Church-based Theme Cruises Thriving

| August 11, 2008

Now you can have "church" even while on a cruise -- faith-based cruising offers a way to solidify the congregation by cruising together on the high seas.

Every year hundreds of thousands of people take their first cruise. Most of them eventually take so many more cruises they qualify as habitual cruisers - jokingly referred to as "cruise addicts." This growth in the popularity of cruising has sparked a movement within the movement - special groups known as "affinity cruises." Affinitygroup cruises are growing in popularity at a rate that is even faster than cruising in general.

Now, if you happen to feel guilty about your cruise addiction, maybe you want to consider a cruise with a more spiritual component - like a cruise sponsored by a church group. Many religious organizations are finding group cruises to be very popular indeed - with unexpected benefits at the same time.

Types of Church-based Cruises The most popular types of religious cruises today are Christian cruises. These come in two basic types -- a charter cruise where the group takes over the entire ship, or a group sailing with a smaller number of people cruising with regular passengers on an open sailing. With a group cruise, members book through the travel agent organizing the cruise, and in return they will get special amenities onboard. Generally, they pay a premium for these amenities with the profits going back into the religious organization's coffers. The group usually brings along some of their own entertainers and speakers, offering special activities onboard such as church services specifically for the group.

Full ship charters manage things in a much bigger way. Since they essentially "own" the ship for that sailing, they have the flexibility to customize the cruise entirely to the group's benefit. They may choose to rearrange port stops to allow for mission work in one of the poorer Caribbean islands, for example. Or they may make a special stop to visit a well-known pilgrimage site.

The charter cruise will generally feature Christian musicians and entertainers in all of the entertainment venues, giving the ship's regular cast and entertainers the week off. The most popular Christian speakers and musicians can fill a cruise ship very quickly. In many cases the host for the cruise is a well-known televangilist or radio pastor who is an especially gifted orator. There is also often a theme for the cruise, such as Family First, or Girls Getaway Cruise.

If the cruise is operating as a full ship charter, in addition to the special onboard activities centered around a Christian theme, often the casino will be shut down for the week and turned into a Christian bookstore. The bars and lounges will also be set up to offer a lot more "mock tail" type drinks than normal, since many Christians do not drink anything stronger than wine. Even the shore excursions are given a Christian slant.

Popularity of Christian-Based Cruises There are several large travel agencies that focus on religious travel and they seem to make a good living from it. Christian cruises are a big part of that business, and it is not all that difficult to fill an entire ship -- something that would have been unheard of just ten years ago -- with members of a Christian congregation.

The agencies chartering entire ships for Christian-themed cruises utilize just about every cruise line, though Carnival and Holland America seem to be the most popular choices, mostly because certain ships in their fleets are "right-sized" for these groups.

A cruise featuring a popular pastor or made to appeal to one of the larger congregations usually starts when one of these travel agencies approaches them with an offer to organize and fund the cruise. But it can also happen when the pastor of a church with a large number of congregants makes the first move for contacting a travel agent -- hopefully someone in his or her own congregation. While they rarely fill a ship with just one local congregation, they can certainly fill a decent number of cabins. Full charter or not, the cruise still provides an opportunity for a church's congregation to get to know each other better, and have lots of fun in the process.

Continue Article >> Local Churches (Part 2)

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