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Our Ultimate UnCruise Adventure 2016: July 2-July16


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This will be a trip report / photo journal of our recent family outing to Alaska. We chose the Ultimate Bays & Fjords trip with UnCruise Adventures. This is described as a 14-night Alaska adventure expedition aboard a small ship. We chose to start in Sitka, going to Glacier Bay National Park and on to Juneau. We spent the day in Juneau touring Mendenhall Glacier and downtown, then boarded the ship for our leisurely UnCruise to Ketchikan.

 

 

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There were two options for this itinerary - one aboard the Wilderness Discoverer, and the other on the Wilderness Explorer. We picked the Discoverer, having sailed on both ships in 2013. They both have pros and cons. I like the outside decks on the Explorer, but my husband prefers the more comfortable layout of the Discoverer. We had 9 people traveling in our family group, so comfort won out.

 

 

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We flew into Sitka (4 of us coming from Maine, and the other 5 from California):

 

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We arrived safely in Sitka, only to find some of our luggage had decided to stay in Seattle. This caused some tense moments, and more time at the Sitka Airport than we would have liked, but our bags did arrive 24 hours later - good thing the Maine contingent had given ourselves an extra day in Sitka. The California Crew was arriving the next day, on Friday, for our Saturday (7/02/2016) embarkation.

 

 

We made an impromptu decision to rent a car at the airport - turned out to be a good move, as it made our trips back and forth from the airport, to meals, and to local attractions very easy. (A car isn't needed, but for our large group, it worked well). And, Avis even takes you back to Sitka when you return the car, if need be.

 

Lodging in Sitka was the Super 8 Motel - it was fine. Dated, but clean with friendly staff. We did the usual in Sitka during our stay - shopped, toured the museums, the Totem Park, and visited both the Alaska Raptor Center and the Fortress of the Bear. We had an outstanding breakfast and dinner at The Fly In Fish Inn, just outside of downtown. I highly recommend their restaurant, and we will try to stay there on future trips. Breakfast at the Fly In Fish Inn - quite a tasty change from our normal lo cal choices:

 

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The next post will share some highlights from our visit to the Alaska Raptor Center and The Fortress of the Bear, then we will board the Wilderness Discoverer, and get on with the adventure!

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I had the chance to visit the Raptor Center and Fortress of the Bear twice - since we went on Friday, and then I took the kids (3 adults, and two teen age granddaughters) back on Saturday. I highly recommend both of these "attractions."

 

The Fortress of the Bear was our first destination on Friday morning. I'd read positive reviews, but didn't realize just how enjoyable our visit would be. The bears are housed in two decommissioned concrete tanks from when the facility was a pulp mill. It may not be "pretty," but the 8 bears we saw sure didn't seem to mind:

 

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We watched the 5 brown bears and 3 black bears for over an hour each visit. They had a lover's spat, did some Bear Yoga, and just seemed to have a good time.

 

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You'll also see plenty of eagles at the Fortress:

 

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Due to the photo limitations here, I'll post some views from the Alaska Raptor Center in the next post.

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Continuing on the the Alaska Raptor Center, where you have a chance to see and learn about Bald Eagles, Owls, Hawks, and other raptors. This is a rehabilitation center where the goal is to get the birds back into the wild, although this isn't possible with every bird.

 

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We were back in Sitka in time for lunch and more shopping before boarding the Wilderness Discoverer at 5pm.

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Thank you, lucky gal and Coral. More photos coming up.

 

 

Embarkation - The Wilderness Discoverer, 2 July 2016

 

 

We met up with the rest of the folks going on our trip at the Sitka Westmark Hotel at 5 pm for a short bus ride to the ship. We had dropped off our luggage at the Hospitality Room at 9am, and it was delivered to our staterooms. They also held any hand luggage we didn't want to keep during the day while touring Sitka.

 

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There's no fancy port, just a simple dock in the industrial area of the harbor. Boarding is a simple process, just group up by staterooms, give them your info and a crew member escorts you to your cabin.

 

 

After a brief welcome reception, we had the mandatory safety drill, some time to explore the ship, and then dinner. The main dinner choice was salmon, along with a meat and vegetarian option. Dinner was good - more about the food as we go along with the report.

 

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There were 78 passengers on board - which might have been a few more than normal, but we had a lot of kids. This turned out not to be an issue at all, as they were well behaved and didn't take up much space ;) Like us, there were several families where the grandparents were treating their families to a vacation.

 

 

It never seemed crowded onboard, and at times it seemed like we had the ship to ourselves:

 

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The crew pulled up the anchor before dinner and we headed out of Sitka, aiming towards the Sergius Narrows Passage. We had a very smooth sailing and I doubt anyone had problems with motion from the boat.

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Day 2: Cruising Neva Straight and Bergius Narrows to Deep Bay

 

 

We woke up to a beautiful, bright Alaska day. The water was so calm - one of my favorite times of the day:

 

 

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After breakfast - both breakfast and lunch are served buffet style - we started cruising again. We were underway all morning, until just afternoon. We were encouraged to take in the beautiful scenery, but this time was also used for two orientations - 1st was for hiking and bear safety, and the 2nd was a demonstration of how to use the kayaks.

 

 

 

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Edited by Shazzah
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The last photo in the previous post shows the large sundeck which is located on Deck 4. It is a large space used for morning yoga, lounging, happy hour, and viewing.

 

 

While cruising we did see some wildlife:

 

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Lunch was Greek Day, so the choices were warm pita bread and chicken or hummus. Topped off with the daily cookie selection, freshly made by the pastry chef. There was almost always fresh salad and a soup as well.

 

After lunch, we felt like the adventure was beginning! It was time to try kayaking. Most of our group picked Kayaking 101, although we did have a couple of advanced kayakers.

 

 

The first thing we needed to do was get decked out in the special PFDs used for kayaking and paddle boarding (you choose one on day one, and keep it in your locker for the whole cruise). You also have the option to wear a skirt to keep water out of the kayak. While many chose additional water proof gear, we found that wasn't necessary most of the time.

 

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The ship is equipped with an EZ Dock, so it's like getting in on land. Then the crew push you off into the water. We are only allowed to use the 2-person kayaks, and they are very stable:

 

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For Kayaking 101, we were allowed to paddle around the ship, and our expedition leader (the awesome Katie) kept checking on us and offered assistance as needed.

 

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(sorry lucky cal, I misspelled your name in a previous post)

 

 

Kayaking was a big hit with our family, and they definitely progressed beyond Kayaking 101 during the rest of our cruise.

 

Because the weather was so nice, Captain Dano treated us to Grilled Oysters on the sundeck. We were very happy to see Captain Dano when we arrived at the ship, as we had met him on our previous UnCruise Adventure, and he is excellent. He goes out of his way to learn everyone's name, and to give the best trip possible. He also leads by example - doing every job as needed. He hosted Happy Hour, he loaded and drove for skiff tours, and helped people in and out of kayaks The Captain can make a huge difference on a small boat cruise, and we felt lucky to be with Captain Dano.

 

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We had another nice dinner, with a choice of pork or fish, followed by creme brûlée for dessert. After dinner, our expedition guides explained how the adventure signup process worked, and also gave a presentation on whales. We enjoyed more great weather on deck, and also spotted some humpback whales along the shore.

 

 

 

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We called it an early night, all happy with our first full day on the water.

Edited by Shazzah
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The price will probably keep us from ever doing an Un-Cruise, but I sure do love coming along on your cruise via your review! Your photos rank at the top of any I've seen on Cruise Critic and you do such a nice job on the narration!

 

I especially loved seeing and reading about the Fortress of the Bear and the Raptor Center in Sitka. We will be visiting Sitka on our cruise next May and those are both high on the list of what to do.

 

Thanks so much for the effort you are putting into this review. Looking forward to seeing more of your trip! :)

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  • 5 months later...

I was so glad to find your post as we are seriously considering an Alaskan Un-Cruise in 2018. Your photos and narrative are excellent! Thank you for sharing and confirming that Un-Cruise is the way we want to experience Alaska.

 

 

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  • 1 month later...

Husband and I are going on UnCruise Adventures Wilderness Adventurer Apr 17, 2017 (from Seattle to Juneau). Did you need rubber boots? Were there enough boots on board to rent theirs? How cold was it in July (I'm sure it will be much colder in April)? Your photos are gorgeous - thanks for sharing them.

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Hi! Sounds like a fun trip.

 

From our experience on 5 different weeks of UnCruise Adventures, the boat should have plenty of rubber boots for you do rent. You will need them if you go onshore on a skiff and you need to step in water to get on/off the skiff. Also useful if hiking in wet terrain.

 

 

Our first trip was mid-May. It was cooler than July but not noticeably. I imagine April will be cooler, but layers should still work fine. The advantage is lots of snow on the mountains makes for scenic views.

 

 

Enjoy your trip. (I hope to complete this report some day :) )

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  • 5 months later...

Hi - Am really hoping you will continue on with your review. I am very seriously looking at a May 2019 Un-Cruise adventure (7 day). This sounds like something that would be up my alley, as I've been to Alaska on cruises before but don't want to see all the major ports again. I've really enjoyed reading what you have written so far so when you get a chance, it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!!

 

Barb

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Hi - Am really hoping you will continue on with your review. I am very seriously looking at a May 2019 Un-Cruise adventure (7 day). This sounds like something that would be up my alley, as I've been to Alaska on cruises before but don't want to see all the major ports again. I've really enjoyed reading what you have written so far so when you get a chance, it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!!

 

Barb

 

I too am hoping the review gets finished! Until then, you might be interested in seeing Shazzah's blog from their first Un-Cruise trip to Alaska in 2013. I have read many, many reviews, but this one ranks at the top! Here is the link:

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Thank you, AryMay, for posting the link to the completed Trip Report :)

 

My intentions were good when I started this one, and I do hope to finish, perhaps in an abbreviated form. I've actually started working on the rest of the photos now, after much prodding from the family.

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Thank you, AryMay, for posting the link to the completed Trip Report :)

 

My intentions were good when I started this one, and I do hope to finish, perhaps in an abbreviated form. I've actually started working on the rest of the photos now, after much prodding from the family.

 

I'm looking forward to seeing the rest or your trip report. I debated about posting the link to your original review (didn't want to overstep my bounds) but it is just too good to NOT share! ;)

 

Just wondering if you have done any other small ship cruises besides Alaska?

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No problem linking the other report. Actually this one was very similar, just more family oriented.

 

We have scheduled another cruise on a small boat - with UnCruise again - to The Galapagos next summer. Our only other cruising experience has been on Disney Cruises with the grandkids.

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Beautiful photos, thanks for posting. I will be in Sitka in a few days so good to read your info on the bears and birds.

 

We did a small boat cruise in the Galapagos. Only 16 of us on board and it was incredible. Our best trip ever. You will love it. Make sure you and your kids can snorkel, it is epic!

 

 

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  • 2 years later...

I hope you will forgive me for reviving this old thread. I have recently reorganized my travel photos - and have finally updated my photos from this trip (after three years of nagging from my family). 
 

I think it is worth updating this thread, since there is so little information on UnCruise Adventures and the other small ship cruises in Alaska. From our experience, little changes each year, so the information shared here is probably still mostly relevant. Plus, I hate leaving a review unfinished, and what else is there to do as winter approaches 😉

 

Lets pick right up with our second day of cruising.

 

We woke up to sunshine and more beautiful scenery.

 

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The usual morning routine was to start with about 20 minutes of gentle stretching on the sun deck. There was a wellness instructor on board, and this person often assisted with expeditions as well.

 

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After our buffet breakfast, we set off for our first Shore Walk. Shore Walks are usually easier than Hikes or Bushwacking, and involve walking along the shore, looking for interesting things. This first Shore Walk wasn’t the most exciting, but it felt good to get out and stretch our legs. 
 

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Any creatures found and examined are put back in their natural home. 
 

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We saw a few more interesting things before heading back to the ship for relaxation and lunch. The afternoon included a Skiff Tour or a more strenuous hike, called a Bushwack. Some of our group went out on the skiff tour. We saw lots of eagles and great scenery. 

 

This was July 4th and the crew treated us to an all you can eat crab fest. Then we had s’mores out on the deck. 

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This was not the most exciting day, but there were no complaints from our group. The kids enjoyed the chance to explore the ship, and the adults enjoyed the opportunity to visit, to read a book, or take a nap.

 

 

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Today (5 July 2016) was jam packed with fun. We woke up to our first cloudy morning. 
 

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We actually enjoyed the overcast day, and wouldn’t have minded seeing some rain as well. But, certainly no complaints about a mostly sunny two weeks in Alaska. 
 

A great start - it is Bacon Day on the Wilderness Discoverer! 
 

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We didn’t go hungry, and we found the crew to be accommodating for those with special dietary needs. Overall, I would rate the food as good, with a few very nice meals during the course of our two weeks. 
 

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Here is a pic of the Activities Board. Each evening, the Expedition Leader (Merrith on our cruise) would describe the next day’s activities.  The guides then went around the room and wrote down your selections. Each morning we checked the board to see which activities we’d been assigned, what time we needed to be ready, and special notes on what to bring.  The guides are almost always able to accommodate everyone’s choices, so there was never a need to rush to sign up first. 
 

As I mentioned previously, hikes usually came in two or three versions, and kayaking often had an easy and an advanced option. Today was the one day snorkeling was on the agenda - more in the next post!
 

Will close out this post with a shot of the Wilderness Discoverer taken from our skiff later in the morning. 
 

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Edited by Shazzah
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