Being held captive on a boat full of strangers while grazing from a buffet all day has never been on my lifetime bucket list. That was before I injured my knee and my week-long kayaking vacation through the remote Alaskan wilderness became a fleeting pipe dream. The upside: my mishap led me to UnCruise Adventures. Its seven-night south-east Alaska journey “exploring John Muir’s Wilderness” changed my opinion on cruising and opened my eyes to a new mode of exploration.
UnCruise’s unorthodox niche in the market is the result of its eccentric founder, Captain Dan Blanchard. The 57-year-old grew up in Mukilteo, Washington, and started working on his father’s renovated tugboat at the age of four. He earned his captain’s license at 18 years old ands ailed around the world in his thirties. Fair to say, Blanchard knows his way around a boat and being an avid outdoorsman, he also knows how to attract an active client.
The beauty of UnCruise is that guests can indulge in luxury and venture out of their comfort zone at the same time. The Safari Endeavor, the second-largest in its nine-vessel fleet, took us from Juneau to Glacier Bay National Park, then Fords Terror wilderness and through lots of small, protected coves where larger ships can’t go.
My Admiral suite, the second-largest of five room styles, was a cozy cocoon, with a king bed, desk, and private bath with shower. I could watch a humpback whale breach from under the covers, but the best wildlife viewing spot was the bow, preferably while mingling with the other guests and sipping a coffee or cocktail.
Since the boat is fully equipped with all the toys that you’d need, including kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, I was able to get even closer to the whales one day, as we paddled through a pod on our way to bushwacking through the Sitka spruce forest. Onboard, my daily workouts rotated from sunrise yoga classes to riding the stationary bicycle in the open-air gym, always ending with a soak in one of two hot tubs on the third-floor aft deck.
UnCruise understands that its active clientele isn’t interested in overeating at every meal. Yes, they can indulge, thanks to a pastry chef who bakes desserts and appetizers that are impossible to ignore, but the meals are regionally sourced, always fresh, and the servings aren’t oversized. This being Alaska, we feasted on salmon, Dungeness crab, or halibut almost daily, but it was certified by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program — which made it even better.
Cabin size: 106 to 216 sq ft
Top selling tip: This is an intimate wilderness round-trip for active explorers, available May-Sep.