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While yogis and fitness buffs alike can now enjoy wellness cruising in Alaska with UnCruise Adventures onboard its Legacy vessel, I remain most fond of the ship’s classic and updated hardware and software.
Now, the replica coastal steamer is every bit an adventurer’s ship, thanks to the addition of the Sea Dragon, its excursion launch platform.
When last I sailed onboard the 90-passenger Legacy, it was along the Columbia and Snake rivers in the U.S., and the ship’s program was predominantly history-focused. But that has since changed for the wilds of Alaska (though Legacy still sails itineraries on those rivers).
“We wanted to turn the boat into an adventure vessel so that we weren't selling both adventure and heritage, per se,” explained captain Dan Blanchard, CEO of UnCruise. “We wanted to just stick with what our shtick is. First, we looked at three or four different ways we were going to change the back of the boat, but we were very committed to not doing that, because the boat has such great lines.”
Instead, the imaginative Blanchard conceived the idea of a fishing-like power scowl towed behind Legacy as a launch platform. The hybrid vessel can ballast down below the waterline a bit and open its back gate to winch three kayaks onto its flat loading bed, which is also ideal for polar plunging. Guests can then embark and disembark without any wobbling from free-floating craft. Similarly, passengers use convenient built-in steps to get on and off skiffs tied to the side. Plus, the boat has its own offboard motors, allowing it to navigate independently.
My father and I had a blast enjoying the solitude of our two-person kayak, particularly in Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve at the face of Lamplugh Glacier. There’s something magical about being at water level and seeing such majestic nature towering above you.
The whole Sea Dragon system is rather ingenious, really, and the Pesky Barnacle Saloon did not need to be displaced to make any of it happen. In fact, the lounge is getting more use now, as participants cycle through and gear up.
The Sea Dragon may be a bit industrial looking, but Legacy has not lost any of the charm I remember from my first sailing onboard the ship. The exterior turn-of-the-century aesthetic carries through to distinctive interiors, which feature handsome high-gloss wood paneling, stamped tin ceilings and even an old-school camber to the decks.
All in all, the vessel is in remarkably good shape considering its 1983 construction, though some fixtures are a bit rough around the edges. Its luxuries come not in the form of five-star accommodations but, rather, exclusive opportunities and inclusive amenities. For example, all excursions are included and take place near where the ship is docked. This affords the potential to kayak and go for a remote hike in a day’s time — a standard cruise line could barely fit one such tour in the same time frame.
Larger ships also don't stop to view wildlife; however, onboard Legacy, whenever whales are spotted, the ship pauses to allow guests to take in the scene (and take photos). And they can do so from the bridge and the wraparound wheelhouse, which have an open-door policy.
Then, of course, dining and drinks are included. A full open bar is available throughout the day, including lovely local Alaskan Brewing Company beers on tap. And although food selections may be limited compared to other cruises, the cuisine is gourmet — including an evening of multiple helpings of succulent whole Dungeness crab.
Kayaking in Alaska while seeing the occasional mega-ships sail by is surreal, to say the least, but my dad summarized it best: The difference between them and UnCruise is that those vessels’ passengers just see Alaska — but onboard Legacy, guests experience it.
The DetailsUnCruise Adventureswww.uncruise.com