I have been to Alaska 3 times in the past 5 years and each time has been a totally different type of trip. Alaska is one of those places that you could even do the same exact trip 3 times and each time will be totally different.
I used to think of cruising as something I only wanted to do somewhere with warm weather so I always balked at an Alaska cruise. I finally decided to cruise Alaska in 2016 and then I wished I hadn't put it off so long. Alaska is a gorgeous place with so much to see and do. It is always chaging too so even if you have been before there is still reasaon to go back again!
7 night Round Trip Seattle or Vancouver
This was what my first Alaska cruise was - technically mine started in Fort Lauderdale and went through the Panama Canal before heading up to Seattle and I added the 7 night Alaska cruise onto that.
This is is the typical cruise that most people will take and it is a great way to try Alaska and see if you like it. This cruise will take you to the main tourist areas in Southeast Alaska but it is sort of just a taste of Alaska. Alaska is so huge that just visiting that small area is just the tip of the iceberg literally. These cruises will generally visit Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway. They will also include some sort of glacier. The best cruises will go to Glacier Bay but those permits are very limited so that isn't possible on every cruise. Other popular options are Hubbard Glacier or Tracy Arm. Either way it is just breathtaking to get to see a glacier up close.
1 Way Cruise - Northbound or Southbound
These can be a 7 night cruise but the best thing to do is a Cruisetour. They will either start in Seattle or Vancouver or end there. The other end is usually Anchorage. This way you get to see the same areas at the 7 night round trip cruises but then you also get further North in Alaska. Adding a Cruisetour onto the cruise gives you the opportunity to really explore Alaska on land. This is the option that will give you the scenic train rides and a chance to get into Denali National Park. My second visit to Alaska was a Cruisetour followed by a 7 night cruise southbound to Vancouver. We started up in Fairbanks and worked our way back down to Anchorage to get our cruise going South. Getting to see more of the land portion of Alaska really gives you a better perspective of how huge Alaska is and how much the weather can vary.
Small Ship Cruise in Alaska
This was my most recent way to see Alaska and this is way to go if you are looking for more of an adventure and less touristy stuff. Our cruise didn't stop at any other towns during our 7 nights. We were in Glacier Bay for 2 days whereas my previous cruise on the big ship only had a few hours to explore it. Small ships can get into smaller areas and closer to wildlife so it is a different experience. These cruises can either go round trip out of an Alaskan port or sometimes they also go one way. Ours was round trip out of Juneau but some will do one way like Juneau to Ketchikan. Those towns you begin or end in will be your option for shopping.
No matter which way you choose to see Alaska you won't be disappointed.
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
Last week Canada announced no cruise ships in Canadian waters until February 2022. This really is a big blow to Alaska since this could mean the end to the summer cruise season this year in Alaska. You might be asking why would that matter if the ships just went from Seattle to Alaska but there is a law that prevents foreign flagged ships from going from one US port to another US port without stopping at a foreign port. All of the big cruise lines are foreign flagged so that only leaves just a couple small ships that US based that can still sail Alaska if things do not change.
The cruise lines and Alaska representatives are petitioning to have that one law, which is 135 years old, either revoked or maybe just waived for this year. Alaska relies heavily on tourism so going a second year without cruises is just crushing to them.
None of the cruise lines have cancelled the Alaska sailings for this summer just yet. They are hoping to find a way to somehow salvage the season and I hope they are able to as well. I love Alaska really hate to see all of those people who depend on the tourists hurt by this.
There are a few small cruise lines that will be sailing Alaska for sure so if you have your heart set on Alaska this summer or you really love the idea of maybe getting to see Alaska with not as many other people you might want to grab a room on one of these soon!
Here are the 4 Cruise Lines that are not affected by the Canada Ban -
Uncruise - This one is my favorite! I sailed with them in Sea of Cortes last year (had no idea at that time it would be my last cruise for a long time). "Our Alaska adventure cruises deliver action, exploration, and the unexpected—paddling and hiking, calving glaciers, Glacier Bay National Park, bears, whales, and polar plunges. Nobody does Alaska better."
American Cruise Line - This one offers more of a river cruise experience onboard the ship vs the expedition style of UnCruise. So if you are looking for a more relaxed cruise this might be the right choice. "Onboard the newest small cruise ships in the region, you will experience the breathtaking scenery and inspiring wildlife of Alaska like never before. Get up close and personal to the natural beauty of Alaska as we cruise to Mendenhall Glacier, Glacier Bay and more. Choose from three unique and fascinating itineraries."
Linblad - This is another expedition style like Uncruise. They are partnered with National Geographic so you know you will get up close with nature. "You’ll hear the thunderous crack of calving glaciers. Sail alongside pods of orca; see breaching humpbacks and foraging brown bears on our small ship Alaska cruise. Hike verdant old-growth rain forests and kayak peaceful coastlines. In the 30+ years we’ve been exploring, we have provided the richest experience possible on our Alaska expedition cruises."
Alaska Dream Cruise - Like the name says they are truly Alaska focused. "Our all-inclusive, small expedition itineraries offer a mix of excursions in intriguing towns and Native villages and adventures in raw wilderness bays and glacial fjords. This approach to small vessel expeditions in Alaska offers travelers a comprehensive look at all the Inside Passage has to offer. Every experience is hand-picked for its value in immersing you in True Alaska."
If you want to be sure you don't miss out on the Alaska cruise season this summer or if you are want to plan for 2022 I would be happy to help you find the right ship and itinerary for you!
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 4 - Magdalena Bay
Today is all about the Gray Whales. We had to be up early and ready to go as we needed to board vans that would take us over to the Pacific side of the peninsula. It was about a 3 hour ride over to the other side but we did make a pit stop to use bathrooms and have a snack. This time of the year mother gray whales come to Magdalena Bay to give birth so we are excited about the possibility of getting to see the babies. UnCruise only does this excursion during the birthing season. When we got to the bay we got into a panga boat with a local captain that took us out in search of the whales. The bay is pretty well protected so you can see why the momma whales like it. After just a few minutes we saw a spout and headed right towards it. Did you know that the spout from a Gray Whale is heart shaped? I didn't know that but I did get to see up close that it is true. We ended up getting to see quite a few whales and could tell some where pairs of mother and baby by how close they were together. We thought that at least one was having fun playing with us as she would spy-hop (vertically pokes its head out of the water). Then there was a pair that seemed to just be relaxing and would come up to float for a bit. It was a great 2 hours out on the water. After our whale watch adventure was over it was time for lunch at a local seafood restaurant. They served us a huge plate of food with shrimp, lobster, fish, rice, and salads. Then it was time to head back to Sea of Cortes side so that was nap time in the vans. We got back to port and boarded the ship for happy hour. Captain Shep came down to let us know that once we were out of “the waiting room” that we would be hitting a little bit of rough water so he was waiting until after dinner was over to leave port. We have been on many cruises with rough weather so we were not too worried. Turns out that to us it just seemed like some gentle waves which were nice to lull you to sleep. Since we were up so early I was ready for bed by 8 pm! Our brief time with wi-fi seemed to be coming to an end so we are guessing we not get wifi again until we return to LaPaz.
Day 5 – Bahia of San Francisco
This morning we woke up find us anchored out by a lovely crescent moon shaped beach. It was a bit windy but we had signed up for the morning hike. We grabbed some breakfast and then headed to the aft to board our skiff to shore. It was a really nice hike to a ridge that ran along most of the island so we got a lot of amazing views. Then we walked down in another spot where we were able to walk over and check out the salt flat. Our guide, Jenny, explained to us how the locals harvest the salt to use for the fish they catch and then they can trade. It was then back to the boat for lunch. After lunch the crew had set up a beach party back on shore for us so we were able to go back over and snorkel, kayak, paddle board and just enjoy the beach. We had fun exploring the beach but it was a bit too chilly for getting in the water. Tonight's Happy Hour was a little different since we had already signed up for Friday's adventures the day before. I guess they really needed to get an idea how many boats they would need for going over to the sea lions so they asked us to decide on that one early. Jess gave plenty of fair warnings about how the swimming with the sea lions might not be easy so they wanted to set the right expectations before anyone signed up. I was doing it no matter what. I figured that if even what she was saying was worst case scenario I could handle that. All of our desserts each day have been delicious but tonight's wasn't only delicious it was like a piece of art. Chase our server told us dessert was apple strudel but it was going to be a bit different than what we are used to. When it came out I think everyone ohhhed and ahhhed and of course took photos. It was almost too perfect to eat but it really did taste as good at it looked!
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.
*I was planning to post these reports live as we cruised however we didn't have internet at all most days so I ended up writing them as we went but waited to post when we got back home again.
I am so excited so be getting ready to start our UnCruise Adventure in the Sea of Cortez! When I first heard about this cruise I knew right then I just had to do it! I remember the first time I went to Sea World, when I was 8, I was totally in love and thought I wanted to be a Marine Biologist when I grow up. Well that didn't happen but I do still love dolphins and whales and getting to spot them up close whenever possible. Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez the world's aquarium so I cannot think of a better place to get to see many of them on one trip.
UnCruise has small boats that get you so close to everything. They also include all your adventures while cruising such as snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, and more! We landed in Los Cabos to meet up with UnCruise and get our bus over to the ship, Safari Endeavor, which was in LaPaz. We were taken right to the boat, literally our bus drove us right to the gangway. I was so impressed that the Captain was out on the pier introducing himself as we walked up the gangway. There were only 58 of us boarding so we were off the buses and to our rooms in no time. We met a few more of the crew and one of the adventure guides, Sarah, took us to our room and pointed out a few things and let us know we needed to head down to the lounge for the safety briefing. Our room is small but functional. It has all you need beds, a desk, closest, drawers, and a bathroom with shower. The beds are not our favorite since they are fixed twins against the walls so you cannot combine them make a queen but that is OK. We have 2 large windows and our room door opens right out on the deck. There are only 4 decks and just 42 rooms onboard. Crew to Guest ratio is 2.5 to 1 which is super!
We went down to the lounge where Captain Shep talked a bit and introduced some of the other crew. We then did the usual safety drill where you find your muster station and all the fun stuff. After that it was time for dinner and then time for the ship to pull out of port.
Day 1 - Puerto Los Gatos
I started our first day with the 7 am stretch. If you know me you know I am not a morning person, except for maybe when I am on vacation. It really was wonderful to start the day with a stretch on the top deck before heading to 7:30 breakfast (yes breakfast is 7:30 everyday). At breakfast we learned that each morning we will place our order for lunch and dinner as this allows the chef to prepare and not waste a lot. After breakfast we headed to the lounge where we would learn more about the day's adventures. Everyday has multiple included adventures to choose from. Some days we will be able to choose 2 and some days just one. For our first day we could just choose one since the morning was being used to learn about everything and collect our gear. Jessica our Adventure Coordinator started going over all the options but in the middle of that a pod of pilot whales was spotted nearby. One of the best things about UnCruise is nature is a focus so we stopped what we were doing and went out on the bow to check out the whales. Mike, one of the adventure guides, said they haven't seen the pilot whales here in 5 years so this was a pretty amazing sight. It was a pretty good size pod and Mike explained that what we were seeing was called logging and it is when the whales are pretty much hungover from eating a lot of squid the night before and are floating along in a sort of sleep mode. They were all very close to each other and would be up on the surface for a bit and they go back under. It was so cool to be close enough to hear their breaths. The captain will change course and slow down for things like this. After watching them for about an hour we moved back inside to get back to the stuff we needed to do. We heard about all the options for today and had to pick one. The options were - snorkeling 101 (for those that might need a refresher or like me never snorkeled in a wetsuit), snorkeling 201 for experienced snorkelers, a leisurely walk, a rigorous hike, or a skiff ride. Since I haven't snorkeled in a long time or ever in a wetsuit I chose snorkel 101 which would be entering the water from a beach vs from a small boat like the 201. After everyone put in their adventure order it was time to go over some of the procedures and collect our gear. Some of the procedures are for getting on and off our ship along with getting on and off the small boats that are used to get us to shore. While in the middle of the procedures talk a call from the bridge alerted us to whale sighting so again we stopped and all went out to check it out. This time it was a single whale and it took a little time for the experts to identify it but while trying to figure it out we realized it wasn't just one but 2 and it appeared to be a mom and calf. They were not giving us much time to really see a lot of them so it took a bit but they were identified as Sei Whales. While watching them a few playful dolphins came over to check out our boat and ride our waves. We hung out for a bit watching them but then back to getting ready for our upcoming adventures. We got back to the procedures and learned about the very low tech method of tracking who is on and off the ship - there is a magnetic board with all the room numbers and a circle magnet for each guest that as you are getting off you slide your circle to off and then back on when you come back. Low tech and laid back is pretty much the theme for UnCruise. There is no wi-fi on the ship (I know crazy right but we are hoping our portable hotspot will pick up a signal). You do not have or need a key for your stateroom door because it does not auto lock so you can only lock them from inside. At first I thought that seemed odd but I am already liking not having to worry about a key. With such a small boat you get to know everyone pretty fast so nothing to worry about. Plus even if someone did take something it is not like they can go far. Since pretty much everything onboard is included no need to worry about a room key to charge things to either. They even provide things like sunblock, binoculars, and reusable water bottles! Everything is very causal almost like cruising with family. No need to dress up for dinner either.
After going over all the procedures it was time to pick up all our gear for the week. We picked up our wetsuit and snorkel equipment, all of these are included for use during your cruise along with other things like walking sticks. I had done a little research after finding out we would be given wetsuits to use to find out what people wear under wetsuits since I knew I wasn't going commando in a borrowed suit. I was glad I did because I found out that many people prefer another layer underneath in cold water. I knew I would be cold no matter what so I got a full body suit for under my wetsuit along with fin socks to keep my feet warm. After getting our equipment it was time for lunch and then after we head out for our first adventure. I don't usually eat a big lunch but it was so good and I can already tell I love the pastry chef!
We suited up and headed to the aft to board a skiff to the beach for our snorkel 101. It was a bit cloudy and breezy but that wasn't stopping us. We gathered on the beach while our adventure guide Jenny went over the basics. It was sort of like a bit of torture though as first she made us all get into the water without fins or mask just to get the feel of the wetsuit. She also wanted to prove that you cannot sink when wearing a wetsuit which I did not know until I tried it. Ok so it wasn't just me that thought the water was cold - the water temp was only 64 degrees and the air only 74 but hey that is why we had wetsuits to begin with. So after getting all wet we had to get back out of the water to get our masks on and test those. So back into the water test the masks and snorkel to then get back out to get the fins. Once we got the fins our outfit was complete and we were ready to snorkel! It was cold and I realized I wished I had bought swim gloves and maybe even a hoodie since my ears were getting very cold. I wasn't giving up that fast though I powered through and really enjoyed snorkeling more than I ever did when I tried before so I think the wetsuit is key. Just being able to float was so nice. After about a half hour though most of us were ready to be done. We wrapped up in towels the crew brought over and then walked around the beach a bit to explore the very interesting red rock formations on the beach. We then headed back to the boat took off our wetsuits and hung them up on the aft deck. The 2 hot tubs right there on the aft deck were perfect for warming up after our adventure (again another reason to not go commando under the wetsuit since I could take mine off right there on deck and jump right into the hot tub).
Before we knew it it was time to head back to the lounge to talk about the next day's adventures. Each night before dinner everyone gathers in the lounge for happy hour and also to choose our adventures for the next day. Jessica went over all the options and this was going to be one of those days where we get to pick 2. The choices were Kayak 101, Kayak 201, Burro ride, Boulder Bash (extreme hike), or skiff. We chose Kayak 201 and Burro ride. After everyone put in their order Jessica takes those and works them into a schedule that gets posted on the wall in the main hall the next morning. So on your way to breakfast you can check to see what times you are doing each thing. Again nice and low tech just a print out paper where you look for your name on the list under each time slot. Also on that board is a laminated map of the area where our route so far is highlighted in marker as we go (since the route can and probably will vary there isn't an itinerary already mapped out). This board is also where things that we have seen will get posted so photos of the whales and other wildlife are starting to appear here. I am sure it will be totally full by the end of the cruise.
We had dinner and crazy enough were pretty much ready for bed before 9 pm! Adventuring takes a lot out of you! I am looking forward to another 7 am morning stretch so happy to go to bed early.
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