Arrival in Juneau
We got off the plane in Juneau and were met by an UnCruise representative who directed us to the van that would take us to the hospitality center. We grabbed our bags and they were tagged to go right to our room on the ship. We had a couple hours to explore Juneau before boarding. It was so different to be there without any big ships in port. It was also sad to see how many of the shops were either still closed or worse had signs that said out of business. Hopefully the ships starting back up in July will bring some businesses back to life.
Our ship could hold 76 but there were only 23 guests in total on our cruise. Everyone did have to be fully vaccinated to cruise so no masks were required on the ship which I was very happy about. After boarding we went through the safety talk and drill and were ready to set sail. We had dinner and after that I was pretty tired since we were now 4 hours behind East Coast time. Even though it was only 9 pm it felt like 1 am to me.
The first morning started with breakfast and then an overview of the activities to come during the week. Mud boots are very important when exploring Alaska with a boat like UnCruise since we would be going ashore on skiffs and have wet landings most of the time. Luckily the ship has a pretty good stash of boots onboard so if you didn't already have a pair of your own there were some to borrow. We also got our PFD (personal floatation device) that we would wear while kayaking. Each day at lunch our activities director would go over the planned activities for the next day and we could choose the ones we wanted to do.
Day 1 - Neka Bay
On the first morning I was still sort of on East Coast time so I was up early and had time to walk around the top deck before our 7:30 am breakfast. I skipped the morning stretch that I did on our Sea of Cortes cruise because for me it was just a little too chilly for that. The day started with the most amazing views so I took that as a sign that this was what was to come all week! Our first day's adventures started with a bushwack. We hopped on a skiff and headed over to an island where we explored the woods and checked out some of the foliage. It was fun climbing over and under logs and stomping in the mud but once was enough of that for me. After lunch our next activity was kayaking and this was much more fun. We got to see a bear hanging out on the shore only a few feet from where we were paddling. We were enjoying some perfect weather and all the crew kept commenting about how great this was. Even better was that since we were such a small group of guests some of the crew got to also get out and enjoy the excursions too. Our bartender joined us on today's kayak which also helped out since there was an odd number of guests signed up to kayak and the kayaks are all doubles. That night we were just at the edge of Glacier Bay and were able to stop at the Welcome Center to walk around. It turns out that this was the only time during our cruise that we would see other people.
Day 2 - Glacier Bay
Today we entered Glacier Bay - which covers 3.3 million acres and part of a 25 million acre World Heritage Site. It is one of the world's largest international protected areas. There are a lot of rules while in Glacier Bay which are all put in place to protect the wildlife. One rule is that we could only have one propeller in the water going at one time. That did mean the excursions off the boat had to be spread out a bit to accommodate that rule. We were anchored up by Lamplugh Glacier and todays excursion choices were a shorewalk, a ridge walk, skiff ride, and kayak. We opted for the skiff ride and kayak options as I really wanted to be out on the water since we had such beautiful sunny weather. Our skiff ride was after breakfast and we got to ride around Lamplugh Glacier a little and check out some of the floating ice. Then we headed the opposite direction and got to check out Johns Hopkins Glacier, which our guide told us she had only been able to see the whole thing once before but after today she could say she saw it twice since there wasn't a cloud or any fog in sight. The Harbor Seals use this area to give birth to thier pups so up until September no boat can go past a certain point. We had a curious male seal watching us and following us a little. The guide told us that the males like to hang out around there because once the females have weaned thier pups (which surprisingly takes only about 4 weeks) they come on back out start the whole process over again. It sounds like for the most part the females are just always pregnant. While we were out on the skiff our guide used a net to scoop up a chunk of the floating ice to bring back to the ship. That ice was out on the top deck the rest of the day and night and still didn't melt. After lunch it was time to kayak! This was so much fun today as we got up much closer to the Lamplugh glacier than we did on the skiff. In the morning a group had done a shorewalk and we were now kayaking over the area they had walked on in the morning because the tides here have up to 25 ft changes. We paddled through all kinds of ice and it was almost like bumper boats with ice. It was amazing to see how much the wind changed as you got closer to the glacier. There are katabatic winds that come off the glacier so we went from warm sunny flat water to paddling through currents and getting blown backwards pretty fast. We kept hoping for some calving of the glacier to happen while we were floating around the area. We heard a few cracks which sounded like thunder but no big chunks came off the front.
After everyone was back onboard from thier excursions there was a polar plunge. Anyone that wished to jump off the back of the boat for a quick dip in the 45 degree water was welcome to do it. I passed on that since the water needs to be at least double that temperature for me to even think about swimming. There were a bunch of brave guests that did it and then a bunch of crew did it as well. The hot tubs onboard were popular after the plunge. After dinner we were told dessert was being served on the top deck since it was still so lovely outside and we had a very special view. During dinner the ship had moved to be in front of Margerie Glacier. We had seen this glacier on our last visit to Alaska while we were cruising on Princess. She is a very impressive glacier but has changed a lot since we saw her in August 2019. It was amazing to see how much had calved off and how she had retreated. Many of the glaciers are retreating so much that some are no longer over water so are not tidewater glaciers anymore but have become land glaciers. We got to see a bunch of calving while we were floating around in front of Marjorie which was very cool.
After that one of the gudies, Kim, was giving a talk on Whales in the lounge. Since I love whales I was looking forward to it. It was almost like Kim talking about whales just attracted them to our boat! Within a few minutes we heard that some Dall's Porpoise were riding our bow wake. The lounge is in the front of the boat so it made to easy watching right out the window. We saw at least a dozen of them jumping in our waves and just playing around. It was so amazing! Once they got tired and swam off we got back to the talk. After the talk we headed back to our room and within a few minutes the Captain came on the speaker to say Humpbacks were spotted. I threw on my coat and headed out to the bow. Just then multiple humpbacks breached which just a site to see. Even our guide Kim, who loves whales, was overjoyed and said this was really something special. I think we spent a good hour just watching the whales spout, breach, and my favorite part when they dive and show thier fluke. Kim talked earlier about a website HappyWhale.com where you can upload photos of whale flukes and they can use something almost like facial recognition and tell you which whale you saw. A whale's fluke is like a fingerprint and unique to each whale. I did get one photo even though far away that I am going to upload and see if we can find out about at least one of the whales we saw that night.
Day 3 - Glacier Bay
Our cruise had 2 full days in Glacier Bay so day 3 started off with an early sighting of goats on an island we were passing by. Some people saw bears too. Today did not have any morning excursions since today was more about sailing around Glacier Bay. After breakfast we went by another island, this was one full of sea lions soaking up the sun along with a lot of tufted puffins all nesting in the rocky area of this island. We saw a couple mamma sea lions swim by with fuzzy babies sitting on their bellies as they went by. The puffins were also fun to watch since they are not the best fliers or landers.
Later that day we did anchor so that everyone could squeeze in an off the boat activity that day. We had signed up to kayak but the wind had kicked up some pretty good waves so we opted to skiff instead. That is just another great thing about UnCruise: the flexibility to do whatever works best that day. We got to check out some of the crazy kelp that grows in this area. We also came upon an otter who was just hanging out in the kelp. I didn't know that the otters do not eat the kelp but instead they eat the urchins that eat the kelp. So when the otters almost went extinct not that long ago the kelp also almost disappeared since the urchins didn't have anyone eating them. This otter just hung onto a piece of kelp and was floating on his back and let us get pretty close.
Day 4 - Pavlov Bay
We started today off with an open kayak - this was the first and only time without having to follow a guide around. We were shown the area we had to stay in and then we were free to explore on the kayak. It was so fun just going around on our own and we would stop and just listen to the quiet. We saw some eagles that let us get pretty close before they took off. A curious seal came pretty close to us and we were only in about a foot of water in the bay so we were surprised he would come in that shallow. Later we learned that a pod of Orcas had gone by the bay so that was most likely why that little guy was in so shallow. After lunch we went out on a skiff to see if we could find the Orcas since those that saw them earlier knew they went into a dead end bay so they would have to come back out the same way they went in. We found them pretty quick and just sort of followed along watching them swim. There was even a baby with them which was so cute!
Day 5 - Robert and Crow Island
Today was the one day where there was an option for an all day excursion. They didn't really say too much about what they would do all day so we opted to go with the 2 shorter excursions instead. The all day people were given a box lunch and left right after breakfast. We chose to take a skiff ride in the morning and it turned out to be a private skiff for just the 2 of us which was pretty cool. There were 3 seals that were just hanging around the boat that morning fooling around and splashing a bit. I nicknamed them Larry, Curly, and Moe. When I told our skiff driver that she had no clue what those 3 names were from - I felt pretty old then. There was also a humpback hanging around the area so we headed out to check him out. We pretty much just floated around out by him watching where he would go each time he took a deep dive. Then we would go towards his spout and watch some more. After our skiff it was time for lunch and found that there were just 9 of us that didn't choose the all day option so it was a nice small group for lunch onboard. After lunch we did a guided kayak. We paddled out to a small island that was off the front of the boat and we went around checking out the things living close to shore. I was so surprised by the jellyfish - for some reason I was thinking they only lived in warm water. We were also watching as 3 eagles seemed to be getting bombarded by a few crows. We could see the eagle's nest and the crows seemed to be dive bombing so we think maybe they were after some food. After dinner the crew told us they had a surprise set up for us. We found out while we were eating that they had set up a bonfire on the beach so we hopped on the skiffs to go hang out on the beach for a couple hours and enjoy drinks, stories around the fire, and exploring the beach while watching the sun start to set. The sky still looked very pretty at 10 pm which is around the sunset time but it never really seemed to get all the way dark up here. We had been so lucky with our weather all week to have mostly sun and temperatures in the 60s every day. The crew just couldn't stop saying how wonderful it had been to be able to do things they hadn't been able to do in a long time.
Day 6 - Tracy Arm
Our last day onboard was spent in Tracy Arm. After breakfast we all hopped on the skiffs and made our way closer to South Sawyer Glacier. Along the way we went through lots of floating ice. We learned that the smaller ones are growlers, the bigger chunks are Begy-bits, and then icebergs are the really big ones. The best thing about visiting right now and being on UnCruise is that we do things you would never get to do on a big ship - like move from the ship to skiffs without anchoring while in Tracy Arm. The skiffs allow us to get very close not only to the glacier but during this time of year the mamma seals swim up close to the glacier to give birth to thier pups on the large floating ice. Being this far up the arm keeps them safer from the Orcas that would eat them and thier babies. They were a little skittish around us too and sometimes if we got too close the mamma and baby would slide down off the ice into the water to hide. Sometimes they got separated and you could hear the baby seal crying out in what really sounded like it was saying MOM! Some of them didn't seem as bothered by us and didn't move. We saw some pretty cool calving of the glacier before making our way back to the boat. Some of the floating ice was just the most amazing shades of blue. It is so blue because the dense ice of the glacier absorbs every other color of the spectrum except blue so blue is what we see. The denser the ice the more vivid the blue looks.
After getting back onboard we enjoyed lunch and the scenic views as we sailed back out of Tracy Arm. The sad news was that this was our last night onboard so we had to talk about disembarkation and return our borrowed items like the boots and PFDs. We ended the night with a slide show of photos that the guides took all week. It was a lovely way to recap our amazing week and we would also get a link to all the photos via email.
The last morning came all too quickly and after breakfast we were off the boat. Disembarkation on a small ship is so easy. All of the crew lined up on the upper deck to waive goodbye to us and the Captain was on the dock to shake hands. A bonus was the CEO of UnCruise was also on the dock to say welcome back to all of us. UnCruise does include your transfers back to the airport which is also very nice. We had a later flight so our bags were stored and we were free to hang out in the hospitality room or enjoy Juneau. We did a little of both before it was time to head back to the airport. Unlike our journey to Alaska where I broke up our flight with a stop over in Seattle this time we were headed straight back to FL. This meant a red-eye flight which seemed like a good idea at the time. I always forget how tired I feel after a red eye so I might have to remember that for next time we have a long haul flight and opt for the break it up with a stop over somewhere on the way home.
We had an Unbelievably good time on our UnCruise and cannot wait to do another one! I think Hawaii is next up on my UnCruise bucket list! I will post lots more photos to my facebook page soon so if you want to see more check out - My Page
Day 6 – Ensenada Grande
Today was the day we had been waiting for all cruise – the day we get to snorkel with Sea Lions. This was the main reason I was willing to brave the water earlier in the week to get the hang of snorkeling. It was a little choppy but at least the wind had died down and the sun was out. There was a dozen of us willing to get in the water with the sea lions while the others had an option to stay dry and just go around the sea lion island in a small boat. I suited up with my multiple layers and was ready. We had to take a skiff over to the boat from a company (Fun Baja) that takes people out to swim with the Sea Lions. The rookery is on the island of Partida in the Espiritu Santo Island Archipelago. Our guide Carlos gave all the details on what to do and what not to do. You really do not want to annoy the large male sea lions. We pulled up to the island it and really was covered in sea lions and also lots of birds. The rocks actually looked snow covered due to all the bird droppings. It was time to get in the water and you cannot help but be noisy when getting in because it was so cold but I waited a bit for my heart to adjust and then we started swimming closer. I kept my eye on Carlos as I didn’t want to lose him figuring he knew best what to do. As we got closer a big wave hit me and I drank a good bit a sea water and was about ready to say get me out of here but I took a few minutes to recover and calm down. After that I really did start to enjoy it and get the hang of it. I was floating along and a little sea lion swam right over to me. I wasn’t sure what to do but I laughed so hard I got a mask full of water. This little guy really had fun playing with us. He nibbled on anyone hands that were out or their flippers. He also thought Carlos’s orange life ring looked like fun and played around with that for a bit. We thought he might go through it like a sea lion at a show but he didn’t. He was also able to entertain himself quite well as I watched him dive down and he blew a few big bubbles and then he followed them up to the surface but right before they reached the top he would pop them with his nose. Again I was laughing and let me just say laughing and snorkeling do not go well together. We were out in the water about an hour and by then I was really cold so I was happy when Carlos asked who is ready to go back to the boat. On the short swim back Carlos told us to keep looking in the water as there are sometimes big rays out there. I looked down and decided I really didn’t want to see if there was one as it looked way too deep. I was better off keeping my head out of the water. I was glad to get back on the boat and sit in the sun and try to warm my fingers up again. When we got back on the ship it was right in the hot tub to warm up. This was the last excursion with wetsuits so we helped by dunking them in the containers of clean water and hung them up. We also rinsed the other borrowed gear and put in the piles for the crew to put away. We did all this before lunch! I had worked up a hunger and was happy to not have to wait long for lunch.
After lunch we headed out for one last guided kayak. The wind had picked up a bit so we mostly stuck to the coast but it was another fun paddle. We were than back onboard for one last happy hour. We also had to start thinking about packing the the procedure for the morning. Guests with an early flight were scheduled for the first bus back to Los Cabos while the rest of us went back to the hospitality area that we met at on the first day. After all the talk about what to do in the morning it was time for dinner but Jess told us to pop back into the lounge after dinner as there would be a slide show of photos that the guides took all week. We enjoyed one last delicious dinner and watched the show before heading back to pack.
Our Last Day
Our luggage had to be tagged and outside our door before we went to 7 am breakfast. We had one last time to say goodbye to our new friends and then it was time to board the buses. Most of the crew were out on the pier to say goodbye which was a very nice touch. We headed back to Los Cabos and walked around town for a bit before it was time for our shuttle back to the airport. We had a great time in Baja and would definitely do it again!
Day 2 - Bahia Agua Verde
Woke up this morning and made it to the 7 am stretch and WOW! The cove we are in today is just gorgeous! The weather also looked like it was going to cooperate both with sun and no wind. On the way to breakfast we saw that we had the morning Kayak and afternoon Burro which we knew was perfect since it is usually best to get out on the kayaks while there isn't any wind. We know from experience that wind tends to kick up more as the day goes on. After breakfast it was out to the aft deck to board the skiff to the beach. Our ship is stocked with kayaks and has a platform they use to launch kayaks in other locations but here in Baja they prefer to launch from the beach. The crew had already taken the kayaks over and had them ready on the beach for us. We grabbed our paddles and headed out. Our adventure guide for this one was Mike and he was also very excited about the lovely weather we had. We paddled around the coast and even out a rock formation a few hundred feet from the coast. Mike told us that the water all around that rock formation was very deep so many birds went there to fish and live on the rocks. The water close to the coast was very clear so that we could see things like fish, starfish, and other things on the bottom while kayaking. It was a great morning adventure and we all worked up a hunger for lunch. Back to the ship with a little time to shower and head to lunch. It was another great meal which was topped off by the most adorable and equally delicious dessert! Our pastry chef made macrons shaped like a cactus and filled with a sort of Mexican eggnog cream. All I could say was OH MY GOD!
After lunch it was time to head out for our Burro ride. The Romero family brings the burros over to the island every week just for UnCruise. Julio, the head of the family, takes a look at each guest and then pairs you with the right Burro for you. I guess he could tell I like to go fast because I got the Burro that wanted to pass everyone was we went up the first steep hill. The path was pretty narrow and he liked passing on the outside so I just tried to trust he knew what he was doing and wouldn't step too close to the edge. It was about an hour ride and we went over rocks and sand, up and down hills, and even through an oasis which was full of palm trees and freshwater. The family that brings the burros also had a little shop set up on the beach with some things they have made that were for sale. I always enjoy being able to buy something that was made by the locals when we travel so I picked up a pair of earrings and a necklace.
Since the weather was so nice we had the option to hang out on the beach a bit longer and could take out kayaks or paddleboard or head back to the ship. We chose to hang out for awhile. The crew brought over towels, chairs, snacks, and drinks as well so it was a great beach day! After enjoying the beach it was time to head back for Happy Hour and pick tomorrow's activities. We also also got a special treat and Julio joined us for happy hour and entertained us with a few songs. They were all in Spanish so I could only pick up a few parts but they all sounded like very sad songs to me. We enjoyed another very delicious meal but the chef which of course included another amazing dessert from Katie our pastry chef. For anyone that knows me or has traveled with me you will know I am a picky eater so I was a little worried about meals on a small ship. Even though there have only been 3 choices for lunch or dinner so far I have found something each time and you can also sort of customize the options if there is something you don't like. Being that we are on the sea I hve been opting for the fish most nights and they have been delicious!
Day 3 - Puerto Escondido
We were supposed to have adventures in the morning but due to wind they were cancelled so we instead went out whale watching and switched onshore adventures to the afternoon. We lucked out and quickly spotted a spout and Captain headed that way. After carefully watching and waiting it was identified as a Blue Whale, which is one of the biggest whales. We would watch the spout come up and then wait to see if the whale appeared too and most times the whale took a few breaths and then you would see the fluke (tail) as the whale dove and then wait 8 - 10 minutes to search for where he would come back up. While keeping track of the Blue Whale a pod of dolphins came over to play with us. They were bow riding and also playing in our wake. They really seem like kids that were swimming around and even showing off a little. It was so fun to watch them.
After some whale and dolphin watching it was time for lunch and while having lunch we pulled into the first actual dock we have seen since leaving La Paz. We are in Puerto Escondido which is a well protected harbor with mountains almost all around so it is also given the name The Waiting Room since many boats will wait out storms here. There were a few adventure options available today - a strenuous hike, snorkeling, a skiff ride, or you could just walk around the marina we were docked in. We opted for the skiff but it was windy and cloudy so a bit cold out on the water but we still saw some interesting things. We were happy to not do much this afternoon anyway since this was the first time since boarding that we were able to pick up a wi-fi signal. My travels are work for me so I really don't mind staying in touch while I travel but I hadn't been expecting to be without wi-fi so much on this trip. I used this time to check on emails and make sure all my clients were OK. Tomorrow we are headed to the Gray Whale Sanctuary which is one of the main reasons I chose this cruise at this time of year. The momma Gray whales come to this special bay to have their babies each year in late January and stay through early March.
Our ship left Avignon at 4:45 am to make our way to Viviers. Along the way we passed through the deepest lock on the Rhone - the Bollene Lock. When you go through the locks on a river cruise your ship really fits snugly in the lock so if you were to open your balcony you really only have a couple inches between you and the wall. When you enter in low if feels like you went into a tunnel and then you slowly rise up and see sunlight again.
We arrived in Viviers after lunch. When we docked it was easy to see that Viviers is a very small and old village. There was even a Renaissance faire going on so the townspeople were dressed for the occasion which made it feel even more like we had stepped back in time. Today we chose the Active option and are "canoeing" again but just like yesterday we learned that canoeing actually means kayaking. Today's kayak was an included option so we had a few more people going but it was still a nice small group. However when we got to the river we quickly realized it was a Saturday and that definitely changes the crowd. Even though the weather was overcast and only in the low 60s the river was very crowded. We were kayaking through the Gorges de l'Ardeche. Our guide said that during the summer there is usually around 5,000 kayakers on the river each day. There were only a few hundred today and that seemed too crowded for me. I guess we got spoiled yesterday having that river all to ourselves. Our guides did a good job keeping us together and made us aware of what was coming as there were a few rough patches but it was really fun. The gorge was really impressive with lots of great walls of limestone. We all got wet but no one flipped over so it was all good. Today there were a lot of included options to choose from. There was another Active that was a hike through gorges so they saw a lot of the same things we did but from a different perspective. There was a Discovery which was underground wine tasting. There were 2 Classic which were either to the Lock Bollene or to a crocodile farm.
After dinner we were all treated to a guided walk through town to learn more about the history which was very interesting. The town of Viviers floods a lot but it sounds like the townspeople adapt. Viviers is home to the smallest cathedral in France about 1/8 the size of Notre Dame. I love getting to stop in these cute little places!
Last night we arrived in Avignon pretty late at night but we were able to catch a view of the half bridge of Avignon under an almost full moon. We pulled up next to another river cruise ship which happens a lot with the river cruises because there is limited docking space. Unfortunately for us the ship we pulled up next to had neon green lighting that ran the length of the ship and they did not turn it off at all so our room now had a green glow overnight. I thought it was pretty rude that they wouldn't turn that off when a ship tied up next to them so I quickly made a note on which cruise line that was and will remember not to book them. Personally I wouldn't want to cruise on a ship that was lit up like that every night.
Today we were in port long enough to not only choose an included morning excursion but also there are some afternoon options that you could purchase. We really enjoy kayaking so I signed us up for the afternoon option to do that. This morning I chose the Discovery option which was described as going to discover more about Essential Oils at the Musee des Aromes et du Parfum and it said we would get to create our own scent. I really enjoy using essential oils myself so I liked the idea of learning more and making my own scent. Being in the lavender capital of the world and that being my favorite oil I was thinking this would be an interesting excursion for me. Unfortunately it wasn't really as described and we didn't get to create a scent and really didn't get to do anything with essential oils. The museum had some neat collections but I would not call this a Discovery or hands on excursion at all. The only saving thing was we also stopped in St Remy which was a totally adorable French Village that I enjoyed wandering around. We were there too early in the morning though so most of the shops were not open yet but I actually enjoyed getting photos of the empty streets and cafes. The Active Adventure for today was an ebike ride through the Gard with a little wine tasting included. I heard that was a very good excursion and a much better bike ride than our first one. The Classic excursion for today was a city tour including the Palace of the Popes and a picnic. It sounds like the picnic was more of a tasting of a few samples but it sounds like everyone that went enjoyed it.
I was glad that I had booked us on the optional afternoon excursion to kayak on the Pont du Gard. It was a little chilly and raining a little but I was excited to go kayaking. We were a small group of just 10 guests going kayaking (I am thinking the weather had a few change their minds). It was raining for the first few minutes but it cleared up and turned into a great day and we had the river to ourselves. We paddled right under an old Roman Aqueduct which is the highest of all elevated Roman Aqueducts. The river did most of the work so it was an easy and enjoyable paddle down the river.
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