Expert Aboard: Safari Explorer Review

May 31, 2024 • Taylor Cranney
An AdventureSmith Specialist sails aboard this fan-favorite ship and shares her insight for getting aboard in both Hawaii and Alaska. Plus, read ratings from our other travelers who’ve been on Safari Explorer.

Working at AdventureSmith Explorations for almost a decade, I’ve sent many travelers aboard Safari Explorer. Over that time, I have heard their feedback, combed over their photos and assessed many Safari Explorer reviews. Needless to say, I was eager to get aboard to see for myself what this vessel had in store for me. On my Hawaiian Seascapes cruise I tried to look at the ship’s amenities and operations as it could apply to any destination she sails. Spoiler alert: If I could pick a perfect size ship for comradery and adventure, this would be it. But read on to find out why and to learn my favorite cabins and tips for getting the most out of your experience aboard.

IN THIS POST Safari Explorer Review:
My Favorite Spaces
Tips to Choose Your Cabin
Food & Drinks
Packing Tips
Why Crew Love This Boat
Safari Explorer Takeaway
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More Safari Explorer Reviews & Ratings

My Favorite Places on the Ship

Three public decks aboard Safari Explorer offered just enough space to stretch my legs and provide unique areas to visit. With two sets of stairs (one fore and one aft), I could easily access each of them. There was even a point on my trip when a fellow traveler kept walking in opposite circles as her husband and effectively ‘lost’ him for longer than expected. But the vessel was still small enough to quickly put eyes on a humpback whale sighting in just moments, no matter where I was on the ship.

If I had to classify one area of the Safari Explorer as the “fun zone” the Main Deck back area would be it. At its most basic function it was the launch platform for all skiff travel, which meant we were going to or from one of the exciting excursions planned for the day. The swim step here was where we got in and out of kayaks for kayaking excursions, or jumped into the water. My fellow guests and I loved effortlessly floating, supported by pool noodles and a suspended rope off the stern to cool off from the Hawaiian sun. Important to note for the ship’s Alaska itineraries that this vessel does not have the EZ Dock kayak launch that you might find on other ships in the UnCruise Adventures fleet. But we had many levels of kayakers, and everyone got along with the process just fine.

Anytime I found myself with free time in between activities and being in the water, you’d find me on the Bridge Deck. I enjoyed toggling between shade and non-shade here as I navigated my own personal preference of sun exposure. But also, being able to embrace the fresh air and apparent wind while having a clear line of sight in every direction made this location my favorite hangout space on the vessel.

In Alaska, there is a functional hot tub on the Bridge Deck to warm your bones after excursions or the polar plunge, watching glaciers pass by. In Hawaii, due to the occasional heave of the sea, the hot tub is kept dry and non-functional. But with the pleasant mid-70-degree ocean temperatures, and temperate 60-80 degree air temps, a hot tub wasn’t really needed.

Foremost on this deck is also where you will find the bridge—one that the captain and 2nd mate revered to me as the best one in the UnCruise fleet. With ample operational space, and panoramic windows for prime marine life spotting, it is no wonder this is a favorite among the crew. Be sure to keep your ear out to the all-boat PA system for announcements when the Bridge is open, so you can go up for a visit.

Tips for Choosing Your Cabin Aboard Safari Explorer

Which cabin to choose on this ship? Despite having many cabin categories, selection is somewhat easy on this boat since the bathrooms are all fairly equal (aside from Jacuzzi tubs) and every cabin has at a minimum a full picture window (no portholes). One bonus is that many beds are configurable to be either twin or queen/king. This is great for choice, but the downside is that when configured into queen/king beds, the mattresses will have a gap along the middle of the bed because the larger bed is essentially two smaller beds pushed together. Use the virtual tour below and follow along as we review the different categories.

I was in cabin B9, of the Navigator category, the most common on this ship with 10 of the 18 cabins falling under this category. With sufficient storage, extremely comfortable mattresses, three double-outlet wall plugs for gear charging and a door opening to an exterior deck, my Navigator cabin was the perfect platform as my home base to enjoy this trip.

On this ship, I feel you can opt for this lead-in cabin and have all the amenities you would ever need to be comfortable. But it’s important to note that all Navigator cabins have fixed queen beds and the person sleeping nearest the wall will have to climb over the other person to get out of bed.

If you want to upgrade functional space, look to the Trailblazer, which has fixed queen beds and access to the beds from both sides. The next level up are Admiral cabins, which is where you will find Jacuzzi bathtubs within this, and all categories above it. Each cabin has a slightly unique configuration, molding into the structure of the ship as needed. But all in all, the functional space continues to increase as you move up in price.

Keep in mind that Admiral cabins C1 and C2 open to the interior hallway on the main deck. This hallway is a common walkway for all guests coming to and from meals, the bar and the salon. Reports I received from guests in these cabins are that sound was rarely an issue just be prepared to find other guests passing by your cabin throughout the day. Interior cabins like this are a great choice if you have any mobility concerns since all the public exterior doors have hatch-style doors with a 6-inch step to clear. Not the hugest deal, but it is one less thing to navigate to get to the most regularly occurring event, meals, which happen three times a day.

I did not get a chance to peek inside Admiral cabin B1 (located on Cabin Deck), but based on my observances, this might be my favorite cabin on the ship. For a moderate increase in cost, you get significantly larger cabin space. Also, with this cabin you have an exterior opening door (which I prefer).

Choose a suite on this ship for separated sleeping and living rooms (great for triple occupancy and families). The two top-tier Commodore Suites have perks that are the most palpable. They are effectively double the size of most other cabins onboard. You will have a cabin door opening to an interior hallway, but also your own private balcony space, so you get the best of all worlds. You are one quick door away from accessing the sundeck, which gives views around almost the entire vessel. Or, if watching from the helm is what calls to you, the Bridge is just steps away.

Kayakers in open water


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Food & Drink Favorites

With an accomplished head chef, skillful pastry chef, galley utility hand and two dedicated bartenders there was never a dull moment in the world of culinary delights aboard Safari Explorer.

Each morning there would be a breakfast special, which the steward would present to us once we were seated. Some of my favorites with a Hawaiian twist were candied spam with scrambled eggs and pineapple salsa, eggs benedict, or French toast with pina colada syrup.

While still seated, towards the end of breakfast, the Chef presented our options for lunch and dinner. We would then put in our order for the day, not because we were affixed to that choice, but more so they could prepare the correct rations. There was always a meat, fish and vegetarian option provided. Can’t decide? No problem, as we could put in half orders for multiple courses if a variety of options appealed to us.

Each day was punctuated with a specially inspired drink from the bartender, aptly called the “drink of the day.” From glittered Champagne to whiskey sours, mocktails and an Aperol spritz, there was no concoction the bartenders couldn’t make. Often the drink of the day was served with a happy hour snack, just a little something to tide us over until dinner. Common happy hour items in Hawaii were choices like ceviche and chips, caprese salad, or charcuterie.

Lunches and dinners were both main events and were often inspired by global cuisine from the chef’s travels. Some of my favorite lunches were the Arepa with pulled pork and black bean puree, or the BLT. Some of my favorite dinners were the locally sourced poke bowl, tamarind short ribs, mahi with coconut sauce, or mushroom stroganoff. Desserts were the grand finale of the evening (and often at lunch as well). My favorite of the week was a toffee and caramel cake with pecan syrup drizzle.


See the deck plan, more images and the full list of itineraries aboard this ship

Items I Wish I Brought

Moving back to a time zone three hours from my norm, I found myself up early every morning. The morning on a ship can be a very peaceful time to soak in the scenery and silence before the action of the day begins. It is also a great time for spotting wildlife. As a coffee drinker, I usually enjoyed this daybreak hour with a hot cup of joe in my hand, which was available starting at 4:30am down in the Main Deck interior. In hindsight I wish I had brough a small, closeable coffee mug with me. This way I could fill my cup and spend longer in other areas around the ship without “needing” to go down and refill my cup. No need to bring a water bottle for use on the ship though, as they do loan out metal water bottles to use for the duration of the week.

I also wish I had brought my own mask for snorkeling Hawaii. Just the mask though! They do have all the gear onboard you would need to enjoy any snorkeling excursion. But I had to try a couple of different masks before I found one that fit right. And even once I did, I had issues with it fogging fairly often. If I did it again, I would bring my own mask, but use the snorkel and fins that UnCruise provides. This way you save on packing all of the snorkel items, but you can guarantee a fog free and well-fitting snorkel from day 1.

An Item I am Glad I Brought

The ocean waters of Hawaii are an extremely comfortable temperature in my opinion (coming from the brisk cool waters of North Lake Tahoe). But I did decide at the last minute to throw a slightly insulated, zip-up, long sleeve top. And boy I’m glad I did. Even with pleasant temperatures underwater, snorkel excursions can last for 1-2 hours.

Having an added layer of warmth for those activities helped keep me in the water for longer so I had more opportunity to spot marine life. The ship does sell branded rash guards aboard, but those do more for sun protection than warmth. If you run cold, or like staying in the water for long periods of time, bring some insulation. The only wetsuits provided are in Hawaii for the manta ray night snorkel activity.

Also note, specifically for Hawaii, there is no alternate activity offered when snorkel excursions are happening. This is because both skiffs are used to bring snorkelers to their destination, and the boats will anchor up nearby while the activity is being done. If snorkeling is not a preferred activity of yours, keep this in mind, as it may mean some extra downtime aboard the vessel. In Alaska, the ship’s two skiffs are used for remote shore landings and scenic wildlife cruising (not snorkeling), so there are more varied activity options for guests.

Why Crew Love This Boat

The Safari Explorer is one of two vessels in her fleet of sister ships that can get all 36 guests out on the skiffs at once. This can be beneficial in case a whale or orca sighting has happened and if the Expedition Leader wants to offer the option to go view from the skiffs, or just generally to maximize efficiency for conducting excursions. On other vessels (aside from Safari Quest), you would have to do skiff rotations to get everyone out on the water, or out for an excursion.

The crew also love this vessel because there is a camaraderie that develops between the entire team on board. On some vessels, especially larger ones, there can be a natural division between hotel crew and expedition team.

Aboard Safari Explorer, each crew member wears many hats and has the opportunity to hone a variety of skills. There was an impressive level of experience, training and education for each person in their chosen position. But having a specialty didn’t keep crew pigeonholed into one role aboard the ship. We had bosuns that went out as expedition guides, we had the Captain working as a deck hand to help us on and off the skiffs, we had the Hotel Manager guiding some of our snorkels, and we even had the Head Chef join on an excursion as a snorkel guide and deckhand.

This level of variety keeps the crew connected and happy, and provides a cohesive environment in which to flourish. This seemed to trickle into the engagement of the guests-and-crew interactions as well. The positive attitudes of the crew were delightfully contagious, and undoubtedly affected guest cheerfulness and cohesion.

My Safari Explorer Review Takeaway = Endearment

After having spent a week aboard the Safari Explorer, I have a newfound fondness for just how perfect she is. I have been looking at photos of this ship for over 7 years. But now, after having been aboard, when I see a photo of her it triggers emotions of affection and endearment. Like seeing the same car you used to drive in college pass you on the road, I now have a flash of sentimental memories flood my mind when I see a photo of the Safari Explorer.

While this ship may cost slightly more than some of the other vessels in the destinations she sails, the upgrade is worth it! She is excursion ready, with so many toys and tricks up her sleeve to keep even the most adventurous heart entertained.

Her cohesive crew and incredible chefs will keep you on the edge of your seat for what’s to come next. And the bonding you will experience, with just the right number of other guests to intermingle yet establish strong connections, will be the cherry on top.

uncruise Small ship accord with kayakers venturing around the boat and rocks surrounding


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For more photos from this cruise aboard Safari Explorer view my Facebook album on AdventureSmith Explorations’ Facebook page.

Read more small ship cruise reviews, comment with your own Safari Explorer cruise reviews or view testimonials from our traveling clients who’ve been aboard below.

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