Cruising Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands

Cruising Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands

Un-Cruise Adventures helps passengers discover the beauty of Washington state By: John Beath
Special beer-themed itineraries highlight local breweries. // © 2014 Srdjan
Special beer-themed itineraries highlight local breweries. // © 2014 Srdjan

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Un-Cruise Adventures

Exploring Puget Sound by cruise ship has new meaning since Un-Cruise Adventures began offering an exceptional roundtrip itinerary from Fishermen’s Terminal in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. At just 160 feet long, the company’s Wilderness Adventurer goes where larger ships can’t go, offering travelers a singular experience during which they can unleash their inner explorer.

Un-Cruise Adventures’ motto — “Unrushed, Uncrowded and Unbelievable” — fits this unique small-ship cruise company based in Seattle. With a maximum of just 60 guests, the new seven-day itinerary shows off the natural beauty of Puget Sound, Hood Canal and the San Juan Islands. And if clients prefer their sightseeing with a cold brew in hand, they might book one of the cruises with a craft beer theme, hosted by local beer experts such as Kendall Jones of the Washington Beer Blog.

The inaugural trip for this itinerary offered six local craft beers on tap in the ship’s bar, as well as a good supply of Washington wines. During the cruise, we visited Stoup Brewing, Port Townsend Brewing Company and Island Hopping Brewing Company, all of which supplied their finest tap beers for everyone to sample.

Three-course dinners were a highlight of each day, and every evening Jones brought out new local brews in bottles from other Washington craft breweries and paired them with our dinner courses. The dark varieties tasted best to me — Iron Horse Brewery’s Quilters Irish Death dark smooth ale had a rich flavor that intensified the decadent chocolate desert made fresh by the ship’s baker. A representative from local company Hama Hama Oyster also came onboard early in the cruise to offer a variety of oysters to try with the different beers.

Throughout the cruise, guests personalized their trip by choosing from a variety of activities, including stand-up paddleboarding, guided kayak tours, nature hikes and whale or bird watching. All options are included in the price of the cruise and are lead by educated guides who regale guests with the history of the area and details about local flora and fauna. I learned more about Puget Sound in a week with these guides than I have living there for 45 years.

The excursion to Deception Pass State Park’s old- growth forest also revealed a lesser-known part of Washington State. The park’s giant old growth trees stretched high and wide like sentries of the sea.

After walking through the forest, we emerged on the beach and saw thousands of tiny pink salmon swimming along the shore on their way out to sea.

Kayaking with the guides was the highlight of my trip. During one paddle at Stuart Island, an eagle swooped down and grabbed a rockfish from the kelp 20 feet from our group. We were so close to the scene that the sound of air swooshing through the eagle’s wings echoed off the water. On the way back to the ship, we paddled close to a blue heron standing guard, waiting for an easy meal.

Once returned from excursions, some cruisers opted to take advantage of the sauna and hot tub on the upper deck. Guests also enjoyed the reasonably priced onboard massages, some rating them among the best they have had.

On the last night of the cruise, Un-Cruise guides gathered guests together for a slideshow of images taken during the cruise — they emailed the shots to everyone, as well. Combined with the countless pictures that all of us had captured throughout our journey, the photos served as beautiful reminders of our unrushed, uncrowded and unbelievable vacation.

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