For quite a while, it was a place that had been on my bucket. Oh, how good it felt to cross that one off, even if we only were in port a few hours to do it! The ms Westerdam came into Victoria at 6:00 PM…which meant that we had a full day on the ship before setting foot on Canadian soil.
The first event of the day was the Chapel service with Andy Stanley. He was finishing up the cruise with another installment from the “N Commandmants” – THOU SHALT NOT DOUBT. This message was based on some of the previous passages that we already looked at in the first two messages, but to me, the verse that stands out as the foundation of this session was John 6:68 – “Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” Andy started his message with the intriguing fact that 100% of the first century Christians doubted. John the Baptist did it, Thomas and all of the disciples. Yet, we have three things to assure us when we fall into the same habit – 1) Jesus doesn’t toss you out if you doubt. 2) You don’t have to have all your doubt worked out. 3) You don’t have to understand everything to believe in something. (Yes, Andy liked to rhyme most of his points!) Doubt can alter the direction of your life if you let it. Just think about it: Jesus left the movement that would change the world in the hands of the disciples. If they would have doubted or quit, everything that Jesus accomplished would have been in jeopardy. Along those same lines, people don’t walk away from their faith because it’s too hard to study; they walk away because something happened to make them doubt what they believe is true. We have to be careful not to think that faith is making up an idea, forcing ourselves to have strong feelings about it and then expecting it to happen. That’s not faith.
Faith is John 6:68 – To whom shall we go? If not Jesus, then who? The question Peter asked in this verse is the key to overcoming doubt. If Jesus is who He claimed to be, than that’s all we need to know. If God originated something – God will orchestrate it. If you’re tempted to doubt, think on this…You will never know what God would have done if you allow doubt to immobilize your faith. When doubt comes, ask yourself this question, “To whom shall I go? If I don’t trust Jesus, then what do I turn to?” You have no idea what hangs in the balance when you decide to trust God anyway!
After lunch in the Vista Dining room, we gathered back at the Vista Lounge for the farewell concert. Since we would be coming into Victoria in the evening, all the activities on the ship were planned for the morning and afternoon. The Farewell Event reminded me of a “Gaither Homecoming” video; all the artists were seated on stage in armchairs and would each sang one song and teased each other throughout the concert. Some of the highlights were when Gerald asked Stan to play a piano solo and Stan played a Christmas song, the Booth Brother’s singing I’m Free with Randy Byrd (bass singer for MTQ) joining them on the last part of the song and the Mark Trammell Quartet’s The King Is Coming.
From the deck I saw land and immediately knew it was Canada. I couldn’t wait to dock so we could get into Victoria and explore. Unfortunately, everybody else had the same idea! The line to the elevators and gangway was one big traffic jam. One of the crew members kept trying to tell people that there was another exit at the front of the ship, but most folks were happy to stay where they were. We decided to go for the other exit and I think we were on land much quicker than what we would have been if we would have stayed in the original line. So, if you ever go on a cruise – check if there’s more than one gangway to get off the boat when you’re in port! You may save some time!
White and red flags snapped in the wind as we neared the white building whose sign hailed, “Welcome to Canada,” on the front. Through the customs building (which we just walked through without having to show passports or anything like that) there were some friendly Canadian folks to direct you to transportation, answer questions and give you a free map of the city. After talking to one of the ladies, I was a little disappointed to find out that the little English Village I wanted to visit with a replica of Shakespeare’s house had been tore down years ago. (It’s true! You can’t trust everything you read on the internet!) Yet, I was so happy to be in Canada, I quickly got over it.
Victoria is actually not by the cruise ship pier, you have to go a ways before you get into town. There are four ways to do so…
1. Walking (NOT recommended! It is a very long way…)
3. Horse drawn carriage ride
The carriage ride was full so we took the bus, which was a round trip fare for about $12. The bus had two levels and we were lucky to sit in the front row on the top level. This was the perfect way to ride into town! Up above, you had an excellent view of the water and streets as you came into Victoria. The golden sun setting glimmered off the trees and water making the bus ride almost a tour in itself. (Minus narration.) We were let off in the middle of town and began walking the streets…and that’s what we did, walked around enjoying the beautiful city!
Down by the harbor, there are flowers everywhere! Looking toward the Parliament Building, yellow flowers spelled out the message “Welcome to Victoria” just above the harbor’s waters. All along the waterfront musicians and singers set up and provided live music as you walked along. My favorite was the man who had a bagpipe and just happened to play Amazing Grace as we walked by. Across the street we walked the grounds of the Parliament Building; which is famous for the lights that outline the building at night. Since our ship didn’t leave till midnight, we were able to see it lit! The building was massive!
From there we crossed the street and walked back the way we came on the opposite side of the road, where the popular Empress Hotel was located. Green vines climbed up the front of this National Historic Site and blossoms of all colors decorated the sidewalk and grounds.
The rest of our day we spent looking at the shops and purchasing some keep sakes. Victoria is known for its plant life and I couldn’t help but smile when I saw a bush fashioned in the shape of a whale! How creative is that?!
We rode one of the buses back to the pier and once again found ourselves on the second level. There were other ships in that day beside the ms Westerdam and it seemed like everyone wanted to go back at the same time – we literally sat in the last three seats available on that particular bus which just happened to be on the back row!
Back on the ship, we ordered room service and watched as our ship backed out of port, made a full circle and headed out to sea. As we were backing up we could see the lights of the Parliament Building from our stateroom – it was very cool! The perfect way to end the day and the cruise, for the next day we would disembark in Seattle and fly home.
Conclusion: The In Touch Alaska Cruise is a must for anyone who loves to travel and wants a Christian twist on their vacation…not to mention the amazing scenery! This trip may be a little expensive, but it’s worth saving for and doing it at least once. I made memories with my family that will last a lifetime and I certainly hope that someday, we can go back to the Last Frontier and make more.
Where we departed from – A Day in Seattle
Saturday – Alaska Bound
Sunday – The Tale of the Whale
Monday – Bears, Glaciers and Waterfalls
Tuesday – Mountains of God
Wednesday – Remnants of Russia
Thursday – Gateway to the Inside Passage