We recently had the opportunity to experience what it’s like to travel with UnCruise Adventures, the small-ship expedition cruise line based out of Seattle, Washington. It was truly an all-encompassing way to see Hawaii and unlike any other cruise line we’ve traveled on before.
Traveling with UnCruise is an intriguing experience especially if you’ve never been a part of an “expedition” style cruise. Even so, UnCruise just seems to be so unassuming compared to any other cruise line no matter who you match it up with.
Take this Hawaiian itinerary for example. Molokai - more specifically the town of Kaunakakai - was where we disembarked on this 7-day journey. This isn’t a disembarkation point one would imagine for a cruise line, and probably reflects the intentions of UnCruise to promote a more “Hawaiian” experience.
Whether or not this was the intention, it certainly made me feel this way when we arrived in Molokai. An overlooked island for those traveling to Hawaii, only around 8,000 live on the island. The community, steeped in high unemployment rates and with many residents reliant on food stamps, still felt vibrant and strong nonetheless. It was very clear to us that the Hawaiian spirit was alive and well here despite it’s obvious economic shortcomings.
UnCruise is not a glamorous cruise line. And it’s not supposed to be. The Safari Explorer, which is based in Hawaii year-round, was launched in 1998 so it doesn’t carry that modern sleek feel of all these new-age expedition vessels coming out of shipyards. But all is well when boarding the Safari Explorer, as the frills that come with modern edginess and luxurious accommodations are instead replaced with an adventurous and rustic ambiance that just makes you feel like you’re about to have a true adventure. And did we ever.
UnCruise’s Hawaiian adventure itinerary brings to you four of the Hawaiian islands: Molokai, Lanai, Maui and the Big Island. You get a wonderful mix of activities, cultural enrichment, locally-sourced cuisine and necessary down-time. With that being said, here are what we think are the pros and cons of experiencing Hawaii with UnCruise Adventures.
Active, Active, Active!
Right from Day 1, you’ll learn how active an UnCruise trip is. You’ll have at least one activity scheduled for the day, whether that be hiking, skiffing, kayaking, or snorkeling. All of these activities are included with your cost, so think of it as free excursions! And don’t worry, you don’t have to partake. You can simply stay back on the boat and enjoy the views from the comforts of the Safari Explorer.
Caring and Personable Crew
Perhaps the biggest highlight of this trip was the crew. It’s a very young crew, but each one of them are equipped with what you would think are years and years of hospitality experience. From the captain onward, everyone seemed to be involved with ensuring the passenger’s comfort and well-being. We especially enjoyed the personable nature of our two expedition guides, Lauren and Sophie, who were both extremely knowledgeable of Hawaii’s history, geography and environment. Also, we cannot end our praise of the crew without mentioning the exceptional bar tender, Jessica, who served up some of the best cocktails we’ve ever had while providing some super conversational entertainment.
All Drinks Included!
Even if you’re not a drinker, the bartenders on board your UnCruise will get creative and make you something you’ve probably never heard of before but will certainly love! Even better, especially on this Hawaiian itinerary, you will have access to 100% Kona coffee - a truly delectable treat. All of the service staff are trained bartenders and baristas, so there will never be a time you can’t satisfy your thirst. And the best thing yet, all drinks are included with your cruise fare!
UnCruise is probably the only travel company that has exclusive tours set up with with Anakala Pilipo Solatorio and his family in Halawa Valley, Molokai. One of the best things you can do when you visit Hawaii is to truly learn about Hawaiian and Polynesian culture. This experience on Molokai does exactly that and really gets you to critically think about the importance of Hawaiian culture as it endures today.
A Happy Hour You Should Attend
The best time on board the Safari Explorer is “Happy Hour” in the late afternoon/early evening right before dinner is served. The chef will whip up some delicious hors d'oeuvres and the bartenders will make you their drink of the day. It’s the perfect time to wind down after a day full of sun and activities.
You Will Feel Motion!
If you are prone to sea sickness, then this cruise is probably not in your best interest. Depending on the strength of the trade winds blowing into the Hawaiian islands, a few feet of swells will even make this sailing feel like a decent roller coaster ride. On the first night, the captain informed us that we would be feeling some rock as we sailed the Lahaina Roads from Molokai to Maui and passed out sea sickness medication as a precaution. The motion was quite surprising to me, but manageable and even helped me have a good night’s sleep. The motion got more intense, however, as we crossed the larger Maui Channel for the Big Island.
Your Quarters Might Feel Cramped
We were prepared for more cramped quarters than we were used to, so coming aboard the Safari Explorer and seeing the size of our “Master Cabin” room came as no surprise. Because this is an expedition ship, the cabins will certainly be smaller than what you may find on a typical cruise ship. This isn’t to say that the room wasn’t comfortable (it actually was pleasant!), but expect a queen size bed if you’re sharing with your roommate, or a twin size if you request a separate setup. There isn’t too much room to work with inside the cabin, so be sure to pack relatively light. My companion and I brought our backpacks and a medium-sized luggage and this was just perfect for UnCruises’ accommodations. We did have one night where the AC decided to stop working, which wasn’t pleasant at all, the the crew quickly fixed it the day after, so two-thumbs up for that.
Is The Price Point Too High?
UnCruise presents an interesting dilemma for cruise goers, and we say this with our clients in mind. For a 7-day adventure like this one, UnCruise fares will start at around $5,000 based on double occupancy for their lowest category cabin. At times, UnCruise will promote $700 per cabin savings in addition to $700 air credit for two (like they are now) when booked by a certain time. Nonetheless, this cost is a premium to luxury cost, a price point you would almost expect on a cruise line like Crystal Cruises.
Like I mentioned before, UnCruise is not glamorous, certainly nowhere near as glamorous as Crystal. But the quality with which they present there product - it’s all there. The food, which we would rate 5-star, the service, the attention, the accountability of staff - it’s all there. There’s simply more with UnCruise than meets the eye. And that’s the reason why we put this as a con, because it will at least get you thinking about the value you’re receiving.
Would We Recommend Traveling With UnCruise? You Should Do It Now More Than Ever!
Overall, traveling with UnCruise Adventures and seeing Hawaii from this perspective was awesome! From the amazing crew and our fun fellow passengers, to all of the activities and the cultural enrichment, we just couldn’t have imagined a more encompassing experience of Hawaii. So would I UnCruise again? You bet! And I encourage anyone reading this to think about UnCruising too.