Join us for an Un-Cruise through Alaska’s Glacier Country
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
I always used to be a ‘big ship’ guy. On my first trip to Alaska in 1998, I remember sailing past a very small ship on our way into Glacier Bay National Park – a remarkable fact, considering that back then, our “large” ship only measured 750 feet in length. I recall looking at this small ship, with its handful of passengers clustered around the aft deck in and amongst canoes and zodiac rafts, and thinking, “Why would you want to sail on that?”
How little I knew. Sadly, it would take me another decade to discover the beauty and magic of small-ship adventure cruising. Fortunately, I’ve been a huge fan of small ships now for several years, and I’ll be the one staring back at passengers on larger ships this summer, as I set sail on a spectacular expedition with Un-Cruise Adventures.
On August 31, I’ll step aboard Safari Endeavour in Juneau, Alaska for a weeklong adventure through parts of Alaska that big ships simply cannot sail to, combined with on-shore adventures that explore this region’s secluded wilderness.
Over the course of a week, we’ll explore Icy Strait, Chichagof Island, Baranof Island, Frederick Sound, Stephen’s Passage, Fords Terror, and Endicott Arm. Un-Cruise Adventures’ Discoverer’s Glacier Country itinerary even includes two entire days spent within Glacier Bay National Park, accompanied by a Park Ranger.
The full itinerary, both here and onboard:
|Day 0||Juneau, Alaska||Arrive Juneau; overnight stay at the Westmark Baranof|
|Day 1||Juneau, Alaska||Embark Safari Endeavour; Upon boarding, your crew greets you with champagne and smiles. Set sail for a week of scenic channels and secluded wilderness.|
|Day 2||Glacier Bay National Park||Accompanied by a National Park Ranger, over the two days in the park you’ll travel nearly 60 miles cruising up-bay to the tidewater glaciers of Grand Pacific and Margerie, which frequently calve huge icebergs into the bay. If conditions permit, we'll lower the skiffs and weave among the icebergs that have fallen from the face of the glaciers. Enjoy an evening at anchor, and mornings paddling your kayak in the quiet of this majestic wilderness. Here in the bay are puffins and sea lions, mountain goats and bears, moose, eagles, and scenery more spectacular than any place on earth. Glacier Bay is at its best when explored by small groups with unfettered time for treks and kayaking inside the bay and wilderness areas.|
|Day 3||Glacier Bay National Park||Enjoy another exclusive day exploring the glaciers and wildlife of Glacier Bay National Park.|
|Day 4||Icy Strait||Today’s the ultimate day of exploration. Set your course for arguably the richest whale waters in Southeast Alaska. Keep watch for the telltale blow of the humpbacks as you scour the nutrient-rich waters in search of whales, porpoise, sea lions, and other wildlife. Join the Captain on the bridge or go on deck with your Expedition Leader. Late afternoon, we’ll drop the skiffs and kayaks for closer inspection of the remote coastline with eyes set on shore for possible bear sightings. This evening, take in the solitude while relaxing in the upper deck hot tub or enjoy a nightcap with your fellow yachtmates in the salon.|
|Day 5||Chichagof Island / Baranof Island||With no binding agenda, today you’ll cruise the waterfall coast of Chichagof Island. Marvel at the grand scenery of Alaska’s wilderness as the crew expertly guides you through those “not in the guidebook” places known only to the locals. This evening, perhaps tucking away in a waterfall-laced fjord, there’ll be time for skiffing, beachcombing or treks ashore, and kayaking to look for sea otters and bears before calling it a day near Baranof Island.|
|Day 6||Frederick Sound / Stephens Passage||Spend the day exploring in Frederick Sound and Stephens Passage—another excellent chance to view humpback whales and other marine wildlife. Pass by Five Fingers Lighthouse and watch for playful antics at a large sea lion haulout made from dozens of rocky islets. Later, cruise picturesque bays, where evergreen forests crowd the shores.|
|Day 7||Fords Terror / Endicott Arm||Cliff-walled fjords sliced into the mountainous mainland are on tap today as you slowly slip into an area widely acclaimed as the most beautiful in Alaska. With more designated Wilderness Areas than any state in the nation, the finest include Endicott Arm and Fords Terror—a pristine tidal inlet and fjord. Explore this majestic fjord by kayak or skiff, a unique opportunity indeed. View rugged ice-covered mountains gleaming high overhead and a glacier that actively calves into the ice-filled fjord of Endicott Arm. Toast your voyage with a festive Farewell Dinner, and before turning in, your Expedition Leaders will share a “photo journal” of your trip together.|
|Day 8||Juneau, Alaska||Disembark Safari Endeavour; transfer to Juneau Airport and onward flights.|
Even after numerous trips through Glacier Bay on larger ships, this pristine piece of Alaskan wilderness still has the power to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Emerald green waters, rising mountains, and towering glaciers that creak and groan like an oncoming thunderstorm make Glacier Bay one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. The idea of spending two days here aboard the cozy, 86-guest Safari Endeavour required no convincing.
Over the course of the week, guests will be able to enjoy opportunities to kayak, paddleboard and sail skiffs throughout secluded bays and hidden coves. If watersports aren’t your thing, you can also go beachcombing, or set out on a hike through the lush Tongass National Rainforest. Of course, wildlife and whale spotting will no doubt be a cherished pastime for many as we sail on a flexible itinerary that allows the vessel’s master to choose the best places to visit.
This is my second trip with Un-Cruise Adventures. In February, I had the chance to experience Mexico’s Sea of Cortes aboard Safari Voyager, and came away impressed with the quality of the adventures ashore and the friendly, personable crew – many of whom are dedicated nature and geology nuts themselves.
The Safari Endeavour is a little more polished, and a little more deluxe than her Mexico-based counterpart. She’ll replace Safari Voyager in the Sea of Cortes this coming fall, but Safari Endeavour has earned a legion of loyal guests in a single region: Alaska.
At 232 feet in length, Safari Endeavour offers pretty much everything you could want over the course of a single week. Her 43 staterooms all have picture views and nice touches like iPod docking stations, TV and DVD players, and terrycloth bathrobes. The ship also boasts a hot tub and sauna – always popular in the chilly temperatures of Alaska – and guests are entitled to a complimentary massage.
Also provided complimentary are all onboard beverages, all onboard and on-shore activities and equipment, and even transfers to and from Juneau Airport and the ship. Guests in Alaska even receive an introductory subscription to Alaska Geographic.
I’m actually quite excited about my stateroom, too. For seven days, I’ll be residing in a Commander Stateroom located on the Upper Deck. These feature twin beds that can’t be combined into a queen, which might sound like a drawback, but isn’t. Here’s why: these staterooms open up onto the expansive, wrap-around promenade rather than to an interior corridor, meaning that those frequent whale sightings are just two feet away. Double view windows frame the door to the promenade, and these staterooms include a writing desk and, of course, a private bath with shower.
The only thing that Safari Voyager lacks – which I’m not terribly upset about – is internet access. Again, it may sound like a negative, but I have to go the other way with it: it’s a huge positive. With a complete lack of internet, it’s impossible for guests to be tempted to check their emails or get back to that last-minute business request. As it should be: you’re on vacation.
Of course, that means that our Live Voyage Report will be delayed by a week. Instead, we’ll run day-to-day Live Coverage beginning on Sunday, September 7 and continuing to Sunday, September 14, 2014.
If you’ve always been curious about small-ship cruising – or are just interested in seeing Alaska in a different way, be sure to tune in. It promises to be an exciting – and very unique – Un-Cruise!