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Ocean Cruise Guide for Catholics


Often the ship itself is as much a destination as the places you will be visiting. Obviously some Catholics are used to attending daily Mass and most are aware of the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays. We assume you are one of those two types of Catholics and not one who does not care one way or the other. Whether traveling individually, as a couple or as a family with children, you will probably want to be able to incorporate your Catholic faith into your cruise experience.

A few cruise lines used to have a Catholic priest on board all cruises. Apparently some people complained of the preferential treatment for Catholics (the priest was normally given his trip free of charge by the cruise line).  Of course, Catholics are required to attend Mass on Sundays, which is not the case of most other Christian denominations.

Regardless, many of the cruise lines do not have a priest on board, although some do for special days such as Easter, Christmas, etc. So you should be sure to find out in advance if this is important to you.

Click here for our list of cruise lines that have Catholic priests on board.

We have confirmed Holland America Cruise Lines has a Catholic priest on board all cruises and daily Mass is offered. There is an organization called the Apostleship of the Sea that provides priests in good standing to various cruise lines.

But most cruise lines (including Holland America) cater to LGBTQ+ customers with “meet and greet” and other events….so be prepared for that.  If you have children on board you need to be able to explain the nature of these events.

Occasionally you will hear of an organization offering a Catholic cruise which is usually centered around some well-known speakers. In this case you can be sure that Mass will be featured daily. And don’t forget, sometimes priests need a break. So if you have a group traveling you might consider asking the priest to come along, not so much as a pilgrimage, but as a well-deserved vacation. And there are ways to get the priest’s trip paid for by the cruise line.

However, even if there is no priest on board you can still incorporate your Catholic faith in the cruise. Most ports will have some sort of Catholic history if you do some research. And most cruise lines will offer optional shore excursion to such places as Ephesus, Athens, Jerusalem, etc. In some cases you may get a guide knowledgeable in the Catholic faith and in others you may get one who does not know or care about the Faith.

Shore excursions: Cruise lines usually offer shore excursions in most major ports.  There are plusses and minuses to these excursions.

You can often get a good deal on shore excursions by going through a private tour operator and customize the tour to your liking.  They often cater to just a few people rather than a large group and prices are not much different from what the cruise line offers.

Ports of embarkation in the U.S.: In the past most cruises left from either New York, Florida or the West Coast. Now there are an increasing number of cruise lines that offer departures from New Orleans, Louisiana and Galveston, Texas.

Cruises in Europe: A cruise can be an especially easy way to see sights in the Mediterranean or Europe. In most cases, you will have to book optional shore excursions in cities such as Rome or Florence, but the cost of the cruise is relatively inexpensive. And some cruise lines, such as Regent Seven Seas, are now offering shore excursions included as part of the price of the cruise. We expect this trend might continue to grow.

Traveling with children? If you are then some cruise lines might be better than others for children’s activities. Although we do not necessarily endorse any cruise line, we can say that for children Disney Cruise Lines would be the best for children with the caveat that the company itself is a big booster of the LGBTQ movement, and I doubt that many Catholics want their children exposed to that. Royal Caribbean also has excellent children’s programs and other cruise lines such as Norwegian Cruise Lines and Carnival offer children’s programs as well.

Warning: Grandparents or parents traveling solo with children read this.

For adults traveling without children and/or those who have a little extra to spend you might want to look at some upscale lines such as Celebrity, Cunard, Princess. They cater less to those with children. But don’t rule out Disney or Royal Caribbean especially once school is back in session. Don’t forget, these ships sail year ’round. And just because we have not mentioned a specific cruise line here does not mean that they don’t do an outstanding job.

Some cruise lines such as Oceania Cruises, Silversea, Seabourn and Regent cater to those 55+ and do not have any children’s activities on board. In this case they are more about the itinerary (very few days at sea) and the ports they visit and less about the ship itself. Just no lavish entertainment and few late-night activities. And many of these ships are much smaller, meaning they can dock at more ports and offer a more intimate experience. And some of them are all-inclusive as well.

Want a single cabin? Up until recently you had to pay almost the cost of a double cabin even if you were traveling alone. Naturally the cruise lines considered these as wasted space since not only could they not charge for the additional person but they also lost any revenue that passenger might have created on board. Rates for singles typically ran (and still do) from 140% to 200% of the double cabin price. There were no small single cabins on most ships. This is changing, however, and some cruise lines now have some single cabins in their newer ships. Not quite half the price, but considerably less than paying for two people.

NCL with it’s new “Epic” seems to be taking the lead in single cabins (over 100 of them) as well as the P&O “Azura” that has about 18 single cabins. And some of the lines don’t charge quite so much for singles even if you are in a double cabin so be sure to check around.

Weddings at sea: If you are Catholic and want to get married when you are on your cruise, then there are certain things that you need to consider. Click here for important information on Catholic weddings on a cruise.

When to book: For the best bargains and best cabins we recommend that you book early. Although there are occasionally last-minute deals, they are becoming less frequent, especially on the more popular cruises. And, you are often limited in cabin selections.

We recommend using a travel agent who specializes in cruises when booking your cruise….it does not cost you any more and they can help you navigate through the various choices of cabins, etc.

For tips on picking the right cruise for you click here.

For River cruises click here.

Planning to bring wine or liquor on board with you? Click here—you may be in for a shock.

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