by Bob Hoelscher
Published January 01, 2018
Seattle-based Un-Cruise Adventures is surely one of the most aptly-named companies in the travel industry. My November sailing aboard the line’s Safari Voyager was unlike any other cruise I’ve ever taken; a true adventure trip, it was designed specifically for hardy souls with no interest in cruising to popular, well-known ports with thousands of their closest friends on a mammoth floating resort.
Increased fascination with exotic flora and fauna, our global environment and its preservation, and the possibilities of small group exploration have fed a valid and expanding market segment for no-holds-barred active and certifiably green adventure travel. These are folks for whom such possibilities as rough seas, rain, mud, damp life jackets, flexible scheduling, lack of contact with the outside world, limited amenities, zodiac transfers and “wet” landings are of little if any concern, and instead, are just aspects of enjoying “getting away from it all” on an adventurous vacation. And the high percentage of happy repeat passengers during my week aboard Safari Voyager testifies that they love the Un-Cruise product.
Safari Voyager is by no means a luxury vessel. Built originally in 1982, it was substantially rebuilt in 2016 and, at 1,195 tons, is a tiny fraction of the size of typical modern-day cruise ships. Accommodating just 62 guests, it likely wasn’t originally intended for open ocean travel, as its lack of stabilizers contributes to a considerable amount of motion in even moderate seas. Consequently, this is not a ship for those afflicted by seasickness. Nor is it for those with physical disabilities, as its four decks can be reached only by relatively steep staircases.
Food is plentiful, nicely presented and unquestionably healthy. All beverages are included, except for expensive wine vintages. Standard cabins, which can be configured with either twin beds or one queen bed, are compact but well laid out and comfortable.
Un-Cruise’s fleet consists of nine small ships with maximum capacities of 22 to 88 guests. Our itinerary featured a precruise overnight at a luxury hotel in San Jose, Costa Rica; a week exploring the national parks, wildlife refuges, beaches and conservation areas along the Pacific coasts of Costa Rica and Panama; and a full nighttime transit of the Panama Canal. On the way to the airport in Panama City the following morning, we also viewed the new, larger locks on the Caribbean side from an overlook and visitor center. Service from knowledgeable, dedicated crew members, who seemed always willing to honor special requests, such as mine for cheeseburgers at lunch, was very good throughout.
Other destinations the company offers include Mexico’s Sea of Cortés, Hawaii, the Galápagos Islands, the Columbia and Snake Rivers, and the waters of the Pacific Northwest in Washington and British Columbia. However, during the April to September season, its major emphasis is on exploring the remote coves, passages, islands and wilderness areas of southeast Alaska, where the bigger ships usually can’t venture.
The demand for ecology-oriented adventure travel continues to grow, attracting both younger and mature guests with sufficient means to afford small, unique journeys into the wild. For those not averse to a bit of roughing it, Un-Cruise Adventures has the vacation they are seeking.