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Our Uncruise Alaskan Adventure

The Wilderness Explorer

all seasons in one day

17 - 24 September 2017

Our map.....

Our map.....

Our days aboard the "Un"cruise ship were the same...but not really.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner, as with most cruises, are times to get to know the other people on the ship, talk about what we thought would happen each day and then in the evenings , talk about what had actually happened, what we had done and what we had seen. Happily, what actually happened far surpassed what we "thought" would.

Our room.....a little tight

Our room.....a little tight

Incredible Alaskan view

Incredible Alaskan view

Jim suiting up for kayaking

Jim suiting up for kayaking

My cold continued. I was rescued by Sarah (a fellow passenger) and her emergency medical kit. (Thank you!!!) Thankfully, the meds got me through the days so that I didn't miss "anything". I really didn't feel bad but could not stop sneezing - I think I'm a bit allergic to all the "green".

Our options each day were the same but the locations were different, which produced a variety of experiences. Each day we got to choose. There were never "too" many people for an activity. Eli (our cruise director) made it all happen.

Skiff (zodiac) adventures took us along the coast for wildlife sightings and sometimes reached a bit further when an opportunity presented.

One more beautiful view

One more beautiful view

Misty Alaska

Misty Alaska

Sea lion

Sea lion

Tails

Tails

Skiff tour advantage

Skiff tour advantage

Alaskan Beauty

Alaskan Beauty

Kayaking was something I really wanted to do though Jim has never been a fan. Kudos to Uncruise for having the "easy" kayaks. They were quite comfortable and had a rudder which made them a joy to navigate. The best part though is their EZ dock launch platform (on the rear of the ship) which was used for departing and returning....easy peasy!!! I kayaked four of the seven days - three with Jim (he decided it wasn't so bad) and one day with a new friend - Pam. Skiffed it a couple of days - one day which turned into the great whale adventure and then next time was a great bear sighting.

Michelle leading our skiff tour

Michelle leading our skiff tour

Hidden Falls

Hidden Falls

Heading out on a skiff tour

Heading out on a skiff tour

Our cruising adventure took us out of Sitka, around Baranof Island to Nakwasina Sound. The next day it was on to the Neva Strait, followed by Peril Strait and Chichagof Island. The Icy Strait was definitely that - which made way for the Glacier Bay. We were fortunate to pick up a National Park Service Ranger (Chelsea Mallory) at the park entrance who stayed with us for the two days we were in Glacier Bay. She was a great resource and also guided hikes during the day and presented talks each evening.

Note: for those thinking of this trip, IMHO, the trip from Sitka to Juneau was the way to go. They do the reverse and of course, you still see amazing things but I really liked having Glacier Bay at the end of the trip - it was definitely a highlight (Thanks Carolyn for the recommendation).

Kayaking on Glacier Bay was AWESOME. Actually all of Glacier Bay was incredible. On our first day at the park, we woke to an eerie fog that clouded the coastline. There is a small park near the Visitor's Center and the brilliant green moss was everywhere. It's an easy walk and very conducive to photo taking.

Morning Fog

Morning Fog

More green at Glacier National Park

More green at Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park walk

Glacier National Park walk

Cruising into Glacier Bay

Cruising into Glacier Bay

As we sailed away (still in the fog) we gradually made our way to clear sky. The view off the stern was incredible - brilliant blue water and a layer of fog which acted as a misty bed for the majestic mountains rising skyward.

Our second day in the park, we woke early to get the sunrise views of the Grand Pacific and Marjorie Glaciers. Click, click, click of cameras was all you could hear. So beautiful!! Breakfast was also early and then at 830am Jim and I were one of the first groups to navigate the ice fields in our kayaks. It was a little nerve racking as we make our way through the large and small chunks of ice....LOVED IT!!!

Sunrise over Marjorie Glacier

Sunrise over Marjorie Glacier

Water and Ice

Water and Ice

Dodging the ice on Glacier Bay

Dodging the ice on Glacier Bay

Our ship - the Wilderness Explorer

Our ship - the Wilderness Explorer

Beautiful day on the water

Beautiful day on the water

Before lunch....the Polar Plunge - yes, a fairly large group jumped off the rear of the boat into 38 degree water. I think more Aussie and Kiwis than Yanks. It was fun to watch the enthusiastic jumps "into" the water and very rapid exit from the icy sea. Not wanted to risk pneumonia , I elected to stay on the dry ship but it was a great photo op.

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Friday the 22nd was our last full day on the boat. We could tell by the fog horn of the ship that it would be a misty day and really the only day that was rainy. I opted for the skiff in the morning, which took us to the Elfin Cove at Cross Sound. This is an area that borders open sea and we were fortunate to see (through the cold raindrops) a small pod of whales feeding. Even the rain guard for my camera couldn't keep it dry so I opted to put the camera down and just enjoy the view.

Beauty in the rain

Beauty in the rain

Last skiff tour in the rain

Last skiff tour in the rain

Thar she blows......

Thar she blows......

George Island

George Island

Decaying building on George Island

Decaying building on George Island

Marilyn - chilly but happy

Marilyn - chilly but happy

That afternoon, one of the options was a skiff ride to George Island and then a hike. We landed on the rocky beach with Dan leading us along the trail up and up ending up at the remains of what was a small military instillation. The "big gun" still stands but small buildings scattered on knolls near by have all but succumbed to nature.

We were on our own to wander the island. When I made my way down to the beach, the boat going back was full. Lucky for me, I got to go back with the crew. (If there is room and they are on their "down" time, crew members are encouraged to go on the different activities). As we headed back to the ship, they wanted to know if I was good with a "side" trip. Of course.... A quick up turn took us around to another side of island. Ahead was a beautiful coast side arch only view able only from the water....very cool!!

Our final night culminated with dinner and an Uncruise tradition of a video of photos that the crew took through out the week. It was fun to watch where we'd been and what we'd done though someone else's eyes. Uncruise sent the video to all of the cruisers and I've included it below - Enjoy!!

http://photos.un-cruise.com/Alaska/Wilderness-Explorer-91617/n-3JWBk8/

On Saturday the 23rd, it was up early, get our bags (which we packed the night before), set out for pick up and a final breakfast before departing the ship. Once we were off, with a final good by from all of the crew we were released back into civilization. The crew would be working furiously to turn the boat over for the incoming passengers. Fifteen of our fellow passengers continued on for the final leg (Juneau to Ketchikan) of the season. After that, the crew took the ship into Seattle for dry dock and a little refurb.

For us, it was two nights in Juneau before heading home. Another Airbnb home and another great location. We did rent a car, One option was to wait until 1130 to take the shuttle to the airport but we opted to Uber out, pick up the car, get our bags (once we finally found them) and make our way up the hills of Juneau. It's like a mini San Francisco. Our host, Frankie, had been in close contact and her directions were great. Their guest area is in the lower level of the house. Nice sized bedroom with a couple of comfortable chairs and a desk. The bathroom was huge and there was also a small kitchen area with everything we needed.

We spent the next two days, driving around the area, checking our Mendenhall Glacier and the local Alaskan Brewery. You could tell that cruise season was over as many of the restaurants had limited hours and the streets seemed deserted. Most of the people wandering the streets were people we had just left. We did have dinner one night at The Rookery. WONDERFUL food - highly recommend it.

A little taste of Alaska

A little taste of Alaska

Another IASW - as we were saying good bye to our hosts (Sunday night as our flight left at 0500 on Monday), we found out that one of the crew "Emily", who, we found out has family in Tucson, had also stayed at the same Airbnb when she came to Alaska. Emily...Frankie and Odin asked us to say "Hello".

Up early and heading home. Alaska was wonderful - along with the magnificent beauty of the area we also made friends with some great people. Beauty lends itself to more beauty....lucky us!!!

I promised more photos and again have used shutterfly.....take a look:

https://alaskanrvanduncruiseadventure.shutterfly.com/

That's us....kayaking off to our next adventure!!!!!

That's us....kayaking off to our next adventure!!!!!

Posted by pjburke 14:30 Archived in USA Tagged alaska uncruise Comments (2)

Sitka

Small town Alaska

overcast 55 °F

Note: The cruise portion of this trip was a welcome respite from all things "on line" but with no cell service or internet and a busy, busy schedule, I'm behind in my postings.. OK...add a little procrastination in also....

This next posting will be for our time in Sitka and the following postings will be "more pics - less words" - probably to the relief of some .....lolol..enjoy!!

14 September 2017

Sleeping in the parking lot of AM RV Center really did work out well. Our land tour of Alaska was over and and it was time to move on to the marine portion. Prior to boarding UnCruise's Wilderness Explorer, we spent two nights/three days in Sitka. It sounded like a cute little town, so why not.

Our flight to Sitka was by way of Juneau. Our stopover in Juneau was brief (we didn't even get off the plane).

Juneau is Alaska's capital and I was slightly amused that it was so small (only three gates). Little did I know that those three would far surpass the Sitka airport which has .....one gate and one small baggage carousel. The advantage being that the bags come out quite quickly.

Normally, when arriving at an airport there is a taxi stand. Sitka has a taxi phone. Actually, a phone on the wall outside the front door of the terminal. Pinned to the wall next to the phone are business cards for local taxis. I only discovered this after I asked the TSA agent about transportation. His recommendation was Hank,whose card was there along with others. I called Hank and he arrived just about his projected 15 minute ETA. A tall, friendly man with a southern accent, Hank knew exactly where we were going.

We'd soon discover that Sitka is the quintessential "small town" - everyone pretty much knows everyone else. We stayed at an Airbnb room which we found while researching Sitka for accommodations. I found that hotels in this little town are crazy expensive - $150-200 per night and that was at the Super 8. We've had good luck with Airbnb in the past but this is the first time we rented a room vs the whole house.

Our Airbnb Home

Our Airbnb Home


Our room in Sitka

Our room in Sitka

Deanna was our landlady for the two days we were there and she was great about being in touch. We couldn't get into the room until 3pm but we were able to leave our bags. With those dropped off - lunch was a good place to start. No time for breakfast that morning, so we were both a bit peckish. Lunch was at the Bayview Pub - really good burger and beer.

Next stop - I needed to see if I could get my glasses fixed. When I picked them up that morning, one of the lenses fell out. Agh!!! Our waiter at the Pub told us about the vision center and how to get there. It was probably a mile walk heading out of town but a good way to walk off lunch and see a bit of Sitka away from the tourist area. The office was easy to find but I'd have to leave the glasses - optometrist was out to lunch.

It wasn't long before we discovered that, a good afternoon walk in SItka would pretty much cover most of what was there...at least at this time of year. Many shops and restaurants had already closed for the season.

Harborview Sitka

Harborview Sitka

Reminder of the Fishing Industry

Reminder of the Fishing Industry

Totem outside the Healing Hut

Totem outside the Healing Hut

Totem outside the Sitka High School

Totem outside the Sitka High School

The "Mean Queen" got good reviews so for dinner we walked over and reviews were spot on....really good pizza.

Note: For those thinking of traveling independently to Alaska. I would highly recommend the trip but just an FYI regarding food. Grocery store prices are about the same as "the lower 48" but dining out is a bit expensive. A lot of reviews I've read mention the high price of food but then they always preface it with "but remember...it's Alaska".

15 September 2017

After coffee and scone/bagel at the Back Door (a little local coffee shop behind the local book store - hence the name), we walked towards the vision center to get my glasses. Another odd thing about Sitka. There is only one grocery store (that we found) and it's about a mile outside the main town area. Lucky for us,it's right next door to the vision center so it was a quick stop at both and errands were complete.

We walked back along the water and started chatting with a couple from Washington (state) who had just retired and were starting a ten year trek on their trawler. As we were saying our good byes - we both mentioned that we blogged. I glanced at his name during our card exchange and found out they were also "Gregorys". His family is also from England - couldn't really make a connection but you never know. We just might be cousins. Yes IASW!!!

Also, met a couple from Florida who are in port on the Oceania Regent. Chatted with them a bit. Sitka definitely lends itself to the friendly "small town" feel.

In front of the Pioneer Home

In front of the Pioneer Home

Early Settler

Early Settler

Reminisce of Russian Influence

Reminisce of Russian Influence

Starfish in Sitka

Starfish in Sitka

Back to the room just as it was starting to sprinkle. Worked on the blog and then back to the Pub for dinner. UA was playing on the bar TV, so we got a chance to see some of the game (against UTEP). Yes, we crushed them.

16 September 2017

Before boarding our cruise ship later in the afternoon, we had the day to wander Sitka - probably one more day than we really needed. Baggage needed to be dropped off by 330pm to a hotel which was a quick ten minute walk.

Last on the "to do" list was to finish up a load of laundry (no laundry on the ship) before leaving Deanna's lovely home. The Back Door again for breakfast.

We decided to walked to Raptor center (about a mile outside town). Along the way, we walked by a National Cemetery. Didn't even know that there was one in town. I do have this thing about cemeteries, so Jim indulged me.

There were over 1000 graves, some dating to the mid 1800's. We bought Alaska from Russia in 1867 and this cemetery was established in 1868. It is the oldest in Alaska predating Fort Richardson National Cemetery in Anchorage by almost 100 years. I found this fascinating and it made me wonder , "what was it like to live (and die) in Sitka in 1870?". For anyone who is interested, I've included a like to the cemetery's wiki page:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sitka_National_Cemetery

Moving View at the National Cemetery

Moving View at the National Cemetery

Continuing down Sawmill Creek Road, we finally reached the Raptor Center........and it was CLOSED!!!!

Oh well.....There was an entrance to the Sitka National Historical Park close by, so we wandered for a bit in this nice, local rain forest park.

A Walk in the Woods

A Walk in the Woods

Green....everywhere!!

Green....everywhere!!

Local Totem

Local Totem

Local Art

Local Art

Totem outside the National Park Office - Sitka

Totem outside the National Park Office - Sitka

The park area was busy this morning with a high school cross country meet - young people from high schools all over SE Alaska.

We picked up our day packs from Deanna's after lunch and made our way to the gathering point. The hotel lobby was full of cruisers coming and going. We chatted with a few and found that some had disembarked that morning and others would be our shipmates for the next seven days.

From first impressions, it seemed to be a really nice group of people. Demographics?? A few in the 45-55 age range and two adult children to two different families but generally the 60-75 age group with a number of Aussies and Kiwis. Most people were also first time cruisers with UC but none the less, most were experienced travelers.

Jim and I were playing cards in the lobby and I realized that I was getting a scratchy throat. I know my body pretty well - I immediately knew I was coming down with a head cold (DAMN!!). We've been planning this trip since last September and I really didn't want to be sick. We ran down to the pharmacy to pick up some EmergenC...of course, I had some but it was at home in the first aid kit..which I inadvertently left behind.

Arriving back to the hotel, just in time for our five minute bus ride to the harbor. As with all Uncruises, we were personally greeted by the captain and crew and also had our pictures taken in the rain. Up the gangplank and we were again greeted by another crew member (Peyton) who escorted us to our rooms She explained the room and it's idiosyncrasies The room (compared to the La Pinta) is minuscule and of course I get "inside" side of the bed.

All on board and we're off...our farewell wave to Sitka and thanks for an enjoyable visit.

Good-bye Sitka!!!

Good-bye Sitka!!!

A welcome cocktail, a few "ship" info tidbits and our mandatory Coast Guard safety instructions and it's time for dinner. The food is good...not the huge selection that we had on La Pinta but very tasty.

More intros in the lounge after dinner and there was a little socializing but my usual "perky self" was not so perky ....I left Jim to schmooze and I was off to bed to dream of whales, glaciers and the possibility of seeing the aurora borealis.

Posted by pjburke 14:08 Archived in USA Tagged alaska uncruise Comments (0)

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