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The fact that UnCruise Adventures ships are small is the most noticeable difference from traditional cruise lines. But that’s just the beginning of the line’s distinctions — especially when it comes to Hawaii.
Vessels with just 22 to 90 passengers allow clients to get to know everyone onboard, but the small guest capacity also enables crews to tailor itineraries — including by providing last-minute adjustments — to see wildlife or accommodate for weather and ocean conditions.
My son Josh and I arrived on Molokai for our UnCruise adventure onboard the 36-guest Safari Explorer — a stark contrast from other big cruise ships, such as Norwegian Cruise Line’s intra-Hawaii 2,186-passenger Pride of America. We could tell immediately that this was going to be different from our previous cruising experiences. And with no set itinerary, there was no preplanning, no prebooking and no preconceived notions.
“Flexibility is key,” said Tim Jacox, president and chief operations officer of UnCruise. “With so few guests onboard, the crew can identify who can do what, and who wants to do what, so we’re able to cater to passenger interests.”
Our cruise had passengers of all ages and physical abilities, and there were always activity alternatives, such as riding in the skiff instead of kayaking, or enjoying beach time instead of snorkeling. However, guides encouraged everyone to try new things, especially the night snorkel to see manta rays, which many found daunting (including me). Although we didn’t see any rays, we figured we still earned bragging rights.
There were also opportunities to get out of the water. At Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park on Hawaii Island, our adventure guide, Lauren, showed us ancient Hawaiian fishponds and petroglyphs (lava carvings). Similarly, when we returned to Molokai at the end of the week, we visited Halawa Valley, one of the oldest inhabited locations in Hawaii. There, we met Pilipo Solatorio — the valley’s last original elder and carrier of its ancient traditions — and his son Greg, who will carry those traditions forward. Lauren noted that visitors to Hawaii (and even residents who live there) rarely get to see this authentic Hawaiian culture and these ancient systems.
Pilipo welcomed guests with the honi — or “Hawaiian handshake” — a traditional greeting of touching foreheads. Then, we could hike to a waterfall or hear a lesson about the valley’s culture and history. Josh and I chose the lesson, and it was an unforgettable experience.
“When people come to our islands expecting to see our culture, not many get the real culture,” Greg explained. “I walk you through our culture, so you get a better understanding, and the only way I can do that is to invite you into our home — this valley.”
For the next several hours, Greg told us about his family’s traditions, from catching fish and planting taro to making poi (fermented taro root pounded into paste) with stone poi pounders that have been in his family for seven generations.
“The cruise is a very special way for families, couples and singles of all generations to really see Hawaii,” said Sally Goodgion, president of Catalyst Travel in Kent, Wash. “I learned how important it is to hear the stories of the places you visit.”
Additionally, Josh, a senior at the University of Hawaii, said he learned more about Hawaii in one week than in three years of living there — which is an education that is exactly what UnCruise strives to provide to its guests.
The DetailsUnCruise Adventureswww.uncruise.com