise is a much-anticipated cruise experience—and one of the fastest to sell out. The highly decorated and popular Christian music band is known for its soaring anthems, authentic personalities and extensive touring schedule. They travel around the world performing songs that proclaim God’s glory. We have partnered with the band for almost a decade to organize MercyMe at Sea and are honored to work alongside such music legends. We sat down with drummer Robby Shaffer to ask a few questions about travel’s role in his faith, life and the ministry of MercyMe. MercyMe performing on their MercyMe at Sea Caribbean Cruise What has travel meant to you? It’s become a life-giving necessity for me and my family. We love getting away for a time to just unplug from the daily grind.  Can you share with us a memorable or funny moment you’ve had during a trip or vacation? My wife and I had the opportunity to visit Rome and Venice for our 20th anniversary. It was the trip of a lifetime. Another moment was a trip to the Bahamas I took with a group of friends to celebrate a couple of our birthdays. We rented a boat to go see the swimming pigs [at Big Major Cay]. On the way, the boat caught fire when the engine blew up due to sand in the intake. We all decided to jump ship and were stranded in the middle of the ocean for a few hours until we could get help. But it’s hard to complain when you are “stuck” in beautiful, crystal-clear water! What do you get from traveling that you can’t experience with anything else?  It gives us a chance to do something or see something we can’t do at home. For me, [traveling] is all about the experience. I also love seeing the beauty the world has to offer— it really stirs my affection for Christ! MercyMe entertaining on a Christian cruise How has travel impacted your faith and your worldview?  It gives me the ability to really see how different the world is. From how we pursue faith to our freedoms and basic luxuries (or lack thereof). You get a better understanding of how blessed we truly are in the USA. Where are your favorite places to be when writing or composing?  We recently bought a studio in Nashville and wrote our latest album, “inhale (exhale),” there. We did the same thing for a previous album but rented a cabin in Lake Tahoe instead. In each of those experiences, the scenery really inspired us to get to work.   Which destinations are still on your travel list?  Israel, France, South Africa and Greece are all places that I am eager to cross off my bucket list!  Where did some of your favorite conferences or concerts take place? What made them remarkable?   My favorites would be Hawaii, Red Rocks, and the Gorge in Washington state. The beauty that you see while performing at those locations is so inspiring. Click here for more information on the next MercyMe at Sea cruise.

Latest Travel Tips and Resources

Explore valuable travel tips and resources. Dive in and become a travel expert for your next Christian cruise or tour.

Feb 06, 2023
6 Min Read
FAQ: How to Pack & Prepare for Israel
Travel of any kind can be life-changing, but traveling to Israel as a Christian is transformational. Visiting the land of Scripture and walking in the footsteps of Jesus is spiritually refreshing and uplifting. Beyond the faith enrichment, Israel is a beautiful, fascinating country with surprises around every corner and vista. Prior to departing on our Israel tours, our travelers ask plenty of questions about what to pack, how to prepare and what to expect in Israel. We created this post to answer the most frequently asked questions we receive. What should I pack for Israel? Spring and fall in Israel are beautiful, with high temperatures in the 80s. This is the best time of year in the country—it avoids the hot summers—and almost all of our tours take place during these months. In addition to your passport and travel documents, we recommend the following packing list: Casual, relaxed clothing (trousers/pants, jeans, shorts, T-shirts, collared shirts or blouses); you won’t need any formal attire on our tours Light sweater or jacket Bathing suit and a cover-up or wrap Comfortable walking shoes or sandals with rubber soles Hat, sunglasses and sunscreen Toiletries Minor first-aid items, like bandages or pain relief medications Prescription medications (always bring all medications in their original containers) Hair care appliances (see these tips about using electronics in Israel) Small bag or backpack (large enough for a small Bible, pen, camera and other personal items) It’s a good idea to check the upcoming weather in Israel before you go. You may need to bring a light raincoat and/or compact umbrella. Inspiration travelers overlooking Jezreel Valley What about modest attire for religious sites? On most tours, you will be traveling to holy sites and conservative areas like the Western Wall. Certain locations require men to cover their heads, but a yarmulke is provided when needed.  Some sites require everyone to wear shirts that cover their shoulders and skirts or slacks that cover the knees. You can plan for this in several different ways. Dress accordingly for the entire day or you bring a shirt and wrap-around skirt or larger pull-on pants to go over whatever you are wearing that day. There will not be changing areas. All this will be taking place on the bus as you travel from site to site. In most cases, you will be informed a day ahead of time so you can be prepared. What about currency? Israel’s official currency is the New Israeli Shekel (NIS), although most stores and businesses will accept U.S. dollars. Almost all businesses in Israel accept U.S. credit or debit cards. It’s a good idea to notify your bank of your travel plans so they don’t flag your foreign transaction. If you’re planning to use a credit card, check ahead of time to determine the international exchange fee. Some cards charge these fees for travelers. Others may not. In most locations, ATM machines make withdrawing local currency an easy option, even with a U.S.-based debit card. However, exchange rates can vary. If you don’t want to spend time searching for an ATM after you arrive, we recommend requesting shekels from your bank before departing. (Sometimes they will need a few weeks to process this request.) We also suggest arriving with U.S. dollars in small denominations. The airport and our hotels will exchange small amounts of currency as well. Inspiration travelers overlooking the skyline of Jerusalem How much spending money should I bring? This depends on what kind of traveler you are! Are you a gift-giver or collector? You should bring enough to purchase keepsakes for friends, family or yourself. Tourist items and shops can be expensive, but in Israeli culture, prices can be negotiable! Our tour groups dine together on large breakfast and dinner buffets in our hotels, but you may also want to sample the local cuisine on your own. The religious traditions and cultural memories of the Israeli people inspire their local dishes, including Middle Eastern specialties like hummus, shawarma and falafel. You will have opportunities to sample these and while they are usually inexpensive, many vendors require cash. Inspiration travelers worshiping on the Southern Steps How else can I make the most of my tour? Bring your Bible, a journal and something to write with. You’ll want to remember many of the things you learn, as well as the spiritual insights that result from travel in this sacred place. And whether you rely on your smartphone or a larger camera, make sure you bring a way to document everything you see and do. Your friends and family back home will be eager to hear about your time in the Holy Land. Research shows that taking intentional photographs can serve as memory aids.  Most importantly, bring an open mind! Exposure to new cultures, people and places can sometimes be uncomfortable—or will at least stretch travelers outside of their comfort zones. But that’s what makes travel unforgettable.  We have plenty of Israel tours on our schedule in the months to come and hope to see you on one of them. Are you ready for a life-changing experience in the land of the Bible? We’re ready to take you there!
Sep 29, 2023
6 Min Read
A Traveler’s Guide to an Exceptional Mediterranean Cruise
The Mediterranean is calling! This iconic, ancient destination combines food, faith, architecture and history for an unforgettable Christian travel experience. If you’ve been longing to explore this stunning destination for your next getaway with God, we’ve curated the top information on what to expect on one of our Mediterranean cruises. Q: What do I pack and prepare? A: You want to feel comfortable and look fantastic when you’re on vacation, but heading off to your next destination is not simply a question of how to pack your suitcase—it’s a question of what to pack in it. You wonder whether your everyday clothes will suffice or if your wardrobe would benefit from having a few pieces added in, designed with travel in mind.  Here’s a helpful tip: The subtropical Mediterranean climate is very similar to what you’ll encounter in Southern California—expect sunshine, moderate to hot temperatures and mostly dry conditions.  These Inspiration resources will help you pack efficiently: 5 Travel-Friendly Fashion Finds Helpful Packing Tips from Our Experts 9 Tips for First-Time Cruisers The Key to a Good Night’s Sleep…Anywhere How Not to Lose Things While Traveling Q: Do I need to make any purchases pre-cruise? A: These optional purchases before you board can streamline your experience on the ship: Wi-Fi: You can purchase Wi-Fi before or during the cruise by logging in to your account with the cruise line. Purchase per day or select a package for the entire cruise. Pricing varies per cruise line: Celebrity Cruises Norwegian Cruise Line Holland America Line Beverages: Soft drinks, juices, sparkling water and other favorites can be yours with one of the ship’s unlimited beverage packages. You can purchase these packages before or during the cruise: Celebrity Cruises Norwegian Cruise Line Holland America Line Excursions: You can purchase port excursions before or during the cruise by logging in to your account, on the website or app, with the cruise line or by visiting the cruise excursions desk onboard the ship. Q: What about phone calls? A: Cell signal availability changes based on your ship’s location unless you’ve purchased a Wi-Fi package. When you do have a signal, it could be through an at-sea provider like Cellular at Sea or an international carrier. These roaming charges can be expensive unless you have an international plan and a cruise plan through your provider. We recommend verifying your plan’s coverage before you leave—some providers offer specific talk-and-text cruise plans. Q: What do I need to know about meals and dining? A: Room service is part of the package, not a luxurious “extra” like it would be at a hotel. Also, specialty reservation-only restaurants can be difficult to book several days into your cruise, so scope them out while waiting for your cabin on the first day to explore their menus and book your seating. You’ll want to read this blog for more expert dining tips. Q: Do I need to exchange for a local currency? A: Our Mediterranean cruises typically travel to countries that use the euro, though some destinations still use their own currencies. If you plan on paying with cash, we recommend ordering euros from your bank a few weeks before departure. You may also exchange money at the airport before you leave the United States. Most international airports also have currency exchange ATMs. Q: Where do we go after our flight lands? A: After you arrive and pass through customs, look for your prearranged transfer to the cruise ship. Q: Do you offer transfers to and from the pier and cruise terminal? A: Our Mediterranean cruises depart from Civitavecchia. It’s known as the “Port of Rome,” though it’s about 50 miles northwest of Rome itself. We include group transfers for our travelers, but if you prefer other options, you can contact your hotel directly to see if they provide transfers, use a ride-booking service like Uber or even hop on a train from the airport that will take you within walking distance of the pier. Q: What else should I expect on my cruise? A: You can expect an exceptional travel experience in a breathtaking destination! Here are a few of our favorite tips and places you can look forward to: The Best of Italy on a Christian Tour 7 Hidden Gems of the Mediterranean 11 Insider Cruise Tips You Need to Know Stay Flexible, Make Friends and Other Pro Tips We hope this email helped answer your questions! If you have any other inquiries, please don’t hesitate to call our Reservation Coordinators at 800 247 1899, Monday through Friday, 8:30am to 5:00pm Pacific time.  We’re excited about the upcoming travel season and can’t wait to introduce you to one of the Mediterranean’s most beautiful and life-changing places. Let’s go!
May 29, 2018
4 Min Read
Helpful Packing Tips from the Experts at Inspiration
With summer vacations right around the corner, we asked the experts here at Inspiration Cruises & Tours for their travel wisdom. Whether you’re headed on a cruise to Alaska or the Caribbean; or whether you’re planning to tour the Holy Land, with advice from these industry veterans, your journey is bound to be a smooth one. How much should I bring? Inevitably, the question of how many changes of clothes are needed for each trip comes up early-on. Those who try to pack a different pair of shoes for each day quickly find this creates heavier luggage and more of it. Here are some of our top executives’ thoughts on making wise packing decisions. “I always travel light! I want to be a self-sufficient traveler by making sure I can manage my own luggage,” shares Kelly. Ruth agrees. “Travel with only what you can manage on your own and plan to wear everything twice.” Stephanie offers a similar strategy. “Instead of packing an outfit for each day, pack multiple scarfs. These lightweight items change up an outfit so you can wear things at least two times.” While, surprisingly, the ladies seemed to take a restrained approach, President Steve Dick made no apologies for his more-is-more philosophy: “You have your light-packers? ...That’s not me. I’d rather have too many clothes than not enough. I pack for everything.” What about wrinkles? The men, who tend to wear button-down shirts and slacks had a lot to say on the matter. “My go-to wrinkle fix,” shares Michael, “is a mini hand steamer. It’s small, inexpensive and you can pick one up anywhere. Wrinkle release spray is also good—just make sure it’s in a 3.4 ounce container.” Steve, who is on the road every month of the year, has created his own very deliberate method. “I have a system for folding three or four of my dress shirts together as one. I bring the sleeves straight in (folding back the cuffs if they’re too long) and bringing the bottom half of the shirts up. This way, the creases are only near the waistband and under the arms. And I have them lightly starched at the dry cleaners. Once I arrive, I rub a damp cloth over any creases and they come right out. But if you’re not that much of a planner, the old steam-them-on-the-shower-rod trick works as well.” When it comes to wrinkles, Josh believes prevention is the best cure. “Arcteryx Skyline shirts are wrinkle resistant, always comfortable and breathe in humid weather. Get one...or seven!” Those who work with Josh can attest that he’s passing along this advice not because he’s being compensated to do so, but because he’s a true believer. He wears them almost every day! As for making the most of your suitcase space, John advises stuffing your shoes with socks. Not only does this save room, it keeps your shoes from getting flattened en route. Joel recommends using clear, zip-close packing cubes to organize belongings within your bag, which he points out has the added benefit of making security checks less stressful.   There are plenty more tips where these came from. If you have any of your own strategies you’d like to share with fellow passengers, we would love to hear them. For a more complete packing list tailored to your destination, visit the Resources page of our website. Happy trails, and happy packing!
Sep 14, 2016
6 Min Read
11 Insider Cruise Tips You Need to Know
Cruisers heading to regions like Alaska, New England, the Caribbean or the Mediterranean are eager to learn about these destinations. And while the expert commentary they receive from Inspiration explains our best travel tips, insider hotspots and must-dos for their future travels, we still get occasional questions about how to best navigate a large cruise ship. Because we know cruiseliners (especially Holland America Line) like the back of our hand, it’s our pleasure to pass along these insider tips to make your stellar travel experience all the more luxurious. 1. Visit the spa on your first day, or on port days. During days at sea, the spa will typically fill up with cruisers taking advantage of their time aboard the ship. But when everyone else is in port—or getting to know the ship’s layout on embarkation day—these scheduled slots become much more flexible. In fact, a number of cruise lines even offer discounts for first-day treatments. Check your newsletter or visit the spa right after boarding to find out. 2. Take a ship-specific art tour. The stunning art collections on Holland America ships are always worth visiting. Before your cruise, download a self-guided walking tour specifically for your ship. These 30- to 40-minute tours are professionally narrated and include everything from walking directions to interviews with the artists themselves. All you need is a smartphone or MP3 player! 3. Use a power strip. While newer cruise ships are beginning to offer more electrical outlets (and some even include USB charging stations for smartphones) power can often be in short supply in smaller staterooms. Remedy this by bringing your own power strip or outlet multiplier. For example, this option adds outlets and even includes USB ports for charging a phone. If you forget, Holland America’s purser’s desk can lend you a power strip (if available, and with a minimum security deposit.) 4. Don’t limit yourself at dinner. The dinner menu features a handful of options for appetizers and the main course. Most passengers will choose one item from each category. But you’re not limited to just one choice. Order two entrees and sample both. Try appetizers like fisherman’s chowder or escargot for the first time—if you don’t like it, simply order something else. Or better yet, sample from among several desserts! 5. Room service is available. Would you rather sleep late than get up for an early breakfast? Get hungry in the late afternoon? Prefer to dine on your private balcony? Unlimited room service is available 24 hours a day on many of our cruises—and often, it’s built into the price of your stateroom. Though some cruise lines offer a scaled-down room service menu, our most frequent cruise partner, Holland America, goes above and beyond by offering a full, hot room service breakfast on debarkation morning. 6. Ask for menus ahead of time. If you want to make a reservation at one of your ship’s specialty restaurants, it makes sense to pick the night when the dining room menu doesn’t quite reflect your tastes. But how do you know in advance? Simply ask at the purser’s desk. In most cases, they’ll gladly share with you the week’s menus so you can plan your dining schedule. 7. Use magnets on your cabin walls. Most staterooms are constructed as self-contained “coves” with walls made of metal—which means they are magnetic. Bring along a few magnets and attach your daily newsletters or invitations to the wall rather than taking up desk or vanity space. 8. Get free seasickness remedies. Feeling queasy? No need to seek out a pharmacy in port. On most cruises, you can request room service to bring you saltine crackers. The purser’s desk will supply seasickness medications like meclizine or dramamine for free. (Aspirin, acetaminophen and adhesive bandages are also given at no cost.) 9. Request options for your bedding. You’re not stuck with the standard pillows or sheets in your cabin. If you would like a different pillow firmness, alternative sheets or even an egg crate-style mattress topper, just ask. Your steward will have a variety of options available to make your nights at sea even more comfortable. 10. On port days, be patient. Upon arrival in port, you’ll find passengers lining up in order to get off the ship. This isn’t ideal for the claustrophobic or impatient. Avoiding these crowds is simple: Just wait 30 minutes. Enjoy an extra cup of coffee while taking in the hustle and bustle of the port down below. Then you can leave without having to spend time in line. 11. Head to the Explorer’s Lounge after dinner. On Holland America ships, the Explorer’s Lounge offers free chocolate truffles throughout the evening. All you have to do is ask. Shhh...don’t tell anyone! Whether you’re a first-timer eager to learn the ins and outs of ship life; or a veteran cruiser who’s looking for that little something extra; these “secrets” will enhance every detail of your Christian travel experience. Please share any tips you’ve discovered on your own!
Jun 01, 2023
5 Min Read
How to Make the Most of Your Christian Travel Cruise or Tour
The world is waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re anticipating a cruise to Alaska, a tour of Israel or an unforgettable Inspiration experience to the Caribbean—we want every step of your journey to become a cherished memory.  That’s why our team of travel experts compiled some of our best tips and tricks so you can make the most of your Christian travel experience, from advice on financial planning to direction on what to do once you arrive, here is the cumulative wealth and wisdom of our leaders, one tip at a time: Budgeting There are so many ways to save up for an exceptional travel experience. Let this financially focused post kickstart you with practical tips, including how a “slow and steady wins the race” approach can help you start—and even make the end goal more fulfilling and fun. If you’ve already booked, use this approach to save for your next trip! [caption id="attachment_9213" align="aligncenter" width="611"] Money-saving tips for travel[/caption] Gearing Up Packing for travel often raises questions: What should I bring? What should I leave at home? How do I prepare for the weather of Alaska or exploring Israel? [caption id="attachment_9215" align="aligncenter" width="611"] Warm jacket for an excursion to Ketchikan’s Misty Fjords[/caption] A top suggestion from our experienced travelers is to create a capsule wardrobe—a small selection of interchangeable clothing pieces that complement each other. These are often classic pieces that are versatile and are primarily composed of neutral colors. This allows for a variety of outfits without overpacking.  We know you’ve got other questions and that’s why we have curated our best answers here: 5 Travel-Friendly Fashion Finds 11 Things You Should Never Pack for Travel FAQ: How to Pack & Prepare for Israel Why an Alaska Cruise Is So Unique—and How to Plan for It Getting There You have so much to look forward to when you travel! The first step often involves traveling through an airport and taking a flight. One of our best suggestions is to apply for TSA Pre-Check because this expedited screening program for trusted travelers is now available at most airports nationwide. You’ll speed through security—often without having to remove your shoes. It’s worth the minimal fee! To read our other steps to a stress-free airport experience, click here. Once You Arrive You’ve been looking forward to this trip for months, possibly years. It’s finally here and you want to make the most of your journey. With more than 40 years of leading Christian travel, our team of travel experts knows how to make your cruise or tour as memorable as possible. Our pro tips include staying flexible and present, making new friends along the way and praying as you go. Click here to unpack these suggestions with us. [caption id="attachment_9216" align="aligncenter" width="611"] Visiting The Western Wall–the most sacred site in Jerusalem[/caption] If you want to take better photos for your friends and family, sharpen your photography skills, or amp up your social media presence, we suggest reading our Pro Tips for Better Travel Photography blog. It will help you understand composition to learn how to find good lighting. Soon you’ll be capturing incredible photos like a professional! Some of our other travel tips might surprise you, including how to get a better night’s sleep: Travel with an Eye Mask How Not to Lose Things—Including Your Passport 9 of Our Favorite Travel Apps to Enhance Your Journey Cruising Cruising is one of the most relaxing, luxurious and family-friendly ways to explore the world. You’ll enjoy multiple ports without having to unpack multiple times. Before you embark on the voyage of a lifetime, check out the cruise line’s shore excursions online to reserve exciting, hand-picked activities like zip-lining, snorkeling, horseback riding and so much more. These experiences fill up quickly, so be sure to book early. [caption id="attachment_9217" align="aligncenter" width="611"] Delicious treats found in Key West, Florida[/caption] Check out our other top tips below to elevate your cruise experience: Room Service Isn’t Extra (and Other Cruise Dining Tips) 9 Tips for First-Time Cruisers Magnets on the Cabin Walls (and 10 Other Insider Cruise Tips) Let’s Go! There’s a lot of great advice in the links above. We hope you feel empowered to explore the world with confidence and can’t wait to introduce you to some of the most beautiful destinations and faith-impacting experiences on earth.  Where are you going next?

Latest Articles for Cruises

Check out these resources for an incredible and exceptional experience on your upcoming Christian cruise.

Jan 26, 2022
6 Min Read
9 Tips for First-Time Cruisers
You're ready for your first cruise! There’s a lot to consider as a first-time cruiser and if you’re wondering where to begin or how to navigate the seemingly endless possibilities we’ve got you covered. From booking shore excursions to knowing what to pack, how to embark and even what you’ll do once on board, we’ve compiled our top tips for you and other first-time cruisers, curated from years of experience from veteran travelers.  Whether you are embarking to the tropical paradise of the Caribbean or exploring the wonder of Alaska, these reminders will equip you to make the most of your first voyage.  Pre-book your shore excursions. Before you sail, review the shore excursions available and pre-book those you want to experience. Shore excursions can fill up quickly and you’ll want to reserve exciting, hand-picked activities like snorkeling, architectural tours and ziplining before it’s too late.  Get there early. Most port cities are fascinating places, worthy of exploring. To be more rested on your embarkation day, and give you time to enjoy a new place, it’s best to arrive in your departure city a day early—even if your ship leaves in the afternoon. It only takes one delayed flight or major traffic jam to literally miss the boat.   Pack valuables in a carry-on. You’ll give your main luggage to a porter before boarding the ship. This way, you’re not lugging a heavy suitcase around the ship as you check-in. Your porter will deliver the luggage to your room but often not until later in the day. That means anything you need for your first hours on the ship—identification (passport), medicine, sunscreen, phone charger, etc.—would be best kept in your carry-on.  Pay attention to your health.  Cruise lines were attentive about traveler health before the pandemic, and even more so since 2020. In fact, some of the biggest disinfection innovations and virus prevention are coming from our cruise partners. Wash and sanitize your hands frequently (you’ll find sanitizer dispensers all over the ship). If you’re prone to motion sickness, ask your doctor about medications several days before you sail. And if you’ll be spending a lot of time in the bright sun, be sure to drink lots of water. Speaking of the sun… Don’t get sunburned. There’s no quicker way to ruin a spectacular week praising at sea than getting sunburned on Day One. If you’re cruising to the Caribbean—or even if you’re headed north to Alaska—you’re going to spend lots of time outdoors. Apply sunscreen liberally before you leave your cabin and don’t forget to reapply, especially if you are lounging next to the pool or enjoying the observation deck views. It’s also a good idea to bring it on shore excursions, especially if you don’t know how much time you will be spending in the sun.   Pack smart.  Trust us: Most people pack too many clothes for a cruise. No one needs 20 outfits to lounge in the sun. Instead of packing a lot of outfits, focus on ones that are flexible and will give you multiple uses. Remember there are laundry services on-board and you won’t be plagued by smelly clothes. Some ships even offer self-service laundromats with coin-operated washers and dryers.  Some things you will want to pack are: a hat, a beach bag, and a small collapsible bag for wet or dirty clothes. (Here’s a great article about what to pack for a cruise.) Set your cell to airplane mode. Most cruises take you into destinations where international roaming rates apply. So unless you’ve purchased an international plan, you’ll want to put your phone on airplane mode to save some money. Even if you don’t make a call or open an app, your phone will try to connect to the local network and that can result in a surprising bill when you get home. Don’t miss the sunsets. It doesn’t matter if you’re a first-time cruiser or a veteran of the seas, the beauty of a sunset is stunning every time. Don’t miss out on these! Booking a cabin with a balcony is a great way to fully immerse yourself in the views. But any outside deck at the right time will do! Bring a camera and make memories alongside your fellow passengers.   It's your first time cruising; relax.  Look around you. There’s shimmering water in every direction and everywhere you look proclaims God’s majesty. You’re surrounded by fellow believers and the Creator's presence is tangible in the smell of fresh ocean air, friendly smiles and amazing people. This is what it feels like when you get away with God and you’ll want to make the most of it. Yes, there’s a lot to do but you don’t have to try and plan it all. Our Christian cruises include scheduled activities and events so that all you have to do is relax and experience God moment by moment. How can it be better than this? If you’ve cruised before, what are your favorite tips for a first-time cruiser?
Jul 17, 2017
4 Min Read
Whale Watching: Juneau’s Favorite Pastime
What intrigues you most about Alaska? For many, a sense of adventure is what beckons them to the coast of America’s last frontier. Visitors love panning for gold in old mining towns and gazing at towering totem poles. But passengers on our Christian cruises to Alaska often find the state’s most fascinating feature isn’t found in its iconic landscape, but in the icy waters that border it. The humpback whale is one of the best-known residents of the Pacific Ocean, and summers in Juneau are perfect for experiencing these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. By this time in the year, the whales have migrated some 3,000 miles to feed and rejuvenate in its protected waters. What to Expect when you’re Whale Watching These friendly, even playful animals serve as a sort of welcoming committee for the state. More often than not, you’ll encounter a whale who likes the limelight and starts showing off for his guests. Along with fin slapping and lobtailing, special moments include observing the whales feed and seeing baby calves drink milk from their mothers. A recent study from the University of Southeast Alaska found that whales have gradually become accustomed to boat traffic, including the presence of whale watchers. (For a firsthand account of a Juneau whale watch, click here.) Many other marine species also call coastal Alaska home. Harbor seals are plentiful, as are orange-beaked puffins. Sea otters and porpoises abound in the open water. And the fact that Juneau boasts one of the highest concentrations of bald eagles in North America virtually guarantees several of these stately birds will be soaring overhead. You can look forward to glimpsing any number of these furry, feathered or fearsome animals on a whale watch, but of course, the stars of the show are the whales themselves. Then & Now As beloved as whale watching has become, it’s still a relatively new phenomenon. The attraction developed in the mid-twentieth century off the West Coast near San Diego, just as leisure cruising gained in popularity. In fact, 2017 is the seventieth year that our partner, Holland America Line, has been taking cruisers through the fjords and ports of Alaska. With interest in the activity skyrocketing, providers have honed their craft with faster and faster vessels to deliver an optimal experience for guests. Jet boats and catamarans are equipped with sophisticated radar technology to locate the whales. And they have plenty of deck space for viewing, along with enclosed, heated cabins to keep participants warm along the way. Expert guides and naturalists are always onboard to educate travelers about the rare phenomena they’re witnessing. While it’s possible to see whales aboard a cruiseliner, the mammals are usually too far away to observe in detail. This doesn’t stop people from bringing binoculars (or using the pair complementary within every Holland America suite) to make out distant shapes or waterspouts that break the horizon. But these sightings lack the “wow” factor of a close encounter of the whale kind. That’s why most travelers book an excursion on a much smaller seacraft. These allow captains the maneuverability to take participants within close range of a whale pod. Are you ready to encounter a majestic creature of the deep? Join us on one of our upcoming Alaska cruises and book an excursion with your cruise line or with our partners at Juneau Whale Watch to experience these graceful giants.
Sep 21, 2023
5 Min Read
The Best of Barbados
  Though it may be the 13th smallest country in the world, Barbados, known as “Little England” in the Caribbean West Indies, is a destination must for travelers. Its British roots and dramatic landscapes set it apart from neighboring ports of call. When Christian cruise travelers stop at Bridgetown, the capital city of Barbados, they’ll find stately colonial buildings contrasted with pockets of colorful wooden homes. The island boasts endless pink-and-white-sand beaches against azure-blue waters and rolling green hills above intricate limestone cave systems. Best Beaches When it comes to Caribbean cruises, beaches invariably steal the spotlight, and with its extensive 60-mile coastline, Barbados proudly hosts some of the most exceptional ones in the entire region. At Crane Beach, rugged green cliffs rise above pink-tinted sand. Keep an eye out—this beach is popular with bodyboarders and sea turtles.   Surfers flock to Bathsheba Beach, where powerful Atlantic waves and dramatic rock formations make this an ideal place to hang loose. It’s nicknamed the “Soup Bowl.” The small haven Little Bay on the northeast coast is also worth visiting for its rolling, boisterous Atlantic Ocean surf surges that burst through blowholes formed in coral limestone from persistent and intense wave action. A little more than a mile south, the crescent-shaped Carlisle Bay offers a pristine stretch of the island’s most popular beaches. The primary one, Brownes Beach, is ideal for relaxing in the sun or snorkeling in turquoise waters.  Carlisle Bay has a protected marine area with thriving aquatic life and is home to six shipwrecks, cannonballs and other relics, making it popular for scuba and snorkeling excursions. Check out this free guide and learn more here about the amazing beaches of Barbados. Top Experiences Beyond its beaches, Barbados is a beloved destination thanks to several popular shore excursions. At the top of the list is Harrison’s Cave, an enchanting limestone cave system where visitors can view waterfalls, stalactite formations and flowing streams as deep as 170 feet belowground.   Visiting the Barbados Wildlife Reserve is another high-demand activity. Located in a lush mahogany forest, this four-acre reserve is home to Barbados’ famous green monkeys with golden-green fur. You’ll also see majestic creatures there like tropical birds, deer, peacocks, iguanas and more. If you get hungry, try flying fish, the national fish of Barbados. Caught locally, these are often served fried as “fish cutters” and are an island specialty. Other favorite dishes include Bajan macaroni pie, rice and peas, and breadfruit cou-cou. Must-See Sites   Bridgetown is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; its preserved colonial architecture and historical buildings make it a charming place for a stroll. Don’t miss its stunning neo-Gothic-style Parliament buildings. Nearby, Broad Street is a popular shopping destination, with duty-free shops, department stores, shopping malls and jewelers along this bustling stretch. A quick drive to the south will lead travelers to the George Washington House & Museum, where the first president of the United States stayed in 1751 while visiting family. Here, you can explore the beautifully restored 18th-century house, which showcases period furnishings and exhibits Washington’s visit and the rich history of Barbados. The surrounding property also features well-preserved underground tunnels, offering insights into the island’s military history.   Several botanical gardens give visitors an up-close-and-personal experience of this island’s beautiful nature. Visit the 50-acre Flower Forest Botanical Gardens in Bloomsbury, where the bird of paradise, the country’s national flower, blooms with other floral treasures. Hunte’s Botanical Gardens offer fragrant orchids, abundant trees and other tropical species along meandering paths. In St. George, the serene Tropical Garden is surrounded by sugarcane fields, flowers, ferns and palms that call Barbados home. Meanwhile, music fans can search for Rihanna Drive, the renamed street outside Bridgetown that passes next to the international pop star’s childhood home. Look for a monument commemorating the street. Our experienced Caribbean travelers are delighted when the itinerary stops at Barbados because the island combines scenic beauty, vibrant culture and rich history. Ready to explore Barbados with us? Click the button below to check out our upcoming Caribbean events.
Aug 13, 2017
10 Min Read
New Testament Paradise: Guide to the Mediterranean
Revered as an extravagant vacation paradise, the Mediterranean has long been one of the world’s most popular travel destinations. Yearly, millions of tourists—the majority European—flock to these sun-drenched shores. Legendary locations like Santorini and Rhodes are best experienced on island-hopping cruises that navigate the dazzling blue waters, taking travelers from one cultural goldmine to the next. But there’s more to “The Med” than perfect weather and Renaissance art. This world-class resort region holds a Scriptural history that echoes the Holy Land’s—a motivating factor for Bible-believing Christians who travel there. Whether walking the streets of Rome, cruising to Malta or sailing the Greek isles, faith-based travelers become immersed in New Testament narratives on a uniquely enriching journey. Storied destinations lie around every corner, and Christian pilgrims eager to study the early decades of the church will discover them more deeply when guided by knowledgeable scholars. Malta It’s not difficult to see why Travel+Leisure named itone of the world’s best islands. Located 60 miles south of Sicily, modern-day Malta is as unique as it is breathtaking. This tiny island nation offers a variety of annual cultural events, from an international air show to a decadent chocolate festival. English is widely spoken here and the country’s 95 square miles are easily navigated. While many visitors are drawn to Malta’s cliffside cathedrals and UNESCO World Heritage sites, Christians focus their attention on its sunny shores. Acts 27-28 tells us that, around 60 A.D., Paul was shipwrecked in an unfamiliar bay while traveling under custody to Rome. Here, you’ll visit the Church of the Bonfire, where Paul encountered friendly locals, healed a man and miraculously survived a snakebite before continuing on to Italy. As you marvel at how this unexpected detour resulted in Malta becoming one of the first Roman colonies to accept Christianity, you’ll leave asking yourself if the shipwreck was a random event...or if was it part of God’s perfect plan. Crete One of the largest islands in the region, Crete is home to 625,000 residents and a host of luxury hotels and idyllic beaches. It’s easily one of Greece’s most popular summer destinations. From sparkling bays to rugged inland mountains and whitewashed churches, Crete is the definition of a sunlit paradise. It also boasts a fascinating biblical history following Jesus’ Resurrection. According to Acts 2, Cretan Jews were present at Pentecost, declaring God’s glory despite the language differences. Right before being shipwrecked on Malta, Paul’s third missionary journey brought him to this island (Acts 27:11-22). He left his companion, Titus, behind on Crete to oversee the growing Christian community (Titus 1:5). Records show the church flourished on the island until it was conquered by the Saracens in the ninth century. Afterward, Crete fell under the control of the Byzantine Empire (Orthodox), the Republic of Venice (Catholic) and the Islamic Ottoman Empire. Today, most Cretans are Greek Orthodox. Thessaloniki The draw of this port is immediately recognized by its unforgettable name. The residents of this large city in Greece are known as Thessalonians. Ranked by National Geographic as one of the world’s top 20 “must see places”, Thessaloniki is known for its quiet waterfront, charming markets and dynamic culture. Its fascinating history has left it with several UNESCO World Heritage-listed Byzantine churches and its imposing, Ottoman-built White Tower, now a symbol of the city. Bible readers will not be surprised that Thessaloniki was also a prominent stop during Paul’s missionary journeys (Acts 17). He preached in the Jewish synagogue on the island, with some accepting Jesus, along with many Gentiles and prominent women. Paul established a thriving church here and made it one of the early centers of Christianity. Paul’s two letters to the Thessalonians are among the earliest-written books in the New Testament, dating back to 52 A.D. While taking in the panoramic views from the top of the White Tower, you’ll wonder what Paul must have thought as his ship approached this port? Could he have known his words to the Thessalonian Believers would still be shaping lives two thousand years later? Athens For history buffs, Athens needs no introduction. From the Parthenon to its temples dedicated to Athena, Zeus and Hephaestus, it is a treasure trove of ancient ruins. Athens was once the center of one of the most influential civilizations in the world. (For an inside look at New Testament Rome, visit the first issue of SOJOURNER.) It was into this context that Paul gave his famous, rousing sermon on Mars Hill (Areopagus), addressing the city’s philosophers. He used his knowledge of local culture to build a case for the Gospel (Acts 17). As you climb the rough-hewn stairs, carved into the marble hilltop of the Acropolis, you can read this sermon for yourself. Its text (in Greek) is displayed on a bronze plaque across from the entrance. Can you imagine hearing the Gospel proclaimed so boldly in the midst of such a hostile environment? Surrounded by idols and pagan gods, Paul pointed people to the truth. “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples made by human hands” (Acts 17:24). In a world that still worships what is false, we have that same opportunity every day of our lives. Corinth One of the oldest cities in the world, Corinth dates as far back in history as 6,000 B.C., which makes it home to countless ruins and archeological sites—including the remains of the ancient Temple of Poseidon. It’s surrounded by picturesque lakes and even hot springs, making the region a vacation destination even apart from its biblical history. But it’s that history that makes Corinth such a meaningful destination. Located on an isthmus halfway between Athens and Sparta, ancient Corinth was one of the wealthiest and most important port cities in Greece. More than 2,000 years ago, it may even have been twice the size it is today. From this temporary home, Paul wrote his influential letter to the Romans, his epistles to the Thessalonians and established the Corinthian church. Paul spent more than a year here during his second missionary journey, working as a tentmaker at the home of his ministry partners, Priscilla and Aquila. Acts 18:4 tells us about this prolific period of ministry, and today you can visit the ruins of the ancient marketplace where these three Believers sold their tents. It won’t be hard to imagine the bustling streets Paul stood on, meeting and no doubt evangelizing whomever he met. Patmos Forbes once named this small Greek island Europe’s “most idyllic place to live.” A tranquil landscape marked by rolling hills and small villages surrounded by stunningly blue water, Patmos is indeed a destination that promotes serenity. Christians, however, are more interested in Patmos’ past than its present. This isolated island served as the backdrop of the last few years of John, the beloved disciple’s, life. During his exile here, he received a prophetic vision that became the final book of the New Testament. His vision is thought to have come to him in a small grotto locals know as “the Cave of the Apocalypse.” High above, a Greek Orthodox monastery is dedicated to John; the perfect place to meditate on the powerful language, earth-shaking descriptions and the ultimate hope found in the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Kusadasi This city of 65,000 on the Aegean coast meets every expectation for cruise travelers, from its bustling rug shops to countless seaside cafés offering delicious Turkish coffee. But the true draw of Kusadasi lies nine miles away at the impressive archaeological sites of ancient Ephesus. Once a most prominent seaport, Ephesus was a center of worship for the goddess Artemis. Paul established a church here during his second missionary journey. He later lived in the city for more than three years. The disciple John is thought to have spent time here as well in the years following the Resurrection. Also mentioned in Revelation, the area’s early Christians were the recipients of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. You’ll reflect on Paul’s message when you visit the ruined Temple of Artemis. Many Ephesians feared the message of the Gospel would “discredit” the name of this goddess (Acts 19:27). In fact, a mob gathered against Paul in the city’s enormous outdoor amphitheater, the ruins of which are a central point of interest. But while the name of Jesus is still proclaimed worldwide today, all that remains of this once great temple is a single column. The people of ancient Ephesus were right to worry. Israel, of course, is yet another unforgettable destination on the Mediterranean Sea, and will always be foremost in the minds of religious pilgrims. But second to the Holy Land, few places offer travelers a better introduction to Christian history than the islands and ports of the Mediterranean.

Latest Articles for Tours

Make your next upcoming Christian tour extraordinary with these insightful resources.

Jan 31, 2020
5 Min Read
The Top European Travel Experiences on a Reformation Tour
Europe is a fascinating place that combines the joys of modern travel—beautiful places and new experiences—with old-world majesty, which can draw travelers deeper into faith as they discover the continent’s rich spiritual heritage. Tracing the history of the Protestant Reformation on a tour throughout Europe connects dozens of the world’s best destinations with spiritually significant moments of courageous Christianity. Travelers become immersed in the intimate details of Reformation history as they follow the bold footsteps of Calvin, Luther, Hus and Zwingli.  Here’s a photographic look at just a few highlights from a European Reformation tour. Inspiration travelers gathered in Old Town Square, Prague​​​​​ Meander through the world-famous city of Prague and view its romantic skyline and cobblestone streets with other believers who feel like family. Prague served as the center of the Czech Reformation, which was spurred by the powerful sermons of Jan Hus—a theologian whose teachings predated (and deeply influenced) Martin Luther by over 100 years. The towering Jan Hus Memorial in Old Town Square, Prague Marvel at the architecture of this medieval outdoor space that preserves a rare display of art and architecture. This gothic town square is considered one of the most beautiful in Europe and a bucket list destination for world travelers. Bestselling author and pastor Alistair Begg preaches in Bethlehem Chapel in Old Town, Prague​ Hear God’s Word preached in stunning and significant locations. More than 600 years ago, Jan Hus preached in this location. When Hus was excommunicated from the Catholic church, the pope ordered Bethlehem Chapel destroyed, but Czech citizens refused. Although the chapel later fell into disrepair, the government restored the building to its original state from Hus’s time. Today, there are visible remnants of the original chapel—a testament to courageous convictions and God’s grace. Inspiration travelers on Charles Bridge in Prague​ Gaze over the water of the Vltava River from the magnificent structure of Charles Bridge. Enjoy the views of Prague’s ancient splendor and beauty from this bridge lined with statues of saints and biblical figures. According to local tradition, when travelers touch the bridge at the base of the statue of St. John of Nepomuk (as the travelers above are doing), it means they will return to Prague in the future. Inspiration travelers at Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany​​​​​​ Remember Martin Luther’s boldness as he nailed his 95 Theses to the doors of Castle Church! This now-Lutheran church is viewed by most historians as the epicenter of the Reformation, and Inspiration’s tours turn these moments into unforgettable, spiritually resonant experiences for our travelers.  Inspiration travelers in the grand cathedral of Castle Church Lift your voice to God in this sacred space—where Martin Luther delivered some of his most memorable sermons over 500 years ago. Spectacular places like this church nave give our travelers opportunities to pause and connect with God, turning incredible moments into lifetime memories. An 1821 monument to Martin Luther in Wittenberg, Germany​​​​​ Stroll through the market square in the quaint village of Wittenberg, and take in the classical beauty surrounding the oldest monument to Martin Luther in the world. This representation of Luther holding an open Bible in his hands is a reminder of the centrality of Scripture to the Reformation. Inspiration travelers prepare to explore Wartburg Castle in Germany Explore medieval Wartburg Castle, where Martin Luther hid from the pope while translating the New Testament into German. Prior to his translation, Scripture was only available in Latin—a language few people could read. By making God’s Word available to everyday people, Luther made personal Bible-reading a central part of the Christian experience. An Inspiration traveler in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Passau, Germany Imagine the artists and architects behind the glorious structure of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Spend time in awestruck wonder as you visit churches, chapels and cathedrals that tell the centuries-old stories of faithful Christians whose commitment to God changed the world.  It’s easy to see why a Reformation tour through Europe is at the top of travelers’ bucket lists. During each tour, passengers fall in love with the winding cobblestone streets, rising cathedrals and iconic castles of Europe while connecting to the rich heritage of faith found in the ancient stories of those who lived, worshiped and led their faith across a new continent. Interested in traveling to Europe with us? Sign up below to be first in line.   Name: Email:   Also put me on the list to get information on Christian travel opportunities to other destinations  
Feb 15, 2023
6 Min Read
Is Travel Worth It? by Rachel-Ruth Lotz Wright
Thinking back to when I was in high school gives me the cold sweats. But if I think past the memory of not having anyone to sit with at lunch or walk with in the halls, and if I never mind the panicked feeling I got taking a math test or being called to the front of class to do a word problem on the board, I am able to remember and focus on God’s mercy amidst my afflictions. God is merciful. And His mercy for me came in the form of international travel. My mom received numerous international invitations to speak with her ministry while I was growing up. As the invitations came flooding in and as she saw the misery of my high school experience, she decided to take me with her on many of her trips. My mom and I joke that the only useful education she and I truly benefited from in high school was typing! What really made the impact on my life were the trips I took with her. Our first trip was underway as we boarded a plane headed to the beautiful country of Spain! I’ll never forget the excitement I felt as we landed and climbed into the car of the person assigned to pick us up. As a high schooler I zoned out of the small talk between the host driver and my mom as I stared out of the back seat window. My eyes drank in the fields of red poppies, the tiny cars, the narrow streets, the people, and even the stop lights. The grandeur of it all seemed so foreign and exciting.  [caption id="attachment_9134" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Medieval castle in Fuentes de Valdepero, Spain[/caption] My love for traveling started on that very trip! I even remember the sound of birds echoing off the stones of ancient city walls, almost an accent all to itself. I was amazed at how different everything was, from the culture to the high pitched sound of car horns, to the light switches and outlets, to even the way the toilets flushed! The people were gracious, enthusiastic, and welcoming. It was all new, exciting and opened up the whole world to me—a world that I began to love for Jesus’ sake. Highlights from other trips included having my picture drawn at dusk on Montmartre in Paris and smacking a man who walked by for pinching my bottom. In Switzerland, my mom, sister and I hiked for eight hours down the Jungfrau—with new hiking boots. Blisters galore! In South Africa I took a stomach dropping helicopter ride across Table Mountain. I rode an open-air Jeep on a safari late at night and ended up surrounded by a pride of lions! Traveling is where so many of my memories are centered; it has fired up all of my senses as it links memories to smells and sights and sounds. In the past it helped me escape from my hard high school life while it opened up a new world full of possibilities. But the greatest benefit of traveling is how it revealed God’s love for the whole world to me. [caption id="attachment_9135" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Travelers by Venice canal in Italy[/caption] It’s not just the beauty of His spectacular, magnificent creation, but it was His work through His followers in every language and in every country that made a profound, life-long impact on me! It didn’t matter if they spoke Spanish, French, German, Swiss, or Afrikaans, I saw their love for the Lord on their faces as they greeted people at the door, worshiped, sang familiar hymns but in a different language, as their tears flowed listening to my mom speak, as they prayed together and loved each other.  It showed me that no matter where we go on this earth, God is there! He loves and woos to Himself people from all walks of life, in every language, in every culture. God began to deepen my heart for international ministry while on our trip to South Africa. I fell in love with the country, the landscape, and especially the people. I asked God to please bring me back to Africa. He heard my prayer and brought me back two years later after the genocide in Rwanda. I went with Samaritan’s Purse to work at an orphanage. It was a faith-stretching, heart-enlarging experience which was worth every minute. [caption id="attachment_9136" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Rachel-Ruth Lotz Wright at Shepherds Field of Bethlehem[/caption] I am now a mother, so it’s my turn. This summer, I’m taking my girls on an unforgettable trip. To Israel! They will sail in a boat on Galilee and walk the streets of the old city of Jerusalem. I pray God uses it to open their eyes, as He did mine, to His great heart of love for the world.
Jun 30, 2023
7 Min Read
12 Must-See Attractions in Branson
When it comes to entertainment, few locations in the United States offer the same bang for your buck as Branson, Missouri. Don’t let the modest population of 12,000 year-round residents distract you. This charming city in the heart of the Ozark Mountains captivates travelers with its outdoor beauty, exhilarating attractions and unforgettable live performances across more than 45 different theaters.  Boasting more than 100 concerts per year, Branson calls itself the “Live Music Capital of the World”, and the marketing slogan might just be true. Some of our most-anticipated U.S. tours in 2024 are our Praisefest Branson Tours next March, which introduce Christian travelers to an incredible gospel music line-up of artists and the best Branson has to offer.  Here are a “dazzling dozen” reasons, from A to Z, for you to add this world-class destination to your travel plans. Branson Aquarium Located on the sprawling new entertainment complex, the Branson Boardwalk, this fascinating aquarium opened in late 2020 to great acclaim. More than just a few fish tanks, this interactive attraction delights the young—and young-at-heart—with a variety of jellyfish, sharks, starfish and kelp forests. There’s also a giant octopus sculpture out front. While you can’t see the ocean from Branson, you can definitely look beneath the sea. [caption id="attachment_9241" align="aligncenter" width="613"] A giant mosaic octopus sculpture greets visitors outside of Branson Aquarium[/caption] Branson Landing On the banks of Lake Taneycomo, Branson Landing is a vibrant waterfront district that combines shopping, dining, and entertainment in a single, dynamic place. Stroll the scenic boardwalk, shop for unique souvenirs, indulge in outdoor dining and enjoy the spectacular fountain shows that light up the night sky. [caption id="attachment_9242" align="aligncenter" width="613"] At the heart of Branson Landing is a spectacular water attraction with dazzling choreography.[/caption] Branson Scenic Railway Gain a unique, nostalgic perspective of the natural beauty surrounding Branson by traveling in restored train cars along tracks that date back to the late 1800s. Through enormous windows, you’ll enjoy views of the picturesque valleys, lush forests and charming small towns of the region. [caption id="attachment_9243" align="aligncenter" width="613"] All aboard the historic passenger train through the foothills of the Ozark Mountains[/caption] Dolly Parton’s Stampede Visitors seeking “dinner and a show” find both in abundance at this celebration of the Wild West. Southern hospitality meets a rustic frontier town in this theater, where everything from equestrian acrobats to dancers and comedians keep guests enthralled. And did we mention the mouthwatering four-course meal? The Stampede is always a Branson highlight. Fantastic Caverns Ride through a vast subterranean landscape as you explore this cave system below the Ozark countryside. You’ll glide past stalactites, limestone formations and other natural artistry, gasping in wonder at this unique ecosystem. David, the psalmist, said the heavens declare the glory of God, and Fantastic Caverns makes it clear that additional wonders are just out of sight and below as well. [caption id="attachment_9244" align="aligncenter" width="613"] Natural waterfall flowing down to a misty pool outside a cavern[/caption] Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum So many of us grew up reading and watching the Little House on the Prairie series. This museum in Branson pays homage to the beloved author and the pioneer spirit behind her stories. Interactive exhibits chronicle Wilder’s life, depicting the clothing, household tools, and other items from the daily life of the Ingalls family.  Presley’s County Jubilee Established in 1967 by the Presley family, this legendary live music show boasts more than five decades of history in Branson and is still family-owned and operated. In each performance, a talented cast of singers, musicians and comedians cover a variety of country music styles, from classic hits to contemporary favorites. You won’t forget this must-see show's electric atmosphere and exceptional musicianship.  Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Drama Against the backdrop of the rugged Ozark Mountains, this outdoor drama—one of the longest-running in the U.S.—tells the stories of the region’s original settlers. Visitors enjoy the spectacle of elaborate sets, live animals and plenty of drama, action and romance under the stars. It’s one of the most beloved entertainment traditions in Branson. [caption id="attachment_9245" align="aligncenter" width="613"] View of the Ozark Mountains and Lake at Sunrise[/caption] Sight & Sound Theatre Epic biblical stories come to life at this world-famous Branson theater, home to countless shows based on beloved events in Scripture. For example, Queen Esther is a tale of beauty and bravery in which an ordinary young woman trusted God’s plan and changed the course of history. With elaborate sets, state-of-the-art technology and stunning performances, you’ll see stories from the Bible portrayed like never before. Silver Dollar City Be transported into a bustling western town from the 1880s at this theme park, where its thrilling lineup of roller coasters leaves guests on the literal edges of their seats. Gentler rides entertain less adventurous family members, and the entertainment—like everything in Branson—is top-class. Put this blend of old-fashioned charm and modern-day excitement at the top of any Branson Bucket List. Table Rock Lake In the heart of Branson, this sprawling reservoir is a paradise for boating, fishing, swimming and water sports, attracting locals and tourists alike. Campgrounds and hiking trails line its shoreline, where anglers fish for trophy largemouth and smallmouth bass. The limestone bluffs surrounding the clear waters of this 43,000-acre lake make it one of the most beautiful lakes in the Midwest. [caption id="attachment_9246" align="aligncenter" width="613"] A ferry boat docked on Table Rock Lake[/caption] Titanic Museum The Ozarks are far from the North Atlantic, but you’ll feel a close connection to the events and passengers of the Titanic disaster at this museum. Featuring a replica of the ship itself and more than 400 artifacts, the museum allows visitors to touch a real iceberg, feel the chill of 28 degree water, try to stand on a sloping deck and hear original passenger stories from the RMS Titanic. [caption id="attachment_9247" align="aligncenter" width="613"] A replica of the Titanic’s iconic grand staircase[/caption] Which of the dazzling dozen would you enjoy most?
Apr 19, 2023
9 Min Read
7 Key Sites to Follow Jesus’ Footsteps Through Israel
There are few things as sacred and transformative for believers as to visit Israel and walk where Jesus walked, pray where He prayed, and to read His words where they were spoken. Christian travelers who make a spiritual pilgrimage to the Holy Land usually describe it as one of the most significant experiences of their lives, and we’re confident you will too.  Whether you are dreaming of visiting Israel one day, or already have an Israel tour on your calendar, there are few better ways to prepare than by immersing yourself in Scripture. We’ve compiled these verses from the ministry of Jesus for you to prayerfully read during your times of personal Bible study.  They will prepare your heart to discover the life-impacting encounters that await you at these 7 biblically significant sites from Jesus’ life and ministry in Israel.  1) Nazareth  Read: Matthew 2:21-23; John 1:45-46; Matthew 21:6-11 ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ The adage, popular in Jesus’ day, now has an emphatic answer: Yes! Often referred to as ‘Jesus the Nazarene’, the Savior of the world came from this tiny town, forever putting it on the map. [caption id="attachment_9169" align="aligncenter" width="610"] Nazareth Village brings the first-century to life[/caption] Begin to study Jesus’ life on earth in the very place he grew up—a secluded agrarian village not known for anything (or anything good for that matter). When you visit Israel, you can walk through a town almost identical to the one Jesus called home thanks to Nazareth Village. This includes a first-century farm, synagogue, authentic wine press, archaeological finds and historical reenactors bringing all these scenes to life. To be able to see firsthand the same sights Jesus used as reference points to base His parables and sermons on will prove invaluable to your understanding of Scripture. 2) Sea of Galilee Read: Mark 1:14-20; Matthew 8:23-27; John 21:1-14 This picturesque body of water served as the backdrop for many interactions and miracles throughout the life of Jesus. It was here that He initiated relationships with many of His disciples, calling them to follow Him, and it was here that He chose to present Himself to them after His Resurrection.  [caption id="attachment_9173" align="aligncenter" width="610"] Christian travelers on a Sea of Galilee boat ride[/caption] Even in the twenty-first century, Galilee has managed to maintain a sense of serenity. As you walk the shores of this hallowed lake, your feet may touch the very waters Jesus walked on. Be sure to bring your Bible and enjoy quiet time, listening for His voice to speak to you today. Your boat ride, taking you out on the water, will allow you to hear a message from Scripture and worship in an unforgettable setting, as you spend time in the region where Jesus spent most of His time on earth. 3) Mount of Beatitudes Read: Luke 6:17-26; Matthew 4:23-5:12 Some of Jesus’ most famous words were uttered on the Mount of Beatitudes, where He delivered His best-known sermon. Revered the world over, it gives His followers a new way of looking at life—one that turns everything upside down by its humility, simplicity and paradoxical strength. [caption id="attachment_9174" align="aligncenter" width="610"] Max Lucado teaching on the Mount of Beatitudes[/caption] Here, you will be in a pastoral setting overlooking sparkling, tranquil waters. You’ll experience the power of natural acoustics, which would have carried Jesus’ voice to the thousands who came to hear Him teach. Are you ready to hear a sermon on the Beatitudes in the very place it was first preached? Experiences like these don’t come along often—we encourage you to prepare your heart by meditating on these Scriptures beforehand. 4) Western Wall and Southern Steps Read: Luke 2:21-49; Matthew 4:1-11; John 10:22-28 Praying at the Western Wall is a powerful experience that links you shoulder-to-shoulder and heart-to-heart with the Jewish people, who pray here daily. One of the most iconic sites in all of Israel, it is a favorite among Christian pilgrims who travel to the Holy Land desiring a closer walk with their Lord. [caption id="attachment_9175" align="aligncenter" width="610"] People praying at the Temple Mount Wall (Western Wall)[/caption] The wall remains the only one standing from the iconic Second Temple, where Jesus was presented as an infant and prophesied over by Simeon and Anna, and where His family likely celebrated Passover. It also stood overlooking His display of righteous anger while driving out the moneychangers at the end of His life. [caption id="attachment_9176" align="aligncenter" width="610"] The southwest corner of the Temple Mount Wall[/caption] Nearby, the Southern Steps to the Temple, excavated less than a century ago, are one of the architectural features on earth that we know, with certainty, Jesus would have touched. What a milestone moment for those who know what it is to have been touched by His saving grace! 5) Garden of Gethsemane Read: John 18:1; Mark 14:32-36; Luke 22:39-46 Enter into one of the most significant moments in Jesus’ life: the hours He spent praying before going to the cross for each of us. The events of that night are recorded in great detail, including His time in this garden with His disciples. [caption id="attachment_9177" align="aligncenter" width="610"] Christian travelers strolling through the Garden of Gethsemane[/caption] Gethsemane means oil press, leading scholars to believe these blood-soaked prayers were prayed among a grove of olive trees. Today, in the same place, you can kneel and pray beside the gnarled branches of olive trees, among the oldest in the world. What a privilege to spend time in the Garden of Gethsemane—where Jesus spent some of His last moments on earth. 6) Garden Tomb Read: Mark 15:42-46; John 19:40-42; Matthew 28:1-6; John 20:11-16 Prepare to recreate the experience you’ve always imagined yourself in as one of Jesus’ disciples: finding Him alive and well after having been crucified on Calvary. Stepping foot in the Garden Tomb allows you to do just that. This ancient tomb is cut into the rock surrounding Jerusalem and offers an example of the tomb where Jesus’ body was temporarily laid millennia ago. [caption id="attachment_9178" align="aligncenter" width="610"] The garden tomb[/caption] Wander through the delightful garden. Take communion in this sacred spot. Step inside the tomb as Christians worldwide have on their journey of following Jesus. You will discover, as Peter and John did, the most significant fact in human history: the tomb is empty. “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said,” (Matthew 28:6). 7) Mount of Olives Read: Zechariah 14:1-9; Mark 16:19-20; Acts 1:6-12; Ephesians 4:7-10 This iconic mountain range, central to the life of Christ, also featured prominently in Old Testament prophecy and events. The Prophet Zechariah mentions the Mount of Olives, and King David sought God here while fleeing from Saul. Jesus and His disciples often spent time here, as you will on your Christian tour of Israel. [caption id="attachment_9179" align="aligncenter" width="610"] Christian travelers overlooking the city of Jerusalem[/caption] One special distinction the Mount of Olives can claim is that of being the last place Jesus stood on the earth. It was from here that He ascended into Heaven while giving the Great Commission to His disciples of that day and today. This monumental site serves as the perfect climax to following the footsteps of Jesus through Israel.  Using these verses as a study guide, prepare your heart for all God has in store for you in the land of Israel. Your journey with Jesus will be powerfully informed as you journey through the Holy Land, seeking Him every step of the way.  Which site from Jesus’ life are you most looking forward to experiencing?
Nov 01, 2017
6 Min Read
Seven Centuries of Bible History on Display in Washington, D.C.
For travelers, few cities on earth offer the variety of attractions that greet visitors to Washington D.C. Political aficionados flock to the stately halls of government, enjoying proximity to some of the most influential decision-makers in the world. History buffs choose from among countless museums, including the eleven Smithsonian museums and galleries along the National Mall. Architecture-lovers marvel at the neoclassical buildings and, when the timing is right, nature lovers are greeted by the undeniable beauty of the city’s annual flush of cherry blossoms. And beginning in the fall of 2017, a new attraction allows travelers to see this captivating city from an even more extraordinary perspective. The November opening of the much-anticipated Museum of the Bible promises to put D.C. on the map for a new category of travelers: students of the Bible and faith-based travelers. A Nation Built upon Scripture Located only three blocks from the National Mall, this $500 million, multi-story, privately funded museum opens in November 2017. It has been designed not only to tell the story of the Bible, but to educate visitors about the impact of God’s Word on our history and culture. (In fact, the second-floor of the Museum—known as the “Impact Floor”—has been dedicated to just that purpose, exploring the Bible’s influence on everything from language to popular music.) It’s hard to understate that impact. The earliest Americans were devout pilgrims seeking a place to practice their faith in freedom. Drawing upon that heritage, the Founding Fathers relied on the principles of Christianity in drafting the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. John Adams, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the second President of the United States, described the Bible as “the best book in the world.” Since then, Washington and the Bible have been forever linked. The staircase walls of the Washington Monument are lined with verses from the Old and New Testaments. The powerful speeches carved into the walls of the Lincoln Memorial liberally quote Scripture. The Bible still plays a central role in presidential inaugurations. But the opening of the Museum of the Bible gives even more attention to the impact of the Bible on our heritage. The world’s most influential city now hosts a museum dedicated to the most influential book in the world. Vast Biblical Treasures The state-of-the-art Museum of the Bible welcomes Believers into 430,000 square feet of biblical history, painstakingly curated by some of the world’s top historians and theologians. Spread across six floors—with three dedicated to permanent exhibits—the Museum’s collections include valuable artifacts and centuries of archaeological discoveries designed to immerse guests in the Word. Instead of merely reading Scripture, visitors to the Museum will have the opportunity to walk through it. Its founders have partnered with the Israel Antiquities Authority to create one of the world’s largest compilations of biblical artifacts. A vast quantity of Dead Sea Scroll fragments, ancient Torah scrolls, biblical papyri, early texts, first-edition Bibles and other rare biblical manuscripts highlight the collection. The sheer number of artifacts (over 40,000!) is staggering. Seeing them, you’ll marvel at how so many ancient psalms, histories, prophetic writings and letters were compiled and translated so long ago into the Scriptures that inform our lives today. Still more treasures abound, including a life-size replica of first-century Nazareth that guests can walk through, handle replicas of ancient tools and talk with actors in period garb. Visitors will also be able to peruse the world’s largest single experience of apologetic materials and sources. Adding to the experience is some of the most innovative technology appearing in any museum on earth—including groundbreaking, laptop-based visitor navigation systems. An Unmatched Spiritual Experience But for Christians, it’s not the technology or antiquities that will open eyes; it’s the entire experience itself. The Museum of the Bible pulls back the curtain on the most important Book in history. Regardless of your understanding of God’s Word, your highly personalized experience at the Museum will leave you viewing it with fresh eyes. Through ancient scrolls and fragments, you’ll come face-to-face with the Bible’s past. Through high-tech displays, you’ll better understand its overall narrative. Through carefully curated exhibits, you’ll see the countless ways Scripture touches your life every day. The opening of this highly anticipated museum cements Washington—along with Israel, the Mediterranean and Reformation Europe—as a new kind of pilgrimage site where travelers can rediscover the history, narrative and impact of the Bible in an unforgettable way. That’s why Washington and the Museum have become a top travel destination for Inspiration and the focus of upcoming tours. Since American heritage is so intrinsically tied to the eternal truth of Scripture, the Museum of the Bible now tops our list of must-visit museums in the capital. Is it time to add it to your list of must-see destinations? “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”—Matthew 24:35

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