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Alaska has long been a destination that my husband and I wanted to visit, but we were looking for a trip with a small group, as well as one that offered adventure and close encounters with nature. Enter Un-Cruise Adventures, formerly American Safari Cruises and Innersea Discoveries.
We sailed on the 86-passenger Safari Endeavour for the Discoverers’ Glacier Country cruise, a seven-night adventure with an itinerary that includes access to some of the most remote and intricate passages in Southeast Alaska — something that larger ships cannot offer. There were no ports of call, no touristy shops — just wilderness and wildlife.
Our adventure began steps away from the dock, as we were greeted with a warm welcome from the Endeavour’s captain and crew. Minutes later, we were sipping champagne and making new friends. The captain announced an open bridge policy and, an hour later, as I searched for my husband, I found him there, chatting with the captain and first mate.
We both appreciated Endeavour’s accommodations, recently renovated into larger staterooms and suites, all with flat-screen televisions, DVD players and iPod docking stations. Some have balconies and Jacuzzis. Guests can store valuables in the ship’s safe, which is important since stateroom doors cannot be locked from the outside.
At six in the morning, we were awakened by the gentle voice of our expedition leader inviting us to the bow of the ship to view our welcome committee: 10 humpback whales feeding in the water around us. When we eventually dragged ourselves away, it was to fuel up for the day with a gourmet breakfast buffet, including fresh-baked muffins, pancakes, specialty dishes, eggs to order, fresh fruit and more.
Each day after breakfast, the expedition leader announced the activity options for the day, which included kayaking, hiking, paddleboarding and small-boat tours. There was time to experience at least two of the activities and usually more, since they are offered throughout the day. Returning to the ship, we were met by crewmembers waiting on the beach with hot chocolate and peppermint Schnapps or coffee and Baileys Irish Cream.
Sailing through Glacier Bay, we saw a mother bear and her cubs; bald eagles perched in spruce trees; Sitka black-tailed deer; mountain goats; harbor seals and their pups; whales; sea otters; and more. On such a small ship, the captain can stop spontaneously or change course in order to spend as much time as possible viewing the wildlife.
We visited five glaciers — all different and all incredibly beautiful. One morning, we kayaked close to Reid Glacier, keeping an eye on a bear on the shore. Paddling back to the Endeavour, I could see a big ship several miles away in the large channel and couldn’t help but appreciate how lucky I was, tucked away in an inlet surrounded by an amazing vista and practically touching a glacier. Another evening, we anchored to watch Marjerie Glacier calve while sitting in the hot tub, sipping cognac. We also motored on a skiff through an ice field to view Dawes Glacier up close.
All of this activity made for hearty appetites, and dining on the Endeavour did not disappoint. Early risers can help themselves to coffee, tea, freshly made pastries and fruit, and then join the other passengers for a full breakfast around 8 a.m. Lunches feature soups, salads, meat dishes, sandwiches, pastas and desserts. Hors d’oeuvres are served in the lounge each evening during cocktail hour, and dinner options include steak, lamb, fresh salmon and Dungeness crab. Vegetarian options are offered at every meal. Premium spirits, wine and beer are all included.
On this upscale cruise, guests are welcome to dine in whatever is comfortable, including shorts, jeans, T-shirts or sweats. This cruise is for the adventurous (age doesn’t matter) who enjoy pampering and extraordinary experiences. It is suitable for families, but not for young children. The ship is not equipped for disabled passengers in wheelchairs, but a hip or knee replacement won’t stop clients from having the time of their lives.
Endeavour operates seven-day trips out of Juneau from May to September, with pricing from $4,795 per person.