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Wilderness Discoverer Review

Wilderness Discoverer
Wilderness Discoverer - Explorer Cabin Wilderness Discoverer - Passenger Lounge Wilderness Discoverer - Dining Room Wilderness Discoverer - Kayaking from the Ship
81% of cruisers loved it
21 reviews | Write a Review
  • Small-ship experience through Alaska's Inside Passage
  • Emphasis on outdoors with kayaking & glacier-trekking
  • Dock in secluded coves & bays, sans cruise-ship crowds
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Wilderness Discoverer Overview

by Chris Gray Faust, Cruise Critic contributor
Editor Rating
When Cruise West went bankrupt in 2010, small ship cruise lovers who wanted to explore Alaska's nooks and crannies were left with few options. Luckily, Un-Cruise Adventures has stepped into the void with two Inside Passage itineraries on three expedition vessels aimed at active travelers that bring guests much closer to nature than the deck of a megaship.

The line's Wilderness Discoverer, bought from the now-defunct Glacier Bay Cruise Line and completely overhauled, isn't glamorous. In most cabins, showers share space with toilets, and a plastic shower curtain keeps the toilet and your towels dry while you bathe. But thoughtful touches, such as memory foam mattresses, bedside stands with pull-out laptop spaces and outside hooks for bulky gear, abound. Best of all, each cabin has an outside window that opens, so you can breathe in the fresh Alaska air, day and night.

The ship does have its comforts. The two hot tubs were packed many nights on our August cruise, and the onboard masseuse will rub out your kinks (for an extra fee). A full bar offers drink specials, as well as a thorough wine list, but you'll see more action at Happy Hour than after dinner. Most passengers spend their evenings reading, playing cards and other games, or watching borrowed movies in their cabins. It's not a ship where you'll see people downing shots at the bar, although the bartender will make you a Duck Fart if you ask.

The minimal onboard amenities don't seem to bother Wilderness Discoverer's passengers because the focus of these cruises is Alaska's nature and wildlife. We woke up in isolated bays surrounded by mountains and trees, instead of noisy ports. Rather than battling the crowds in Glacier Bay, we had Sawyer Glacier in Tracy Arm all to ourselves. And when the ship came upon a pod of humpback whales in Frederick Sound, it lingered for several hours so everyone could observe the majestic creatures. In order to make the most of Alaska's unpredictable wildlife, a certain go-with-the-flow attitude is required, and the schedule we received when we boarded was merely a guideline.

And that's just fine with this ship's crowd, which places outdoor exploration high on its agenda. REI is the dominant label, and fisherman-style rubber boots will get more wear than heels. On one recent cruise, multigenerational families dominated the passenger list, with ages 5 to 85 represented. With a maximum of 76 people on board, you'll know everyone's name before the week is over. (Mingling is encouraged with name tags.)

No matter what your age, you'll get plenty of activity on Wilderness Discoverer. Your days will be filled with guided paddles and hikes that are well off the beaten cruise path, with opportunities to try stand-up paddle-boarding, glacier-trekking and even snorkeling. (Don't worry, you wear a wetsuit.) Hikes are ranked by difficulty, and the crew is honest with its fitness appraisals. More traditional Inside Passage cruise excursions, such as saltwater-fishing, flight-seeing and jet boat trips, are available for an extra fee. Morning comes early in the Alaska summer, and you'll likely fall exhausted into bed while it's still dusk.

And the Wilderness Discoverer crew -- many veterans of Cruise West -- keep it all lively with outstanding service and a "can do" approach to the outdoors. Expedition leaders do their best to make Alaska accessible to even the biggest couch potatoes; every day, people were seen trying activities that they originally claimed were out of their comfort zones. You'll leave feeling like you stretched your limits to meet Alaska's challenges, and that's an excellent way to experience such a vast wilderness.

Wilderness Discoverer Fellow Passengers

As you might expect from the emphasis on activity, Wilderness Discoverer passengers tend to be more athletic and outdoor-minded than typical cruisers (although not necessarily younger). The line has struck it big with families, and multigenerational groups of a dozen or more have been common.

Wilderness Discoverer Dress Code

Do shoes count as a dress code? Even then, you'll see plenty of passengers padding around in warm socks. Wilderness Discoverer is strictly casual, and people are more likely to comment on your gear than your outfit.

Speaking of gear, believe the recommended list that Un-Cruise Adventures sends out before the trip. You will need tall waterproof boots, for example, as well as rain pants, a raincoat and other things to keep you warm. Sunny days are the exception, rather than the rule, in this corner of Alaska. If you aren't dressed to get wet, you'll be a very unhappy camper.

Wilderness Discoverer Gratuity

Tips can be added to your bill at the end of the cruise, and they are split evenly between the crew. The captain recommended between 5 and 10 percent of your total cabin cost.
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Wilderness Discoverer Member Reviews

There is something very special about cruising the Inside Passage, especially on a smaller ship, however I wondered do these smaller ships really take advantage of their smaller size. We are from Australia, so seeing humpback whales is not unusual, ... Read more
As many have said before in the small vs. large cruise discussions, small cruises really are a lot more flexible, and the captain has a lot of leeway in deciding where to go based on weather and wildlife sightings, etc. That is a huge advantage, in ... Read more
I realize i am the naysayer on these guys, Perhaps i believed the brochures too much as UnCruise is still pretty "cruise" like in many ways. the impression given by their marketing is that this cruise is a chance to get close to nature ... Read more
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Wilderness Discoverer Ratings

Editor Rating 4.0 Member Rating
Public Rooms
Spa & Fitness
Family & Children
Shore Excursions

Sailing From

Juneau Ketchikan Seattle

Cruises To

Alaska North America River

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Ship Stats
Juneau, AK
CDC Score:
Not Yet Inspected
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