I can honestly state that I do not think there could be any bad way to see Alaska. I studied information on travel sites for weeks after we had decided to venture to Alaska and I kept seeing the Un-Cruise trips mentioned. My husband and I had done the regular cruise ships before and there was something very appealing about a small ship. Seventy people would be on board versus the thousands on the big cruise lines. I was sold!
In late May, we flew to Juneau, Alaska and boarded the Wilderness Explorer. The weather was perfect for the majority of our trip (rain the last day) and we made memories that I will never forget. Note: when it is sunny in Alaska, the locals call it “cloud failure”, so we were very lucky we had the sunny, warm weather that we did!
The Un-Cruise trip we chose spent one week in the Northern Passages and Glacier Bay. We did not dock in any other town until the last day when we disembarked in Sitka, Alaska – other than picking up a park ranger in Bartlett Cove (a requirement to go into Glacier Bay). Most days were spent kayaking, riding in skiffs, and exploring shorelines, glaciers, marshes, and small islands. We ventured where larger ships could never go. The scenery was spectacular and words could never describe it. Only the full 360 degree experience will ever do a trip to Alaska justice. This was an “adventure” cruise and not a floating entertainment vessel. We were busy every single day and the hard part was deciding what NOT to do! Mornings and afternoons were filled with choices of activities: hiking, kayaking, paddleboarding, shore explorations, skiff rides, etc. Nights were filled with games, cocktails, movies & books, a hot tub, and relaxing tired muscles. Most evenings also included short presentations from a crew member or park ranger informing us about local wildlife, the life of the salmon, or geographic formations in the area. We were fed three fulls meals a day in the dining room and also had snacks and drinks available at times throughout the day. We even came off an island hike one day to find the crew had set up a bar on the shore with hot toddies, hot chocolate, drinks and snacks. What a great surprise!
Some activities were led by a guide and others were just you on your own. The kayaking was fantastic. One memory I will always have was a day we spent kayaking in crystal clear glacial water near waterfalls, birds, floating chunks of ice and with mountains all around. We were close enough to the glacier that we could hear ice cracking and see small “calving” activity when in the distance we see a huge cruise ship approaching (only 2 ships are allowed into Glacier Bay each day). We gave them wide berth and they sailed in, made a wide turn, and then were off. We could see a few people out on the top of the cruise ship looking at the glacier and almost as soon as they had sailed in, they were gone. We had the opportunity to see this beautiful wilderness up close and personal – for an entire day.
We explored tidepools and picked up big colorful starfish. We hiked in marshes and bogs and saw fresh deer, wolf and bear tracks. We kayaked close to shore with curious minks watching us. We rode in skiffs and saw otters, eagles, jellyfish, and whales. We explored small islands and walked through mossy forests finding spring flowers, bear scat, and breathtaking views. We sailed through blue waters spotting eagles, killer whales, brown bears, moose, sea lions, mountain goats, puffins, and humpback whales.
We enjoyed every single minute – an adventure of a lifetime. It seemed almost unreal. We were living in a National Geographic documentary.
We enjoyed meeting our fellow passengers and the crew, and in a group that small, we knew a little about everyone. There was a three generation family, a couple of groups of friends, and most were couples like us. We bonded over meals and outings. The captain and staff were all multi-taskers so you got to see them in many different roles. There were lots of handshakes, hugs, and I admit – a few tears when we parted.
This cruise is not for everyone. If you want gourmet meals, Broadway shows, shopping venues, pre-planned excursions and formal dinners you will be out of luck on a Un-Cruise trip. If you want daily adventures, unspoiled wilderness, and being up close and personal with nature – this trip will be for you.
There is no need for a wallet on this cruise. Everything is included. Any adventure you want to try is paid for. The only added expense for us at the cruise’s end was for alcoholic beverages.
The things I learned on this Alaskan adventure: #1. I wish I had gone sooner and stayed longer. #2. Alaska is more beautiful than any movie, video or photograph illustrates. #3. Luckily, there are still unspoiled areas like this that man has not yet destroyed or polluted. #4. No matter what the label says, waterproof gloves are NOT waterproof!
Hopefully, I have the chance to return one day….