How Cruise Ships Navigate Challenging Terrain

Facing unfamiliar and unknown territory is daunting. As Christians, we can look to God for guidance as we travel through the changes and challenges in our lives. Our staff encountered a physical illustration of this while cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage. 

Cruise line captains are extensively trained on how to handle and steer massive ships worth millions of dollars through all kinds of weather and waters. Not only are these valuable vessels in the hands of the captains and their crew, but the lives and safety of thousands of passengers are also their responsibility. 

The captains have undergone years of training and earned decades of real-world experience. They know their vessels better than anyone in the world. Despite this, they humbly relinquish control of the cruise liners before they approach dangerous or congested waters, such as harbors or river mouths, to expert harbor pilots. Imagine the humility and trust it takes for cruise ship captains to hand over responsibility for their ships to a stranger! 

These transfers are especially common in Alaska, where port pilots may guide ships not just into specific ports but through narrow fjords or straits like the Inside Passage. This spectacular water route in southeast Alaska, while heavily trafficked, is an especially challenging navigational area for massive cruise ships. For instance, arriving at the port in Ketchikan requires navigating the Tongass Narrows, which are only a quarter of a mile wide.

The “pilot” who boards the cruise ship is known as a port or harbor pilot, and he or she will temporarily take over for the captain. These individuals are intimately familiar with the local tides, weather patterns, locations of rocks or sandbars and docking procedures at specific cruise ports. 

Watch this dramatic video of the port pilot boarding Holland America’s Oosterdam in New Zealand. 

While novel and exciting, this midstream transition elicits a deeper spiritual insight. We may consider ourselves “highly trained experts” when it comes to our lives, families and careers, but handing over the controls to Someone else, especially when we travel through the “narrows” of life, is prudent and wise. After all, God knows—profoundly, insightfully—what’s coming and the best way to navigate it.

Have you let God be your port pilot yet?

Maybe your next adventure will include a life-changing Christian travel experience. If and when it does, you may have the chance to watch a masterful port pilot board and guide your ship into the most beautiful ports in the world.

Join Inspiration on an Exceptional Travel Experience!