If you’re seeking UnCruise Alaska reviews, you’ve come to the right place. This page, written by AdventureSmith’s Director of Sales & Operations, Justin Massoni, covers what sets UnCruise Adventures apart. Below this UnCruise review, scroll down to also find: testimonials rating everything from meals to service and ships, and more UnCruise reviews written by our staff & clients who’ve sailed with UnCruise over the past 25 years.
IN THIS POST – UnCruise Adventures Alaska Reviews:
The UnCruise Alaska Experience
UnCruise Alaska Ships Review
UnCruise Alaska Itineraries
Activities on UnCruise Alaska
Our UnCruise Review Credentials
Comments, Testimonials & Trip Ratings
The insights shared here come from my most recent time sailing with UnCruise Adventures in Alaska, on the 8-day Alaska’s Glacier Country round-trip from Juneau, but much what I detail below can apply to any UnCruise cruise you are considering. Our team of experts & Alaska small ship cruise clients each year have tested them all. Read on for my full UnCruise Alaska review to find out if UnCruise might be the right fit for you.
The UnCruise Alaska Experience
There’s something about UnCruise. If there were superlative awards in adventure cruising, they’d be at the top for congeniality. But from the lens of my experience as Director of Operations for AdventureSmith—having heard hundreds of UnCruise Alaska reviews from our travelers over the years—I can boil it down to three key points that define the UnCruise Alaska experience: off-vessel activity delivery, exceptional crewing & thoughtful itinerary development.
UnCruise Adventures has taken the adventure cruising concept (where off-ship exploration is king) and refined it to near perfection over the past 25 years. The company’s passion for exploration and the efficiency with which they get travelers off the ship, make for an unrivaled active experience of Alaska.
Each day on my Alaska UnCruise, I felt we thoroughly explored an area (by means of foot, kayak, paddleboard, skiff and even snorkel) before the ship would reposition us to the next cove, bay or inlet as we ate lunch or slept. In fact, over the course of 8 days, I had the opportunity to partake in 11 unique off-vessel activities—12 if you include the polar plunge, but it’s less of an activity and more of an… event.
And since your first and last day aboard any expedition cruise are typically not activity days, this averages to be more than two off-vessel activities per day. It was truly extraordinary. To give you a picture of what your off-vessel experience could look like, find more details about the activities I experienced with UnCruise below.
Crewing is one of the most important aspects of small ship cruising. Each and every passenger’s experience is deeply impacted by the crew aboard—be they the guide or the steward, the chef or the captain. The UnCruise shipboard and shoreside staff are dedicated, young, enthusiastic, engaged and knowledgeable. The cruising industry has always had notoriously high staff turn-over rates. These are hard jobs with long hours, typically seasonal, and require you be “at sea” for long periods of time.
We consistently get feedback from our clients that the crew aboard UnCruise ships reflect a team that feels valued, appreciated and respected by the company they work for. This translates directly into high retention rates and a deeply experienced staff. This, in turn, translates into an exceptionally positive experience aboard for passengers. Communication, here, is the key.
The greatest sin on any expedition cruise is to have passengers aboard who are unsure what comes next, or what they need to do to prepare for it. The UnCruise Alaska crews consistently keep their guests safe, comfortable, well fed, and well informed at every stage of their adventure. Not to mention that the Expedition Leaders responsible for managing the off-ship activity programs are black belts in dynamic group organization.
On my recent trip, there was always enough equipment and guides for everyone to do any activity they wished. These guys have decades of experience in organizing off-vessel activities efficiently and responding to the needs of all aboard. If we happened to have a ton of kayaking interest aboard on a particular day, they’d just add another kayaking group to the morning or afternoon agenda. This flexibility has consistently been the modus operandi for UnCruise Alaska cruises, and it is a true hallmark of their low-stress, fun and accommodating style.
I had the unique opportunity to join the development team from UnCruise in 2019 as they scouted the route for their new Belize & Guatemala Wonders cruise. Here, I was able to see firsthand the expertise, dedication, time, resources and love that UnCruise brings to designing unique and fulfilling experiences for their guests. I joined representatives from the Executive, Deck (Captains), Expedition (Guides), Marketing and Sales teams as they explored Belize and its stunning barrier reef to locate the very best places for their type of experiential small ship expedition. The care with which this talented team began to map out the experience they wanted to deliver was clear from day 1.
There are cruise lines and tour operators the world over that launch new products from the marketing department whiteboard—not so here. The development team on the ground was committed to ensuring that they would deliver the trademark UnCruise experience in this new destination. In Alaska and the six other destinations that you can cruise with UnCruise, you can rest assured that their team has taken the care to scout, develop, test and then listen to traveler feedback to create a travel experience that combines their hallmark trio of adventure, culture and connection.
UnCruise Alaska Ships Review
The UnCruise fleet, to us, is Southeast Alaska coastal expedition cruising incarnate. Their seven Alaska-based vessels range in size from 22 to 86 passengers, which is not particularly unique across the small ship fleet in Alaska (AdventureSmith works with Alaskan ships that accommodate 8 to 100 passengers). However, UnCruise’s innovative systems and processes for the efficient off-vessel deployment of passengers and equipment set them apart.
As an example: Sea kayaking has long been the core of the off-vessel activities program on small ship adventure cruises in Southeast Alaska. It’s one of the very best ways to explore this near roadless coastal wilderness: silent, fairly effortless and at water level. The launch systems developed by UnCruise are a real innovation and have greatly increased the comfort, safety and speed of kayak deployment. Four of these vessels have an EZ Dock floating kayak launch platform installed across the full width of the stern, and one tows a custom aluminum platform called the “Sea Dragon” that serves the same purpose. Though the double Looksha plastic kayaks used by UnCruise are incredibly stable in the water, entry and exit while in the water can be tricky. Problem solved with this unique floating system that gives kayakers plenty of time and 100% stability to get situated with foot peg adjustments, spray skirts and gear before being gently slid into the water over nylon rollers. Returning to the ship, all you have to do is put the kayak’s bow in the general vicinity of the platform edge to be gently pulled right back up for a stress-free, and dry, exit.
The program style is generally the same across the UnCruise fleet—you will experience comparable delivery of the same activities, and in many cases the very same day-by-day itinerary. UnCruise does, however, offer a range of Alaska ship styles. As discussed above, these seven ships are all equally well adapted platforms for off-vessel exploration; it’s the onboard experience that varies across the fleet.
Though many of these distinctions are nuanced, you will generally find that:
Wilderness Adventurer (60 passenger), Wilderness Discoverer (76 passenger) and Wilderness Explorer (74 passenger) tend to have smaller cabins with compact en-suite bathrooms (think maritime efficiency), and consequently a lower per-day price point. I consider these three ships to be cleanly comparable.
The Wilderness Legacy (86 passenger) is a bit of an outlier, but in a good way. The Legacy is the largest ship in the fleet, boasts a wide range of cabin categories and offers some of the larger cabins and en-suite bathrooms more akin to the Safari ships below. The Legacy also uniquely offers an elevator connecting all three cabin decks, making this a great option for passengers with mobility concerns.
The Safari Endeavour (84 passenger), Safari Explorer (36 passenger) and Safari Quest (22 passenger) tend to have larger cabins with more spacious bathrooms and a more upscale feel throughout (think maritime comfort, wood tones and brass). The latter two also offer an intimacy and small group size unique to the fleet. Consequently, these three vessels carry a higher per-day price point.
To assist with your selection of vessel, UnCruise recently created sophisticated “360 Degree Virtual Tours” of the fleet, which you can now view on our ship pages (linked above). These tours allow you to take a virtual walk through, to get a better feel for the spaces that are available in different cabin types and public areas. Our team here at AdventureSmith is deeply familiar with this entire fleet, and can help to walk you through all of the options to find the perfect fit.
Regardless of which UnCruise ship you choose, these are ideal platforms from which to explore the protected bays, inlets and passages of coastal Alaska. The UnCruise fleet is not conspicuously luxurious or exceptionally modern; these ships are comfortable, casual and uniquely ready for adventure.
Reviewing UnCruise Alaska itineraries
The 8-day cruise is the gold standard for Southeast Alaska small ship cruising, and UnCruise keeps it simple by sticking with this length for their Alaska-only routes. While you might find other operators with shorter cruises, you are often shortchanging the destination by going less than a week. It may sound like a lot at the outset, but I have yet to see feedback from a client indicating that they would have rather been doing something else. Considering that your embarkation and disembarkation days are short, 8-day routes comprise 6 days of exploration.
I was recently aboard the Alaska’s Glacier Country itinerary that circumnavigates Admiralty Island, round-trip from Juneau (this itinerary is similar in almost all respects to the Glacier Bay National Park Adventure Cruise, which promises two days in Glacier Bay). The 8-day circumnavigation of Admiralty Island is the classic itinerary in this part of the world, and with good reason. Of the eight unique 8-day itineraries that UnCruise offers in Alaska for 2023, three are complete circumnavigations and one is a partial. Let me show you why the 8-day circumnavigation of Admiralty is my favorite Southeast Alaska cruising itinerary:
- It can be done in an easy 8 days, round-trip Juneau.
- There are more flights in and out of Juneau than any other port of embarkation in Southeast. Read: convenient access from the Lower 48.
- With the exception of Icy Strait, sailing is in protected “inside waters,” allowing for overall calmer cruising with no ocean swell.
- The itinerary is comparatively compact; your small ship is typically not traveling for much more than 500 miles over the course of 8 days. Read: less repositioning, more exploring.
- It’s “got it all” in terms of wilderness experience in Southeast Alaska: the densest concentration of tidewater glaciers in the world at Glacier Bay; access to the bears of Admiralty Island; access to concentrated baleen whale feeding activity in Fredrick Sound and Icy Strait; steep-sided fjords and bays; accessible salmon streams; towering Sitka spruce and hemlock forests of Tongass National Forest; and a multitude of calm coves, inlets and bays for safe anchorage and off-vessel activities.
Note that UnCruise also offers unique Alaska experiences outside of this region, including an 8-day cruise in Prince William Sound and a 13-day exploration of the Inside Passage entire from Seattle to Juneau. So there is truly something for every interest if you seek to explore a bit farther.
What Activities You Can Expect on UnCruise Alaska
Since off-ship activities are so key to the UnCruise Alaska experience, I can’t properly give an Alaska UnCruise review without elaborating about what you do off ship. On my recent trip aboard Wilderness Adventurer, each evening, typically just after dinner, the Expedition Leader described in detail what activities would be offered next day, including the area to be explored and the level of strenuousness associated. The guides then came around to all the tables while we finished our dessert to answer any questions we had and get us signed up for our preferred activities the following day. Here’s what was on the menu:
Kayaking & Stand-up Paddleboarding
Kayaking excursions are expertly guided, typically relaxed and under two hours, and the very best way to experience these maritime environments in perfect quietude. UnCruise’s aforementioned use of the EZ Dock platform for launching sea kayaks quickly, comfortably and safely is a real innovation and bonus for any traveler seeking to try kayaking for the first time.
For the even more adventurous, all UnCruise Alaska ships also carry a complement of stand-up paddleboards (SUPs). For the very well balanced, this is a truly unique way to explore the quiet coves that dot the area.
Bushwhacking (walking off-trail in dense woods) is typically a mode of wilderness travel avoided if at all possible. The thing is, however, there are not many developed hiking trails in the wilds of Southeast Alaska. Very few of the remote bays, coves and fjords you will visit have any development whatsoever ashore. So if you want to explore inland beyond the beach, you’re often bushwhacking.
I participated in a number of these off-trail explorations during the week I was aboard—and can honestly say that no participant had anything other than a goofy good time. Crawling over, under and across logs, through the muskeg bogs, over the river through the woods.
Truly a laugh-out-loud joy at times, and the younger passengers just couldn’t get enough of this type of adventurous exploration.
Short Hikes & Beachcombing
On all our activity days, there were Zodiac skiffs and naturalist guides that led less-active groups on very low-impact beachcombing excursions. What better way to spend an afternoon than with a knowledgeable Alaska naturalist simply exploring the wide-open shingle with its colorful tidepools, wrack line of kelp and sea grass, and open views to the sea.
There were also opportunities for medium-length, medium-effort hikes in more open country—often across rocky ridges or in the alluvial plains and moraines created by glaciers. These hikes allowed us access to higher vantage points for sweeping vistas.
On my particular cruise, while in Glacier Bay National Park, we followed our guide up the ridge adjacent to Lamplugh Glacier and were rewarded for our modest 45-minute effort with an eagle’s eye view of Lamplugh—spilling magnificently into Johns Hopkins Inlet far below.
Aboard any UnCruise Alaska itinerary, there is also the opportunity to sign up for longer, nearly all-day hikes.
On my trip, we departed the ship right after breakfast, armed with a box lunch the galley had prepared for each of us, and headed up Cascade Creek in Thomas Bay. This is one of the few developed trails out in this country, maintained by the Tongass National Forest. The maintenance is primitive however, and we worked hard to hike the 4 miles up this beautiful river gorge to Falls Lake.
Only one small group of us made it to the lake, but have no fear, our experienced guides were well prepared for varying abilities and levels of fitness. Over the course of the day two separate groups of hikers were gassed from the elevation gain, and there were more than enough guides to turn around with these groups and happily head on back down the hill.
On every Alaska small ship cruise, there are ample opportunities to explore via small skiff. These are typically 20’ Zodiac or DIB inflatables—very comfortable, stable and safe. They are the means by which you get to shore, but also great platforms to poke into coves, inlets and shallows for exploration.
One gentleman on my cruise with some mobility issues did no off-vessel activities other than skiff tours. He absolutely captured the finest wildlife photographs of all aboard due to his stable (and highly mobile) perch.
Alaskan Snorkeling: Not as Cold as You Think
Uniquely, UnCruise’s “Wilderness” class ships in Alaska may offer snorkeling as an added-cost activity. Since this activity requires a great deal of specialty gear, preparation and confluence of weather and sea conditions, it is never guaranteed on any particular departure.
The time and tides were right for my cruise, so a snorkel guide got me fitted out with a 6-mm wetsuit, full hood, thick gloves and booties, mask, snorkel and fins. With this heavy gear, I was surprised how comfortable I could be in Alaskan waters. The activity necessarily does not last long, maybe 20 minutes in the water, but it was a truly unique wilderness experience that I will never forget.
Alaskan Polar Plunge: As Cold As You Think
Polar plunging, for whatever reason, is a thing in our cold-water destinations—Alaska cruises, Antarctica cruises & Arctic cruises seem to always offer this for the adventurous. If there is a day where weather and sea conditions permit, the crew will offer passengers a chance to take a dip without the wetsuit.
It’s quite an experience to jump into the glacier-fed waters of Southeast Alaska. I’m here to tell you that you are not “off-vessel” for long in the 52-degree water—but there is always a warm drink or a quick dip in the hot tub to assist in the recovery from this delightfully shocking experience.
Our UnCruise Review Credentials
AdventureSmith Explorations has a long history with UnCruise Adventures and the seven vessels they sail in Southeast Alaska. In fact, our founder Todd Smith helped to pioneer this type of activity-based small ship adventure cruising in the 1990s as a naturalist-guide aboard some of these very ships.
Learn more about UnCruise as a company and our connection to them, view all UnCruise cruises or browse more of our staff expert & client traveler reviews below. We send hundreds of passengers to Alaska each summer cruise season, and partner with 150 different vessels globally and 70 different operator partners, so we can offer a big-picture view at the value each ship and cruise will bring to our travelers.
Comments & UnCruise Trip Ratings
Looking for more UnCruise reviews? Or have a specific question. Contact our team, or ask us anything in the comments on this page. Below the comment section, find testimonials for UnCruise Alaska cruises, written by our travelers who rate everything from the meals to crew, guides and ships.
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