The thought of jumping off the deck of a traditional cruise vessel and splashing into the Pacific Ocean is unheard of. But this is an Un-Cruise® ship, which feels more like your own private yacht and offers an exciting departure from the norm.
Blending the best of luxury cruising with informal, easy-going boating experiences, Un-Cruise succeeds in capturing the essence of upscale sailing with its extraordinary small boat cruises. Unlike most other standard cruise lines, this U.S.-based company is all about intimate, unique adventures and a relaxing, calm atmosphere, coupled with high-end, exquisite onboard services.
With its bold promise to “provide our guests an enriching adventure-travel experience and inspire an appreciation of local cultures and the natural world,” Un-Cruise certainly delivers.
I was fortunate enough to sail on a Hawaiian Un-Cruise earlier this year. The sail embarked from the Big Island, and the ship visited several picturesque ports — each more impressive than the last, including the islands of Maui, Lanai, and Molokai.
My cruise held about 30 enthusiastic, adventure-seeking passengers. Our yacht, the Safari Explorer, measures 145 feet and contains 18 staterooms. The ship itself is lovely and features a wine library, a spa, a sauna, fitness equipment, daily yoga classes on deck, and a complementary massage for each passenger during the cruise. Accompanying us was a hard-working, dedicated crew that adores the ship, nature, and all things maritime.
On an Un-Cruise ship, the traditional rules of cruising do not apply — and “all inclusive” truly lives up to its word. Numerous excursions and gourmet-yet-causal dining are part of the experience. Meals are always impressive and everything is cooked to order. Dinners and lunches feature wine pairings as well. A pastry chef is also onboard and whips up muffins, pastries, and desserts throughout the entire trip. In addition, this ship features a 24-hour, all-inclusive open bar with premium local beer on draft, wine, and spirits — along with a professional bartender to create and serve those specialty and craft cocktails. Speaking of libations, it was such a treat to have a fresh pitcher of the tropical “drink of the day” awaiting us on the deck after each afternoon’s excursions.
Aboard the yacht, three public decks provide space for mingling, relaxing, and enjoying the fresh air. The ship’s adventure equipment includes kayaks and stand-up paddle boards, inflatable skiffs, hiking poles, fishing poles and tackle, yoga mats, snorkel equipment, and even a hydrophone for listening to below-surface sounds. When you need your “me time,” all cabins feature upscale amenities, too. Safari Explorer staterooms feature heated tile floors in the bathroom, memory-foam mattresses, a flat-screen TV with DVD player, an iPod docking station, and view windows (no portholes).
Adding to this distinctive experience, the Un-Cruise crewmembers enjoy keeping the trip fresh and interesting. Although an itinerary is set, no voyage is the same and passengers are treated to an element of surprise each day. The captain can adjust the itinerary at any given time depending on weather, ocean conditions, and majestic wildlife (such as humpback whales) suddenly appearing nearby.
Passengers have the liberty to choose as much (or as little) adventure as they desire. From chilling out on deck to swimming with the sea turtles — it’s all readily available and the crew is happy to assist you.
Not surprisingly, our Hawaiian Un-Cruise had more than its share of delights and highlights, including kayaking along the awe-inspiring rocky sea cliffs of Lanai and then a quick skiff ride to shore for a mini tour of the lovely and quaint paradise. A challenging (yet not grueling) jungle hike into the lush hills of Molokai led us to a picturesque waterfall — a superb location for a leisurely lunch break before walking back along the wooded trail.
In addition to many opportunities for snorkeling in coves with tropical fish and stand-up paddle-boarding off the boat, we also had chance to participate in a fun dive at night to see manta rays. Bobbing above water with the sea illuminated from below, we held onto lighted surfboards as we peered down in search of these ethereal-like creatures and other nocturnal sea life.
For this Un-Cruiser, the Safari Explorer provided a memorable and fantastic voyage, and truly made me re-think the way cruising could be. I even made some friends along the way, as my fellow passengers hailed from around the world — and proved to be lot of fun, too.
In addition to Hawaii, Un-Cruise offers similar luxury cruise experiences in Mexico, Alaska, coastal Washington, and British Columbia.