A Feast of Tabernacles Caribbean Cruise – an Honest Review
For the Feast of Tabernacles in 2018, my family had the opportunity to join a small group of brethren on a Caribbean Cruise. It’s something I’d heard of a few years before and had always wanted to try.
This trip was put together by a few individuals, not an organization, so the services were fairly laid back and casual. We had services every day from 10-11:30 in the morning, except for the days we were in port. Those days, most people had excursion plans, so services were scheduled in the evening at 8 pm. Though there weren’t really any better options for those days, that time made it really difficult for my family to attend. Our kids go to bed at 7, so staying up till 9:30 just wasn’t an option for us.
I did enjoy the services we got to attend. We sang some hymns and had one main message in each service. There were several men attending who volunteered to speak. My family also gave special music a couple of times, and others did too.
The services were held in the small wedding chapel at the top of the ship. It barely had enough room for everyone there – about 30 people. But it worked just fine for us.
If you’ve never been on a cruise, you still probably know that there’s plenty to keep you busy on the ship. However, one thing I hadn’t considered (looking back now, I’m not sure how I hadn’t) was the tiny room we would come back to. I know that sounds kind of ridiculous, but I simply didn’t think about how we wouldn’t want to spend any leisure time in our rooms because they’re so tiny and crowded with our stuff. The kids couldn’t really do anything in the room, and if they got rowdy, it just drove the adults crazy because we were in such close proximity. So if we wanted the kids to be entertained in the least, we had to go somewhere else, which meant being around people… lots of people. Whoof.
Typically, when my family goes to the Feast, we rent a big house and spend a lot of time just relaxing there. When you have kids, that’s one of the easiest things to do.
But on the ship – sure, we could go spend time at the splash park, go down water slides, or send the kids to Adventure Ocean for a while, but when we wanted to just go somewhere to relax in between activities, or at the end of the day, our room was NOT the place to do that.
This was especially a problem at the end of the day when the kids went to bed. We didn’t have many options except to sneak over to my parents’ adjoining room to hang out. We had to be near the kids, but there was no room to do anything. Each room has two chairs, so everyone else sat on the floor and talked in a tiny circle.
It was… not relaxing.
This isn’t specific to a Feast of Tabernacles cruise – I just don’t know if I ever want to go on a cruise again with kids, period. It’s not really for me. I prefer the big house where we spend a lot of time playing, relaxing, enjoying a new location, and when necessary, sending the kids to a separate room. Just being honest.
One great thing was that the 30 or so people who signed up for this cruise for the Feast all got dining seating together. We at least had a little time to get to know each other at the meals each evening.
However, that was the main time we were able to fellowship outside of the small window before and after services. I wish there had been an opportunity to get to know everyone more, but there wasn’t a convenient place for everyone to even gather. We couldn’t stay in the chapel all day, and you couldn’t just hang out in someone’s room.
Obviously, most of the people on the ship were not keeping the Feast with us. So, most of the time, we were in a very worldly environment. This could include walking through a smoky casino to get to where you’re going, seeing incredibly revealing swimsuits, or sharing an elevator with someone who’s clearly drunk.
We were sitting by the pool one day (the family pool, not adults-only) and a young woman was dancing in a suggestive way to a rap song that was playing. My kids saw this, of course, which I wish we could’ve avoided.
The point is, you’re much more trapped in that environment on a cruise, whether it’s a Holy Day or not; whereas you could avoid some of these situations at most other Feast of Tabernacles locations.
The cost of this trip was about what I would expect a typical Feast of Tabernacles trip to cost for our family of five. I found out about this opportunity through a COG Facebook group, and the person helping to organize it, Jenny Murphy, is a travel agent. She found us a great deal through her company, My Travel Crush, where kids sailed free. Jenny was a pleasure to work with, and I’d recommend her to anyone. My family saved money by sharing an adjoining room with my parents and having one of our three kids sleep with them.
That said, the trip still wasn’t cheap. We also saved quite a bit by driving to Galveston instead of flying, but that was a sacrifice cramming seven people and their luggage into one minivan. Flying would’ve added a huge cost to the trip. I guess when I paid for the cruise, I kind of felt like I was paying for an “all-inclusive” trip. And in a way, that’s true. The payment covers the basics for a room, most of your food, and some entertainment.
But there are a lot of added costs that I hadn’t considered. Two major ones are Wi-Fi and drinks. It’s nearly impossible to go a week without internet access – most of us have responsibilities and/or jobs that require us to check our email. And for those of us who like to kick back with a glass of wine or a beer… that can add a huge expense on a cruise. You either have to pay a high price per glass/bottle, or you have to sign up for their beverage package, which is insanely expensive. My husband and I decided not to get the package, which not only includes alcoholic drinks, but also specialty coffees, fresh-squeezed juices, pop, etc.
There are tons of other additional costs that can sneak up on you, too. Many of the restaurants on board cost extra. The cheapest one I saw was an extra $10/person, but many of the specialty restaurants charge a cover fee of up to $40/person. I figured we wouldn’t care about those restaurants and that the free stuff would be fine, but honestly, I got sick of the main dining room menu. The food was decent, but the menu only rotated a couple of new items in each day, so we didn’t have a lot of options.
A lot of the entertainment costs extra as well, like the cupcake-making I thought my daughter would love.
And of course, any excursion or activity you may want to do in port will add a substantial cost to your trip. I think I paid about $750 for our family of five’s three excursions. The first two were quite disappointing, and we had to skip the third because of sickness. Not really money well-spent, in my opinion.
I think our kids had a blast because this was a new and exciting experience for them. But I don’t think I’d do it again. I’m not trying to discourage anyone else from doing a Feast cruise! I simply wanted to share our experience and give others some things to consider. If you’ve been interested in the idea, I hope you found this helpful!