Meridian is announcing a new travel partnership with an old friend. We are going to take you on cruises and land tours in conjunction with Diane Lovell, the Cruise Lady. You can see her schedule of dream vacations and amazing tours at this site (click here — but before you do, read on. An adventure is in store for you.
Latter-day Saints love to be together. That’s why our online community called Meridian continues to swell. We identify with each other. We want to know what’s happening to other Latter-day Saints. We feel connected to each other in ways we can hardly explain.
Many times in our travels, Scot and I have stayed with Latter-day Saints we hadn’t met before – and couldn’t stop talking until midnight. You’ve probably had the same experience. We have said, “Can it possibly be that we didn’t know each other just hours ago?”
It is this instant sense of friendship – this wonderful family feeling, that led us to create opportunities through Meridian for Latter-day Saints to travel together.
The bonus is not just traveling with new friends, but is also something even more. Could anything be better than a few days off, a blue sea and deck chair, sumptuous meals and fascinating ports of call? Or traveling by land to the legendary sites you’ve only read about? Yes – traveling with LDS writers, speakers, teachers and entertainers who inspire, teach, move and lift you. People who can make you laugh, make the day brighter and most important – give you gospel insights that open new vistas in your mind and soul.
Think about it. Can you imagine hearing Michael Ballam sing as you explore the tropical shores of Tahiti? Or explore the Book of Mormon lands with Joseph Allen, who has made this scriptural geography a lifetime study? Wouldn’t it be great to go to the Baltic capitals with Susan Easton Black’s historical lectures? Or travel to Alaska, the Caribbean, or the Mediterranean with John Bytheway, Kieth Merrill, Vickey Pahnke Taylor, Jack Marshall, Jeffrey Marsh, John Lund or Randy Bott? Check them all out at our travel site (we have more than 20 adventures awaiting you) . but keep reading first.
With Meridian and the Cruise Lady, you can go to the Church history sites, explore Machu Picchu, sail through the Panama Canal, or lounge on the beach at Cancun, while traveling with people who add to the delight.
If you could invite these great LDS speakers, teachers and entertainers into your home for an evening to talk and enjoy and become friends, you’d love it. Traveling together is even a closer experience – and all yours for the best prices available.
Diane Lovell – Picture of Warmth
“Everyone in our office believes in what we are doing,” says Diane Lovell. “It is not just a job to us. It has become a passion for us to take people to a different level in cruise or land travel by adding in the spiritual part through a great LDS speaker. It has taken cruising to a whole new level. It has raised the bar. We have a wholesome good time.”
She says, “Many years ago I was working for a cruise company in Washington State and everyone wanted to go to Alaska, so I decided to organize a group of Latter-day Saints from my own stake to go together on this trip. After two days of being with this wonderful group of people, I thought, ‘this is what I want to do the rest of my life. I want to take Church members to beautiful, exciting places.’ It is so much fun it is not a business to me.”
“When I started 8 years ago and said that I was going to start a travel company to specialize in LDS groups, people said, ‘Do you really think you can make a business out of this? It is a contradiction of lifestyle. Cruising is for more extravagant people – not Latter-day Saints with large families and missionary funds.'”
But Latter-day Saints have found this experience so warming and fun, her business has taken off. Something works as Latter-day Saints travel together, have amazing experiences and create memories that last a lifetime.
As one Latter-day Saint said again and again on a Church history tour, “This is way past wonderful.”
In addition to these inspirational speakers and entertainers (she calls them Headliners), Diane, who has a knack for making people feel happy and cared for, accompanies nearly every trip. Last year, Diane went on 22 cruises.
She says that she spends 40% of her life on water-and never tires of it because every journey is so different. “My enthusiasm and the reason I love it more the more I do, is that I know what we can give people who come. They think they know what they are going to get and in the end it exceeded their expectations.
“We’ve grown since that beginning. Four times a year we do our Alaska cruises. We do the Russian Baltics every year, follow the journeys of Paul a couple of times a year. We do Book of Mormon lands on our western Caribbean tours, where several times on the ship a scholar will tie some of the places we visit to the action of Book of Mormon.
“We’ve given away copies of the Book of Mormon all over the world. We get stories and emails back from people telling about conversions or about how their own testimonies have grown stronger for our time together. It is so rewarding.
“Some people go on a cruise and think what is there to do when they are sailing from port to port. Cruising with us is a total experience, because even at the sites, our group of Latter-day Saints travels together.”
Exciting People and Meaningful Moments
The cruises and land tours are varied and exciting. Diane says, “Michael Ballam has a special style where he talks about the history of the spirit of music. When he travels with us, we manage to get him to do special concerts on the sites we visit. People come away just loving Michael Ballam. When we have John Bytheway, we have youth sessions as well as adult sessions. When John Lund is our headliner, he is such a strong scholar in the Book of Mormon and its lands, the people can’t write fast enough as they take notes. He always makes it a real spiritual trek.
“In February 2007 we will have a relaxing and dreamy cruise through the Hawaiian Islands with Meridian’s own Scot and Maurine Proctor. This is an adventure you will not want to miss–and it includes the full-blown Polynesian Culture Center experience. You may enjoy waiting until the summer and do the world’s most popular cruise, the inside passage to Alaska. You can choose to go with Randy Bott and Hillary Weeks, or you may want to sail with Brent Barlow or even Jack Marshall and Meridian’s own Vickey Pahnke. And we have one more cruise there with Doug Brinley. These are amazing cruises with amazing people.”
In addition, to the speakers and musical artists and authors, Diane says, “When people come back from these trips, they feel that they have been spiritually refreshed and uplifted.”
People enjoy it so much, says Diane, that sometimes they even want to have reunions after. Latter-day Saints come from all over the United States and internationally. With the addition of Meridian’s very international audience, the trips are made up of the most interesting mix of Latter-day Saints imaginable. In a recent Church History tour with Meridian travelers one of the senior missionaries said to the group at one site we visited, “So, are most of you from Utah?” The whole group started chirping in like birds, “We’re from California. Ireland. Arizona. Virginia. Australia. Oregon. Texas.” The list went on and on. Not much of a Utah group – well, there were six from Utah.
People like to use these trips as family reunions to get a chance to spend quality time together as a family. They come for anniversaries or big birthdays. Mothers and daughters come together. Sisters take a trip to have some time together. Some grandparents bring their nineteen-year-old grandsons on a Church History tour as a final spiritual preparation for their missions.
“Every day is always fun,” says Diane. “People are having a fun, relaxing, exciting time. One time we were in Costa Rica with three busloads, and we were talking to our driver about the missionaries and then we saw two on the side of the road. We asked them if we could give them a ride but they were going to zone conference. Then Michael Ballam and James O’Neil Miner suggested that we take up a collection for them. Together we donated hundreds of dollars and told them to talk to their mission president about how to use the money.
“One of these missionaries was from Canada and the other from Ecuador.
James O’Neil Miner said, “I don’t know why I felt so strongly that someone needed that money, but I just did.”
“A couple of months later,” said Diane, “I got an email from the boy of the mother from Canada. She wrote, ‘I want you to know what happened that day. My son’s companion was fasting about whether he should go home from his mission. His family is impoverished and he felt that his work was needed to help support his family. The mission president had told the missionaries that they could divide the money and use it in whatever way they needed. Here was the money that allowed this missionary to send something home to his family and still stay on his mission. The boys cried and could not believe they had this experience happen to them when they needed so many things.”
Many times on these trips, the Cruise Lady travelers will bring goods to donate to local church members who are especially needy. “One time we were in Aruba,” she said, “and when we delivered our contributions, all these people were outside the church singing hymns to greet us. Someone told us why. They thought the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was coming. They said, ‘You’d better really sing well.'”
Adding New Things
Diane says that Cruise Lady is always adding new things – like extensive land tours. Next year there is a very special cruise or perhaps we should more precisely say ‘adventure’ down the Amazon River and on the horizon – an education week at sea with the whole ship turned over to Latter-day Saints. “We’re also working with the Proctors on developing a most amazing British Isles Church History Tour. Sign up for the travel send we are about to start and you’ll be the first to get details on this one. It’s sure to be one of our best travel products.”
The possibilities are delightful and you won’t want to miss them. Watch for news and links on Meridian and go right now to our travel website to see the buffet of vacations and headliners for you to choose from in the months ahead.
This day in September may be the time to book yourself a few days in the sun that you’ll never forget. When you call Cruise Lady tell them that Meridian sent you.
And speaking of calling–if you want to speak to a human being at The Cruise Lady, call toll free 888-707-4386. Local or international callers dial 801-453-9444. Ahoy for now.
2005 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.