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UnCruise Adventures is pretty upfront about its business philosophy — it’s in the company’s name, after all.
The small-ship cruise line defines itself by its “Un-ness,” a commitment to featuring uncommon cruise experiences that allow guests to break away from the masses; go where large vessels cannot; and engage and connect with themselves, other passengers, locals and unique destinations. It provides experiences suitable for everyone from adventure junkies and wellness seekers to families, wildlife lovers and oenophiles. With a laid-back ambiance and unconventional offerings, UnCruise makes its mark on the travel industry.
But what also sets the line apart is its commitment to sustainable travel. UnCruise adheres as much as possible to environmentally-friendly business practices such as sourcing local food, reducing waste, monitoring its impact on the environment and incentivizing its staff to engage in eco-friendly practices.
“Remote, scenic and wild places are at the heart of the UnCruise experience,” said Tim Jacox, president and chief operating officer. “People leave our trips with a renewed appreciation of nature and its inhabitants — resulting in a desire to conserve these rare places in the world for future generations. We take our responsibility to be a respectful tour operator seriously. From itinerary planning to ship systems, decisions are made with an eye on treading lightly in the places we visit.”
Here are a few key ways in which UnCruise focuses on sustainability.
Running a Tight ShipOne of the first things I learned about UnCruise during my eight-night Rivers of Adventure cruise along Washington and Oregon’s Columbia and Snake rivers had to do with its marine sanitation devices (MSDs). Chief engineer Jack Hreha regaled us with a tale about his “precious microbes” that would be breaking down our, ahem, business during our time onboard UnCruise’s Legacy.
All the line’s vessels are outfitted with Type II MSDs; these small-scale sewage-treatment systems break down sewage using aerobic bacteria, and the resulting liquid is safely discharged into the environment.
When it comes to ship updates, UnCruise looks for eco-friendly purchases — whether it’s an engine or exterior paint that needs refreshing — and spends more for greener options.
As for fuel, the line measures and thoroughly researches routes so that it can conserve as much fuel as possible and get the most out of each destination.
Getting Everyone OnboardThe experience onboard UnCruise’s ships may most obviously demonstrate the line’s commitment to sustainability. Upon embarkation, guests are given a reusable stainless-steel water bottle to use throughout their sailing, and the ships have water-makers onboard, as well.
Food items for onboard meals are sourced locally as much as possible. For example, on Hawaiian Islands sailings, meat and produce are usually purchased on Molokai; on Sea of Cortez itineraries, UnCruise has a partnership with a Baja farm plot that grows produce for the line; on river cruises, fruit, meat and produce are purchased from Washington and Oregon farms; and on Alaska sailings, UnCruise sources salmon from Juneau, Alaska-based Taku River Reds, a family-run purveyor of wild Alaskan salmon and seafood.
In 2015, UnCruise was the first cruise line to partner with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, which provides insight on seafood sources that have less impact on the environment. The program uses science-based, peer reviewed methods to assess how wild-caught and farmed seafood affect the environment, and provides recommendations for the “Best Choices” and “Good Alternatives,” as well as those to “Avoid.” As a Seafood Watch partner, UnCruise pledges to serve only seafood rated a “Best Choice” or “Good Alternative” and to educate its customers, suppliers and employees about sustainability issues.
Additionally, wines and spirits on river sailings come from local makers (and much of the alcohol served onboard ships is stored in kegs), and the straws onboard UnCruise vessels are made from corn products. No single-use plastics are used onboard ships, and the line aims to recycle and reduce waste as much as possible, including buying in bulk and staying away from overpackaged goods.
Shore UpOn land, UnCruise hires local drivers and guides when possible for tours, and utilizes local operators for off-boat activities.
UnCruise also monitors its impact on the locales it visits, moving ships to different locations if it starts to see detrimental effects. On top of this, staff is encouraged to pick up trash onshore; UnCruise employees have cleaned up mountains of debris on beaches in Mexico, removed huge Styrofoam pieces from shore in Alaska and hauled nets onboard in Hawaii.
Staff is also financially incentivized to help the environment: For every day an employee walks, buses, bikes, kayaks or commutes with three people in a car to work, he or she receives $10.
A Ringing EndorsementDuring my farewell dinner onboard Legacy, I dined with captain Jared Passenger and discussed some of UnCruise’s eco-friendly practices with him. When I asked him what he thought was one of the line’s best practices, he circled back to engineer Hreha’s “precious microbes,” lauding UnCruise for its water-treatment practices, which are “better than what’s required,” he said.
This simple statement aptly summed up my own feelings about my experience with the line. There are plenty of travel suppliers who engage in sustainable practices by meeting standard requirements and regulations. But when a company commits to doing the basic minimum one (or two or three) better, that’s what truly sets it apart.
The DetailsUnCruise Adventureswww.uncruise.com