I have sailed to Alaska well over a dozen times, and my Un-Cruise adventure aboard the Safari Endeavour was easily the best Alaskan experience I’ve ever had. I love cruising on the larger vessels, but there is just something incredibly magical about being on a smaller boat so close to the action that is more elusive on other cruises. So how does the overall Un-Cruise experience compare to other ocean cruises? Let’s take a look…
From the start, the Safari Endeavour is much more compact than the mega cruise ships, putting her closer in line with popular riverboats in Europe and sailing on often smoother waterways. Of course, it’s her very size with more forgiving clearances that allows the boat to navigate into tighter inlets and coves and thus offer an intimate taste of the surrounding natural environment. For her destinations, the focus is appropriately outward: less about the vessel itself and more about the surroundings.
The Safari Endeavour herself is nonetheless a charmer. Her abundant outdoor deck space is perfect for viewing the passing sights either under cover or in the open, and her interior spaces are very open and well outfitted. The airy Explorer Lounge maximizes space perfectly, never feels cramped and offers great vistas – save for the blocked forward view from the curvature of the bow – while staying toasty indoors. The downstairs Resolution Dining Room and library are also handsome spaces with acoustic ceiling tiles that pleasingly serve to reduce noise levels.
Un-Cruise advertises a luxury experience on the Safari Endeavour, and all the included drinks, offboard activities and massage deliver on that promise. The atmosphere remains refreshingly casual with no need to ever dress up for said amenities, and the open bridge was also a real treat to take advantage of. I genuinely did enjoy the opportunity to be disconnected for a week, but similar to river cruising, it would be nice to not only see WiFi available onboard but included as well.
Staterooms and Suites
The luxury experience certainly extends to the commodore suites onboard with double the space of the standard staterooms, a separate sitting area, refrigerator, balcony and expansive bathroom with a shower/jacuzzi combo. The remaining cabins are also very comfortable and functional with plenty of storage space in the cabinets, closet and under the beds; and flat panel TVs with DVD players, iPod docks, controllable PA speakers, and provided canteens for activities are nice added touches. Luxurious is perhaps a bit of an overstatement for the staterooms as their tiny utilitarian bathrooms fall far short of that description.
The admiral stateroom category does appear do be a hybrid in size between the suites and the other smaller staterooms, but the Un-Cruise website does not indicate square footage which would better differentiate the cabin offerings when making a selection. No matter, it’s true that you will likely spend very little time in your cabin as there is so much to see and do outside and offboard.
There’s good reason that the line is called Un-Cruise Adventures because it’s the offered activities that set it most apart from other cruise lines. The break from tradition starts with the itineraries themselves: voyages are not port intensive. Rather than docking nearly every day with several other cruise ships, the Safari Endeavour cruises nearby dramatic landscapes or anchors alone in secluded coves for activities such as hiking, skiff riding, kayaking, paddle boarding and even polar bear plunging.
Where shore excursions require disembarking cruise ships to usually hop on a bus that may or may not take you for canoeing or such an expedition, here activities are available immediately off the back of the boat, affording the opportunity to participate in several activities throughout the day. Otherwise, you may be able to only do one thing per port. Plus, activities are split between the morning and afternoon, so you’ll never miss a great lunch onboard.
Indeed dining is a highlight of Un-Cruise’s luxury adventures, and breakfasts, lunches and dinners are delicious and very creative. Selections for each meal are limited to one entree and a vegetarian option for breakfast and lunch and expand to include a meat, fish or vegetarian dish for dinner plus a soup or salad. Lunches and dinners also feature tasty desserts. In fact, the sweets on the Safari Endeavour were the best I’ve had on any cruise. Also, cookies and pastries are available throughout the day in the lounge as are hors d’oeuvres at happy hour in what amounts to the closest incarnation of a buffet onboard.
Even without an abundance of culinary choice like that found on other ships, the food was almost always a standout, and I would rank its overall quality somewhere between premium and luxury line offerings and comparable to that found on river cruising. We even enjoyed a great dinner with a park ranger in Glacier Bay where we learned about the four varieties of floating glacial ice including bergy bits, a name that amusingly sounds to me like a breakfast cereal or ice cream snack. (After all, we were eating at the time.)
The crew and staff onboard the Safari Endeavour were also exceptional, especially when you consider that your waiters and room stewards are one and the same. With no entertainment onboard besides a library of books and DVDs, it were the lectures, expedition guide knowledge and smiling faces that kept us ever engaged. Our expedition leader, Mark Hopkins, was no song and dance cruise director (as he prefers it) but was super friendly and fun-loving. And as I’ve said before, it was always a joy to hang out on the bridge with the team and our delightful captain, Kendra Nelsen.
The Un-Cruise experience on the Safari Endeavour is intentionally unlike any other cruise, and the end product is the master blend between intimate onboard camaraderie and mesmerizing offboard activities amidst nature’s best flora and fauna.
Are you planning on taking an Un-Cruise? Please feel free to share your thoughts or questions in the comments section below…