Un-Cruise Adventures’ Safari Endeavour carries 86 guests. // © 2014 Un-Cruise Adventures
Feature image (above): A ranger guides Un-Cruise passengers in Glacier Bay National Park and Reserve. // © 2014 Un-Cruise Adventures
Last summer, Sharon Whiting sold a 31-person multi-generational family group on an Alaska sailing with Un-Cruise Adventures. Her clients ranged in age from teens to the family patriarch, who was celebrating his 80th birthday.
“They all had a fantastic experience immersed in Alaska’s natural beauty,” said Whiting, a cruise consultant with Cruise Specialists in Seattle. “That’s the draw with Un-Cruise. It’s a great concept, and it’s very casual. There isn’t any pressure to cover fauna and flora as if it’s a scientific study. They just want to get you out there, into the small bays and inlets and smaller ports of call, so that everybody has the opportunity to really experience Alaska.”
Experiencing the nature of Alaska is the heart of an Un-Cruise expedition in the state.
“With Un-Cruise, you can feel the vastness of Alaska’s wilderness,” said Cecile Schutter, owner of West University Travel in Houston, who recently sailed in Alaska on Un-Cruise with her two grandchildren, ages 12 and 13. “You don’t feel how grand Alaska is when you are on a big cruise ship. Once you’re inside the ship, you could be anywhere in the world.”
“I’m a big proponent of the small-ship experience,” commented Vicki Bennett, a senior group specialist with Avoya Travel in Vista, Calif., who has already sailed in Alaska with Un-Cruise twice, but plans to do it again. “People can discover how incredible the state is and really get immersed.”
Immersion in a destination and access to areas big cruise ships can’t reach are two of the defining characteristics of all small-ship cruising. But Lisa Daumann, leisure travel consultant with Universal Travel River Oaks in Houston, said the Un-Cruise style of small-ship cruising differentiates it from other lines in the market.
“All of the smaller ships can access off-the-beaten-track places, but the Un-Cruise experience is more personable and more intimate,” said Daumann, who recently sold a small group on one of the line’s Alaska itineraries. “You have access to the captain. The bridge is usually open, and the captain shares his knowledge of the area. My clients really enjoyed that.”
Another difference is that Un-Cruise offers travelers more options than other small ship lines in the Alaska market, according to Nancy Fowler, a travel consultant with Willamette International Travel in Portland, Ore.
“It comes down to the choices they offer in a variety of components — the ships, the itineraries, the price point,” Fowler said. “That really stands out.”
Un-Cruise’s Alaska product includes nine separate itineraries of seven- to 21-night cruises sailing April to September. Five or six ships in the Un-Cruise fleet of eight vessels sail most of the Alaska itineraries. The ships range in size, passenger count and onboard amenities and inclusions.
Qualifying the Client
“When a client comes in and wants to go to Alaska but doesn’t want to be on a mass market product, we start having a conversation,” Fowler said. “Do they want a more hands-on experience without as much included, versus the luxury product, which is more inclusive and has a higher price point? I like that Un-Cruise has both options because not everybody is ready to move into a high-end ship.”
Schutter noted that the availability of different ships and itineraries also translates into a wider range of activities and a broader demographic appeal. Even so, the Un-Cruise experience in Alaska is not for everyone.
“If they just want to go see a little bit of nature and enjoy the buffet line, it may not be the best product for them,” Bennett said. “But for people who love being out in nature and truly have a passion for the outdoors, it’s absolutely perfect.”
Fowler said the profile of an ideal client for an Un-Cruise Alaska sailing cuts across the typical demographics of age, income and previous cruising experience.
“What they all seem to have in common is they really want an Alaskan experience,” Fowler said. “They want to get off the beaten track and have an intimate experience with a high level of engagement.”
The one limiting factor is mobility.
“You have to have some level of fitness,” Bennett said. “Most of the excursions involve walking, and even if you are doing one of the slower-paced activities, you are out in nature so it’s not paved. There are a lot of uneven surfaces. If you have any kind of mobility issues, it might not be the best trip for you.”