5 Surprises from My First Alaska Cruise

Inspiration Travel



There were so many things I was looking forward to as I packed, planned and got ready to embark on my first cruise to Alaska. I thought I knew what to expect. Since this was a Christian cruise, I knew I would hear inspiring messages, participate in amazing worship and meet Believers from across the world. And I was especially thrilled at the prospect of exploring the coastal wonders of Alaska, which I had wanted to visit for years.

However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that some of the most cherished aspects of my cruise were things I never could have predicted. On top of the countless blessings I expected to encounter, here are a few totally unexpected ones that ended up making my cruise more meaningful than I ever could have imagined.

Holland America elephant

Making Friends with the Crew

Each of the 860 crew members aboard Holland America’s ms Eurodam that week seemed dedicated to making sure I enjoyed every moment of my cruise. I loved getting to know their stories as well as letting them know how much their hard work was appreciated. I even developed a rapport with my cabin steward, who made me extra elephants (from the towels creatively folded and left on the beds each day) when he found out they were my favorite. About halfway through my cruise, the stewards in my hall began calling me by my first name (as opposed to addressing me formally), which let me know we had officially reached ‘friend status’.

Alaska morning walk

Early Morning Walks

This highlight was especially surprising for me because I’ve never associated waking up early with vacationing! However, I found myself seeking out the early hours when I could have a bit more of the ship to myself. It was so refreshing to be able to take the long, laid-back strolls I’m used to even while miles away from land.

My favorite ‘walking trail’ was Deck 10, between the Lido and Observation decks. Giant glass partitions, installed in a staggered manner down the length of the deck, helped reduce wind resistance. And the custom slip- and water-resistant flooring in the teak wood finish made walking a real pleasure.

humpback whale tail Alaska

Sightings of the Whale Kind

It was on one of these early morning walks that I experienced the most captivating moment of my cruise. I had been told it was possible to spot a whale or two while aboard the ship, but that they were normally off in the distance. You can imagine my delight when I saw one of these majestic creatures spout, dive and flip its tail quite close to the ship.

Growing up, I took several Atlantic whale watches, and this humpback was nearly as close to this cruiseliner as others had come to those smaller vessels. What a magnificent way to start the day!

cruise ship dining

Enjoying Blissful, Leisurely Breakfasts

While I loved the variety of foods offered on the Lido Deck, I wasn’t into the bustling atmosphere and commotion first thing in the morning. A friend suggested we try the Main Dining Room and order from the breakfast menu. I am so glad we did! This became our daily tradition and something I looked forward to as I went to sleep each night.

I think the reason why these meals stand out so much in my memory is because I had never eaten anywhere so elegant for breakfast before. To receive that level of service at the start of your day felt very special. I even used a few quiet moments in this atmosphere to journal and plan out my day. I can honestly say these times of peaceful reflection, overlooking the sea, are some of the most treasured of my cruise.

Sharing the Gospel

Sharing the Gospel

I knew my Christian cruise would be full of divine appointments, but I didn’t expect leading someone to the Lord to be one of them! I met ‘Genevieve’ onboard the first day. We ended up having a few lengthy, late-night conversations that we both acknowledged as marking a pivotal moment in her journey. I got to answer some deep questions she had about God, and share that Jesus is the only way to know Him and have eternal life. It reminded me of God sending Philip to explain the Scriptures to the Ethiopian who needed help understanding them (Acts 8:26-38).

On the last night, I gave Genevieve a devotional, Into His Presence by Dr. Charles Stanley, which the In Touch Ministries staff gifted to me for her. She was so grateful! ...Almost as grateful as I was for a chance to share the same life-giving message of the Gospel that has changed mine.

How about you? What unexpected blessings have you encountered while traveling? For those who are getting ready to enjoy an upcoming cruise or tour, I’ll pass along the most useful travel advice I know: plan to be surprised!