Up close and personal in Alaska. No ports, just following the wildlife, kayaking, paddle boarding and taking the zodiacs up to the shore for hiking and photography, while cruising so very close to the calving glaciers. As a seasoned traveler with 50 cruises to date, I must say this was one of the best experiences I have had!
I was initially a bit hesitant to cruise on such a small ship as I am not usually the kayak, paddle board or take long hikes type, but didn't want to do a 'big ship' for my first trip to Alaska. As the large ships cruised by at the required 8 mile distance from the glaciers, I was thrilled that we were able to sail within a mile and zodiac right up to them through the 'bergy bit' ice bergs.
We had a Park Ranger onboard for two days. She was informative and well educated, taking us into small coves to find the wildlife easily.
The crew was exceptional! They seemed genuinely happy and made us all feel like family from the first day. Both the Captain and the second in command were WOMEN! A first for me. An open bridge policy allowed guests to experience how the ship navigates and see the panoramic views.
The ship is small and intimate, able to carry just 86 passengers. Everyone dines together and shares tables at meal time while enjoying the passing scenery from the wall to wall windows. Several times during the cruise our dinner was interrupted when whales were spotted and we all went rushing to the bow with our cameras. The chef, who is very talented, kept our meals warm until we returned. The pastry chef, who I compliment and curse at the same time because of my expanding waistline, created the most delicious cookies, scones and desserts I have ever had at sea. You cannot possible stop at just one.
The panoramic view lounge at the front of the ship can seat everyone for happy hour. Our cruise was an all inclusive sailing, with drinks included. Great conversations with interesting people sparked many friendships that I think will last well past the cruise. Twin doors opening to the bow of the ship make it a great spot to watch for wildlife and step out for photographs.
I was surprised to see a couple in their 80's on the ship with some mobility issues, but soon realized this ship is the best way for them to view the wildlife through the windows even though they couldn't participate in the off ship adventure activities.
The cabins were minimal and small, but I found I didn't spend time there with so many things to do outside. The mattresses could have been thicker and more luxurious, as it felt like being at camp with just a mattress on a platform. The black out curtains didn't completely block the sunlight, so I woke with the sun at 4:15 am on many mornings. I was told they are looking into shades instead. That would be a welcome improvement. Drawer and closet space were ample. The bathroom was tiny, but efficient.
Be prepared to truly un-connect. There is no Internet or cell coverage. A welcome change to unplug and enjoy the natural beauty for a week.
Another first for me was having the entire crew lined up on the dock as we departed to say goodbye. It was touching as guests gave each crew member a hug and shared a special moment with the individuals that made it such a memorable week. The right ending to a perfect cruise and a heartwarming testimony for the cruise line.
Overall, I give the Safari Endeavor a high rating and look forward to coming back to explore Mexico and Hawaii with them.