Kristi received media rates for the cruise. As always, her thoughts and opinions are her own.
When you think of an Alaska cruise, a large ship with a couple thousand passengers, endless food buffets, a kids’ club and nightly entertainment comes to mind. Good news, there are other options for families.
This summer as part of my family’s two week Southeast Alaska vacation we spent one week cruising the Inside Passage with Un-Cruise Adventures on a luxury, family themed cruise with 65 passengers. As a family, this was a vacation first; our kids, 7 and 10, enjoyed a level of independence that allowed them to experience Alaska through their own eyes as they were challenged physically on excursions and pushed outside of their suburban boxes by the natural environment. Their independence and the social ambiance on the ship meant my husband and I enjoyed adult time with the other passengers.
What is an Un-Cruise?
Un-Cruise Adventures, based out of Seattle, is a small-ship adventure cruise line that delivers up-close and personal experiences in nature paired with outstanding service. They sail in Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico and the U.S.
Cruising Styles: In Alaska, Un-Cruise Adventures offers Active Adventures and Luxury Adventures cruises. Both categories have similar excursions but the luxury cruise is all-inclusive including alcohol, all activities, a massage for everyone, sit-down dining and upgraded amenities.
Family Themed Cruises: Our 7-night Discoverers’ Glacier Country cruise was round-trip out of Juneau on the Safari Endeavour. It was a Kids in Nature themed luxury cruise with specially-designed activities and a 25% discount for kids 12 and under. There were 15 kids ages 6 – 17 on our cruise; the fun began at the pre-cruise hospitality area before we ever boarded the ship. After leaving Juneau we didn’t see another port until we returned at the end of the cruise.
Atmosphere: The cruise feels like a large family reunion where everyone gets along and someone else is doing the cooking and cleaning. The on-board vibe is casual and passengers spend their days in rain gear, shorts, pants, jeans and swimsuits for the jacuzzis and polar bear plunges. Everyone looks forward to the nightly cocktail hour where guests swap stories about their excursions over the cocktail of the day and hors d’oeuvres. It’s social hour for the kids too who order Shirley Temples or make hot chocolate and play games like UNO, war or backgammon.
Cabins: While the cabins are nicely appointed and comfortable, they are small ship cabins and not as spacious as those on a large cruise ship. The reality is that you sleep and shower in your cabin and that’s about it. Free time is spent in the comfortable lounge or out on deck.
Service: From the minute you board the ship, you are engulfed in a cocoon of friendly and attentive service. When my husband mentioned that he’d like to try all of the red wines by the end of the cruise, the bartender offered to do a private wine tasting for him. When too many passengers sign up for the same excursion, they accommodate with another guide. And little surprises greet you along the way like a hot drink bar after a tiring excursion. There is a genuine feeling among passengers that the staff want your cruise experience to be exceptional.
Too much of a good thing: The only downside to this fantastic service is that my kids figured out they could request their own drinks and by the second day I realized they were drinking five or six Shirley Temples a day plus self-serve hot chocolate in between. The bartender and I devised an easy solution and that was the end of that.
Excursions and Activity Levels: There are morning and afternoon excursions and all levels of physical ability are accommodated. The excursions vary in physical difficulty from a motorized skiff tour to arduous hikes where you might use a rope or your bottom to get down a steep slope – this last level is not suitable for kids.
On Kids in Nature cruises, there are family excursions scheduled on several days plus additional on-board activities like condensed versions of wildlife presentations and kid yoga.
Dining: All dining on the luxury cruises is sit-down except for an early riser continental breakfast. Dining is leisurely and relaxed which does not always work well with kids who just want to eat and go play however sitting at all-kids tables and fabulous desserts made it doable.
What You Won’t Find: Nightly entertainment, except for several wildlife presentations (although the humpback whales do put on quite a show), a kids club, stuffy passengers and toddlers; the cruise is best for ages six and older.
A Day in Alaska with Un-Cruise Small Ship Adventures
A typical day on the cruise follows this schedule: breakfast, excursion, lunch, excursion, free time, cocktail hour, dinner and socializing in the lounge. However no two experiences are alike as you can see from my family’s morning in Glacier Bay.
My daughter and I did a less strenuous hike to Reid Glacier which included a do-it-yourself “spa treatment”.
After hiking to the glacier, our guide Connor suggested a glacial mud mask treatment for anyone interested and willing. The girls scooped up the mud and voila!
My husband and son went on a more challenging two to three hour kayak trip where they discovered a napping bear.
As my son and husband paddled along the shoreline, their guide, Jackie, motioned to them to quickly move away from the beach and that’s when they realized the brown lump they were looking at was a sleeping brown bear.
This personalized small ship experience is not inexpensive but it’s also not an experience you can have on a large ship or on your own. We stayed in the Commander room, the most popular category on the ship and summer rates range from $5295-$5995 per person. Similar cruise itineraries are available on Un-Cruise Active Adventures which are less expensive.
All photos by Kristi Marcelle except where noted