Here are ShipsAhoy's list of 7 Bragging Rights on an Alaska Summer UnCruise
By Ilona Kauremszky
Photography by Stephen Smith
Blue skies and glassy seas and cue a pod of rare (for these parts) Orcas – that was our first experience within the first hour aboard our Alaskan summer dream with UnCruise Adventures.
For this small ship expedition cruise line anticipate gourmet dining of James Beard proportions in a spectacular setting where simple ingredients are part of delectable bites that’s got veteran cruisers literally dropping their jaws in disbelief.
Welcome to the “Whale Whisperer,” a.k.a. the S.S. Legacy.
Last month the captain of the Legacy – one of the small ships from the UnCruise fleet – suddenly announced a fast approaching pod of whales starboard at the start of our 7-night Alaska’s Glacier Country cruise. https://www.uncruise.com/destinations/alaska-cruises/alaskas-glacier-country
Only sailing for 30 minutes the spectacular Mother Nature show opened an entire crew with its 46 passengers to the biggest ticket around. The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) reports the Alaska cruise season is topping the charts projecting a 25 percent growth in cruise passengers. This summer alone an estimated 1.3 million cruisers are set to mop up the sun, sea and scenery in Alaska.
Home to the state’s biggest cruise port, cruisers in Juneau arrive to the Final Frontier state’s capital to anticipate the unexpected on a sail of a lifetime in a vessel that easily transports you to places where few have gone before. On the S.S. Legacy guests wear wellies and raincoats and give the mandatory “Viking Handshake” position – that’s a sturdy hand grip — as they disembark the mothership and its new Sea Dragon, a state-of-the-art flat boat, to experience Alaska’s glacier country.
Situated in the Inside Passage famous for its fast currents this is a part of the world if you blink once you might miss the cool stuff. The changing tides form a rich intertidal world of sea creatures that hang around in surprising habitats shown to you by expert UnCruise naturalists who know how to flip rocks and get their hands wet.
Immersed in the world’s largest remaining temperate rainforest fringed with craggy coastal mountains that envelope nutrient-rich waters, critter viewing opportunities by sea or land are abundant.
As you sail past the Tongass National Forest, which is the nation’s largest lungs that spans 17 million acres, and cruise through the Glacier Bay National Park accessible by cruise ship it’s time to inhale the drop-dead gorgeous nature guaranteed on a classic UnCruise Adventures itinerary.
7 Bragging Rights on an UnCruise Alaska summer adventure:
1. The Views
Prepare for a trifecta of phenomenal views:
– You get a bookend of glacier views that starts early on as the cruise heads to Glacier Bay National Park and ends at the mighty Dawes Glacier.
– Watch endangered animals thrive in their natural habitat. See the threatened Stellar sea lions of South Marble Island in their private island domain. You actually whiff the pungent gamey odour of these wild critters before you hear their primordial calls. Speaking of wild, the smaller ship size means getting up to the bridge deck in speedy fashion to witness endangered whales frolicking.
– Immerse in vast tracts of pristine wilderness in the most remote hidden coves without huge ships.
Unlike the large and mid-sized ships that bypass hidden coves this small 90 PAX vessel takes guests into Narnia teeming with wilderness encounters. For a week you get to hang out by The Tongass National Forest and the Glacier Bay National Park, rife with glaciers and the new Huna Tribal House, the first permanent clan house of the Huna Tlingit clan.
Bragging right: The Orcas. Imagine 99.9 percent of the people living on this planet have never seen a live Orca whale.
2. The Ship
The S.S. Legacy is a one-of-a-kind boat that looks like a Victorian steamboat river ship. The 1890s replica coastal steamer which was built in 1984 measures 192 feet long and is as sturdy as she comes. Steady and smooth sailing no big sudden unanticipated bounces were experienced during our voyage through the Inside Passage. The skipper, Captain Tim Voss, has been navigating these icy waters off and on for over two decades with the company.
A small ship means intimate surrounds. The lounge morphs into a living room. Find private nooks with views, cozy chesterfields to flop into, and of course, swing your legs under the bar as you stay a while. By night the lounge is “the” spot for lectures and socializing.
The Legacy’s décor emits an early Alaska prospector days meets Old Victorian charm. There’s an upright piano, black and white pix of gold prospectors, and names like The Pesky Barnacle Saloon, which is one of the ship’s venues. Guests become very familiar with the Pesky Barnacle. Located at the bow, this room is the designated daily excursions gathering spot before heading to the Sea Dragon.
Bragging right: The Sea Dragon is a new customized state-of-the-art excursion platform that accommodates kayaks and skiff boat loading and off-loading. It’s one of a kind!!
3. The Rooms
The 45-room cabin ship has rooms in 6 categories with window views. The largest cabin inventory is the Commander cabin available in queen, double or with twin beds including a private bath and shower. The cabin has ample storage space for two and plenty of outlets for recharging camera batteries. For total seclusion, the Owner’s Suite on the Bridge Deck is spacious and furnished in frills from a private bath with a Jacuzzi tub to a king bed. Each stateroom has a flatscreen TV with a DVD player and iPod docking station, bathrobes and complimentary binoculars for guest use.
Bragging right: Nightly turn down service is a nice compliment to finish a fabulous day in paradise.
4. The Meals
How do they make gourmet on a small ship? Our Executive Chef whose hometown is Joshua Tree, the hub near Coachella Valley (so you know you’re going to have a party in your mouth) cut his teeth cooking in hot destinations like Mexico and Cuba. Chef James Cooper has weaved a SoCal fusion that includes freshly frozen local delicacies plucked from the sea. We dined like royalty at every meal. If the James Beard Foundation ever went fishing for more cruise lines to partner with this ship would be a serious contender. I took an informal poll nightly to see if any diners flinched at their meals, nadda.
Expect a la carte service without the white table cloths. To help combat food waste servers take lunch and dinner order preferences at breakfast. You can switch your meal order at dinner or lunch but the morning dining inquiries give kitchen staff a good idea on food prep for that day.
Bragging Right: The Dungeness Crab, unlimited servings.
5. No Mass Tourism at these ports of call
In summer most cruise ports experience a wave of cruise passengers flooding the streets. On an UnCruise adventure it’s nice to know you won’t be rubbing shoulders with others at their ports of call. However you could be shouldered by tree branches as you bushwhack. Bushwhacking is a land excursion, a hike without trails, and yes, you whack bush.
Paddle past bobbing seals through intertidal water, hike a shoreline in North America’s largest temperate ecosystem, bushwhack in bear country (give it a try), take a skiff ride to a hidden grotto, and never have to say, “Excuse me” to a stranger.
UnCruise Adventures heads to remote splash pads giving passengers a true experience of the wild outdoors. You get to roam leaving behind no footprints. The ship lives up to responsible animal viewing and upholds the necessary guidelines, giving its guests optimal viewing encounters.
Bragging right: Days will be tourist-free.
6. The Service
In this 90 guest-35 crew ratio it’s all about the service… top notch service aimed to please.
One night I heard a guest alert her cruise mate, “You haven’t tried a Negroni, they can make you a Negroni.” They did. One afternoon our skiff driver overheard a mum on our boat alert her hubby on how she’d love to have the perfect photo with the glacier in the background. Without a blink of an eye the boat repositioned with said skiff driver snapping the perfect family photo …in front of one of the world’s finest glaciers.
The UnCruise crew like the knowledgeable expedition guides seek out the strange, unique and rare finds an untrained eye would miss.
Bragging right: I have returned home having a new appreciation of trees, plants, whales and marine microorganisms thanks to the UnCruise Expedition Guides.
7. Unique Ambiance
The summer cruise sails into a white wonderland of drifting ice bergs and white topped mountains accessible by a small ship that can maneuver through ancient fjords and channels named Icy Strait…so the ambiance is surreal and dreamlike. There are many pinch-me moments of dreams turning into reality. It’s a setting of towering ancient rock walls that hide nature’s secrets and beneath the icy waters, a sea world awaits.
Unscripted, UnCruise itineraries are wildlife viewing driven. Get ready for unpredictable, enlightening fun like you have entered a summer camp for adults. The demographic on my ship skewed to the active, curious seniors crowd but there was a young teen and couples celebrating milestone anniversaries.
It’s an ambiance money can’t buy – a wilderness luxury fit for the urbanist in need of tranquility and the outdoor lover who seeks unscripted real life nature moments.
No loud music. No live entertainment. No cellphone service… and yes, no Wi-Fi either. UnCruise is all about reconnecting to nature and sharing those moments with loved ones and new friends. Unplug into Uncruise.
Bragging Right: Dining on salmon and hearing the announcement: ‘Whales starboard’