If you're a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), finding travel options that align with your values can be challenging. Fortunately, there are a number of cruise organizers who have set about to provide the LDS community with cruise opportunities that are spiritually enriching and faith-based and include port stops at pilgrimage sites, complete with shore excursions bearing some religious significance.
Most LDS cruises are held onboard mainstream cruise ships, including popular cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Carnival, but there are a number of river cruises with lines like Uniworld and Viking available as well. Some even offer the option of pre- or post-cruise land tours, particularly in destinations with religious history.
The highlights of most Latter-day Saints cruises include guest speakers, onboard scripture study and excursions to churches, temples and historic sites (from biblical or Book of Mormon times) located near scheduled port stops. One of the major perks of booking a Latter-day Saints cruise is that it allows followers of the church the option to dine with and go on shore excursions with like-minded believers, creating a more comfortable cruise environment.
If an LDS cruise sounds like your ideal vacation, below is a sample of sailings by popular cruise organizers Cruise Lady, Morris Murdock Escorted Tours and Bountiful Travel. Just keep in mind that many of these sailings have limited capacity and sell out quickly. You'll want to book early or may have to join a waitlist.
Utah-based Cruise Lady offers hosted group cruises that feature Latter-day Saint scholars as tour guides. Numerous cruise departures take place each year, so cruisers have a pick of dates and destinations. Book on
Full-Transit Panama Canal Cruise: From January 22 through February 7, 2021, a group will sail from Los Angeles to Miami onboard Norwegian Bliss to make a full transit of the Panama Canal. The cruise features tons of port stops in historically and religiously significant destinations like Puerto Vallarta and Puntarenas.
Passengers booked with Cruise Lady can go on exclusive excursions tailored to members of the LDS community, including sightseeing tours and even a barbecue lunch on a private yacht complete with bottomless virgin cocktails. Lectures by teacher and author Jack Marshall are scheduled on most sea days, offering plenty of opportunities for faith-based enrichment.
Summertime in Book of Mormon Lands: Guest speaker Michael Goodman, an associate professor of church history and doctrine at BYU, will share his humorous insights as Carnival Glory sails from New Orleans to Honduras, Belize and Mexico July 18 to 25, 2021. Optional tours include a zip-line adventure, jungle river boat ride to ruins and a relaxing beach day.
Bountiful Travel is a tour company that specializes in small-group LDS tours and cruises. Its trips feature both fun activities and religious education and are hosted by trained LDS guides. Book on
Rome Temple & the Journeys of Paul Cruise: The Rome Temple & the Journeys of Paul Cruise is actually a cruise tour sailing from Rome to Athens onboard Crown Princess from April 15 through April 25, 2020, with a pre-cruise stay in Rome. On the land portion of the trip, passengers will have the opportunity to visit the LDS Temple in Rome and participate in an endowment session and tour the Vatican and other famous Roman sights. Once the ship sets sail, there will be onboard LDS teaching sessions and excursions throughout the Mediterranean ports that focus on New Testament history.
Hawaiian Island Cruise: Sailing round trip from Honolulu on August 1, 2020, onboard Norwegian Cruise Line's Pride of America, members of the LDS community can enjoy exclusive shore excursions, as well as onboard lectures and entertainment, all with the Mormon lifestyle in mind. Dave Hadlock of Bountiful Travel will be the group's dedicated host and teach about the scripture during sea days. LDS speaker and educator Hank Smith will not only give presentations but also perform an onboard comedy show exclusively for the group.
Christmas Book of Mormon Cruise: Sailing round trip out of Tampa onboard Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas from December 12 through 19, 2020, the Christmas Book of Mormon cruise visits ports throughout the Western Caribbean. In addition to shore excursions available through the cruise line, Bountiful Travel guests will have access to exclusive shore excursions to various ruins throughout the region, led by a dedicated LDS tour director and featuring teachings by either Dave Hadlock or BYU professor of ancient scripture John Hilton III. Both Hadlock and Hilton will also lead scripture study sessions onboard.
Morris Murdock Escorted Tours
Operating since 1958, Morris Murdock Escorted Tours began as travel planners for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and became the first tour company to operate group tours focused on the LDS faith and church history. The company prides itself on choosing knowledgeable tour guides with a deep connection to the destination. The company typically offers a few group cruises each year. Book on
Summer Apostle Mediterranean Cruise: This 10-night cruise tour begins on June 11, 2020, with a pre-cruise stay in Rome to include sightseeing throughout the city and a group dinner before boarding Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas on June 14 for a weeklong cruise. Onboard, LDS passengers can attend group dinners, meetups and religious seminars and lessons. Exclusive shore excursions with a religious focus, such as the "Teachings of Paul" excursion in Ephesus, will also be available.
Danube River Cruise: Group cruise director and member of the church Tim Taggart will lead passengers on a full-charter Danube River cruise -- meaning all of the passengers onboard will be part of the LDS community -- with U River Cruises' The A from July 17 through 29, 2020. The trip includes a pre-cruise stay in Budapest, plus a four-night post-cruise stay in Munich and Oberammergau, complete with sightseeing tours and admission to the 42nd Oberammergau Passion Play.
While most onboard activities and shore excursions are not specifically tied to religious themes, there will be some talks and study sessions available onboard. The highlight, of course, will be the excursion to see the legendary passion play that details the last week of Jesus Christ's life and is only performed every 10 years.