Updated October 24, 2017
If you've ever thought it would be fun, enriching or uplifting to spend your vacation surrounded by fellow believers, sitting in on a theological seminar, enjoying a worship concert or two or perhaps connecting with other Christians looking for love, you may find just what you're looking for on the high seas. In fact, each year there are a wide variety of theme cruises geared toward the Christian community -- hosted on both mainstream and luxury cruise ships and sailing in all parts of the world.
Keep reading for more info on which Christian cruises are available, where to book and what to expect onboard.
Christian Themed Cruises
There are a number of travel agencies dedicated to organizing Christian themed cruises, ensuring that you'll find plenty of options. Whether you're interested in attending daily worship services with well-known evangelical pastors, hoping to organize a very special retreat or simply intrigued by the idea of attending a Christian conference at sea, there's a cruise out there for you. Inspiration Cruises & Tours offers a bit of everything, while AllChristianCruises.com is a great place to start if you're looking for a singles cruise, a couples cruise or planning a retreat. ChristianCruises.net hosts several theme cruises throughout each year as well. These are typically worship-music-based and feature well-known church leaders.
Christian Music Cruises
Worship music is a huge industry and is well-represented in the world of theme cruising. In fact, most Christian themed cruises feature corporate worship, many with well-known worship artists as special guests. For instance, the Focus on the Family ministry will celebrate its 40th anniversary on a theme cruise aboard Disney Dream with special guests Mercy Me.
But, there are also theme cruises dedicated entirely to worship bands and worship music, such as the K-Love Cruise. The Christian music station hosts an annual cruise featuring performances from some of worship music's most popular artists. For example, a five-night Bahamas cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas features Steven Curtis Chapman, Danny Gokey, the Passion Band, Casting Crowns, Matthew West and many more, along with popular DJs and an onboard singles ministry.
DC Talk -- the band responsible for the popular song "Jesus Freak" -- will be reuniting for the first time in 16 years, with a four-night sailing aboard MSC Divina. Other artists including TobyMac and Newsboys will also be onboard.
Christian Holiday Cruises
If you are traveling during Christmas, you will likely find onboard programming. Most mainstream cruise lines serve special holiday meals in the main dining rooms and some lines --such as Crystal, Holland America, MSC Cruises and Celebrity -- offer religious services during the holidays. Most if not all cruise ships are decked out in traditional Christmas decor for the duration of the Christmas season. Though much of what can be found onboard a standard holiday cruise can be considered secular, there are no shortage of ways to celebrate. You can find a line-by-line rundown in Cruise Critic's story on onboard holiday festivities.
Christian Singles Cruises
If you're hoping to find love or just companionship on your next cruise, you might consider looking into a Christian singles cruise. These cruises are similar to secular singles cruises with the addition of programming tailored to followers of Christ, which may include inspirational speakers, workshops, panel discussions and more. Though you will of course meet other singles, there is typically a focus on personal enrichment, fostering community and each individual's relationship with God. Destination 360 and AllChristianCruises.com often offer singles cruises.
Christian Pilgrimage Cruises
Many Christian pilgrimage sites can be reached by cruise, making it an ideal option for travelers who would like to visit several different sites on one trip. While excursions to places like the Vatican and sites throughout the Holy Land can be arranged independently without much fuss, there are also quite a few agencies dedicated to organizing pilgrimage theme cruises for Christians complete with group shore excursions. It's even possible to find sailings with offerings to smaller, more obscure pilgrimage sites, such as St. John's monastery in Patmos, Greece. There are also river cruises that take passengers throughout the European villages where the likes of Martin Luther and John Calvin launched the Protestant Reformation.
These theme cruises are differentiated from standard sailings by the addition of enrichment programming and shore excursions dedicated to the teaching and exploration of Christian themes, which may include the history of Christianity, the works of significant Christian figures, important biblical sites, etc. Pilgrim Tours and Sovereign Cruises both organize pilgrimage cruises and cruise tours to various destinations throughout each year.
Religious Services on Mainstream Cruises
If you happen to be aboard a cruise ship on a Sunday and are interested in attending church services, you may or may not find what you're looking for. Most mainstream cruise lines, such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Disney, do not hold regular religious services, but rather welcome clergy in good standing with their home churches to volunteer to lead services on Sundays. Volunteer clergy typically register with guest services who will assist in reserving space and directing passengers who inquire about such services in that direction. If there is no volunteer clergy aboard your cruise, you will likely not find any sort of service onboard with the exception of Christmas, and Easter on some cruise lines.
However, a number of luxury cruise lines including Silversea Cruises and Crystal Cruises do offer interdenominational Sunday services on most sailings.
If you are in port on a Sunday -- particularly in the Caribbean and Europe -- you might consider attending services at a local church. You can do this independently while touring on foot, but you can also book a cruise-line sponsored excursion to any number of historic churches and cathedrals, which may occur during scheduled services.