This is our second cruise with Un-Cruise. The last one, on Safari Quest, was five stars in every category. This was not a repeat adventure. Yes, the marine life was spectacular. Snorkeling with baby sea lions, getting right next to a blue ... Read More
This is our second cruise with Un-Cruise. The last one, on Safari Quest, was five stars in every category. This was not a repeat adventure. Yes, the marine life was spectacular. Snorkeling with baby sea lions, getting right next to a blue whale, touching and observing for hours the grey whales and babies was amazing and special. We encountered two super pods (over 2,000) dolphins that stayed with the boat until sunset. That is a once in a lifetime experience. We got to enjoy all the wonders of the wildlife in the Sea of Cortez. The whales, sea lions, dolphins, birds all cooperated and showed us their individual beauty and wonder. That’s why we went. We just hoped the entire week would have been as nice as previous cruises with Un-Cruise. I hate to keep comparing with the Safari Quest, but that’s my reference point.
The crew seemed to be hard working but we did not feel they were over friendly. We thought the crew were nice people. What they do is not easy. It takes a special personality. We recognize that . Maybe they had been without a vacation for some time. Overall, they seemed tired. When passing in the hall they often did not say “hi” or even look up and make eye contact. They are knowledgeable in their field, but their presentations could use a little more showmanship.
There are two crew members we would like to recognize. Mark, the guide, and John in engineering went out of their way to help us during the cruise. John came to our rescue a few times. He was a very nice, pleasant young man. When he overheard we needed a bag of ice he went out of his way and brought the ice pack to our room. It was not his job, he just did it. Thank you, John! And on the last morning, Mark made sure our luggage got put on last (first off) so we could make our quick connection at the airport. We appreciate his extra efforts.
The boat was clean and comfortable. The captain kept us safe and out of any bad weather (waves, wind) as best he could. The boat is large enough that the crossings felt calm and stable. The first night they did a safety drill. The boat is US Coast Guard certified. The Captain did a very good talk explaining the noises you might hear on the boat. It was very reassuring to those that hadn’t sailed before. I thought it was a good idea to let you know that the sounds of the anchor going down, the bow thruster, or a hydraulic lift was normal. He talked about their water treatment system and introduced the chief medical officer, guides and head stew staff. The sign up for the messages were that night. They filled up fast. During the week the crew preformed safety drills. We felt safe in the capabilities and commitment to safety. They made sure we were going to get on the skiff safely.
Our room, we thought, was a perfect location. Stateroom #308. We had a door that led to the outside. We could get fresh air if needed. It is far enough back that the solid railing around the front of the boat stops before your room, so you can see the water when laying on the bed. We couldn’t hear our neighbors or people walking above us, it was very quiet. The back closet was large (boat standards), with six deep drawers. The bed is high enough to use the space underneath for storage. The desk and chair we used for additional storage of books, binoculars, water bottles, and toiletries that didn’t fit in the bathroom. We liked the bed lights and the overhead lights got brighter the longer you kept it on. The bed was comfy, on the soft side. Two large pillows were provided. There were extra blankets and a throw. The Aft 300 deck is where the excursions meet, so it was convenient for that, but far enough forward you do not get the noise. The shower is small but not that bad. The location of the soaps was hard to understand. It was right under the shower flow, so the soap would be washed away before getting to your head or body. Our shower needed a new curtain. But it was very clean with plenty of hot water! The windows were large at the foot of each bed. The draperies closed for good privacy and darkening effect. It would have been nice to have a sheer to pull so you could get light and privacy. Even though the rooms were well marked the couple next door accidently walked into our room, twice while we were in the room. I don’t know what their problem was, but, most people walking by never caused any kind of problem or noise. On the TV were three different channels. The bow camera, the menu for the day, and a slideshow of the crew. I thought it was very nice to have individual photos of the crew we have contact with, their names, and position on the screen. There also is a speaker in your room. Daily announcements, special sightings, tour excursion departures, and meal call were announced. You could also listen to the nightly 20 minute talks.
The thing we liked the least, was the wet landings from the skiff to the shore. We understood that going in. But wasn’t there a way to land the skiff higher on the sand so we could jump off the front with our hiking/walking shoes? The waves were small and not pounding on the beach. Just pull the skiff two feet onto the sand. It wasn’t that we minded getting our feet wet, it was the chance of getting sand in your hiking shoes/boots and walking for hours with it rubbing against your skin.
The boat excursion choices were the same just about every day. Beachcombing. The sand was very coarse. You could paddleboard and kayak in a restricted area. They had snorkeling from the beach or from the skiff a few times. Underwater there was not a lot of coral, but the fish were colorful. Wetsuits, mask, fins, snorkels are provided and in good shape. But, the water is very cold (65°F). They offered desert walks and hard exploratory hikes. There was nothing for the intermediate hiker and you could not venture out on your own. They did have small boat tours. If you were lucky a seal lion or dolphin would swim close to your boat. Birders enjoyed the unique species they saw. The guides did their best to make it interesting.
Jeremy gave us a very informative and interesting boat tour. He pointed out all sorts of birds flying, nesting, floating, feeding and swimming. There was an osprey on a nest and one perched in a cactus. We saw up close pelicans, herons, osprey, frigates, and oyster eaters.
I also had a wonderful desert hike with Kati as a guide. We gained elevation to beautiful vistas. She made it interesting and fun. And I felt like we really exercised and learned some things about the area. My only suggestion is to have a SEPARATE hike for the birders. Why should the entire group have to constantly wait for the birders that are lagging behind, watching the same bird? Kati had the patience of a saint. The rest of the group thought it was rude.
The trip to Magdelena Bay was exceptional. The vans were clean and comfortable. The drive was scenic. We wound up through the mountains, and down the other side. The group was split up into 6 to 8 per boat. The grey whales and their babies were everywhere! At one point we had two families swimming right next to us. The curious babies would stick their heads out of the water to look right into your eyes. You could touch them, splash water on them. They in turn would blow whale snot on you, if you were lucky! It was AMAZING!! We were out on the bay for 2 hours. 90% of that time we were right next to a momma grey whale and baby or one within sight. We even saw them breaching! Leaving was hard to do. It is such a special area!! Lunch was at a local restaurant five minutes from the port. Lobster, fried fish, shrimp was served with potato salad. There was good chips and dips on the table. The service was fast and efficient. One man at our table was not a fan of seafood. The quickly served him a grilled chicken breast.
Lindsay was our guide for the sea lion snorkel. She was very good and a great “diver”. She made sure we were safe in the water and no bull sea lions came near us. She kept the group together and made it exciting. Maiwenn was the captain of the skiff and did a good job of watching out for us and assisted the snorkelers in climbing the ladder and getting back safely on the boat. They had one of the easiest ladders to climb, in our experience, from a Zodiac. We even saw blue footed boobies flying overhead.
The food selection was Tex-Mex almost every meal, including breakfast. We were not a fan. Breakfast example was Rancho Huevos or Bacon and Jalapeno Omelet; Chiryo and sweet potato hash with eggs or spinach and feta omelet. There was a lot of feta with meals. You could always order plain scrambled eggs. One morning there was a big hit – pancakes.
On three lunches there was not a second choice. At sit down breakfast you order for the day. If you go to early-riser breakfast for fruit, breakfast bread, cereal, and sometimes yogurt because spicy Mexican food isn’t your thing to start the day, it was hard to order. There was always enough food and presented beautifully. During dinner the difference from the first table served to the last was usually 30 minutes. So when the first tables were getting dessert, the last just got served their plates. There was plenty of wine offered at dinner and the crew was attentive to other drink orders.
One lunch example was a chicken pita with no other choice. Chicken tacos with very little chicken, open face – more like a burrito, no cheese, no sauce, plain rice, re-fried beans with chips and dip on the table. Dessert was a dry white cake that was supposed to be tres leches cake. Another lunch was beef teriyaki or veg stir fry. Basically the same thing. Dessert was Bailey’s ice cream pound cake with white chocolate sauce. Again the cake was dry, tasty, but dry. One day because of the activity schedule they had a brunch. This included a very nice selection of eggs benedict, bacon, sausage, pasta, chicken, cinnamon rolls, garlic knot bread, salad with mango vinaigrette, guacamole, salsa and chips, fresh fruit. The problem was the buffet line went very slow. I felt sorry for those after us, having to stand for over 30 minutes to get their food. We were finished eating before some had gotten their food. Maybe they could have had two lines or have someone helping serve the food. It might have gone quicker.
Dinner had a dry fish choice – red snapper, with chicken; yellow tail or duck; marlin or ranchero steak; grouper or pork tenderloin; sea scallops (poached) or lamb. We were surprised that there wasn’t a soup and salad at dinner. Black bean soup was one night. Gazpacho another. One dinner we didn’t like either entrée and the Chef made us very large and delicious chef salad with a balsamic avocado herb dressing. The first evening there was prime rib or a macadamia nut encrusted fish and a wonderful chocolate decadent dessert. And the last evening there was beef tenderloin or lobster tail. Some had both! Those were both very good. But to say we had less than 5 good meals, isn’t my idea of an Un-Cruise experience. We did have one amazing dessert. It was a Kalua Carmel Custard with fresh blackberries, blueberries and strawberry. The blueberries were dusted with gold powder. I told them they should have named it something exotic, it was outstanding. I should have taken a photo! It was a work of art.
In conclusion the marine life and Sea of Cortez experience was one we will remember for a long time. It really is, as Jacques Cousteau described, “the world’s aquarium”.
This had nothing to do with Un-Cruise but our Un-stay at the Barcelo started our trip out on a wrong note. We tried to check in on the Friday before our cruise. Un-Cruise has a hospitality room there on Saturday and we thought it would make it convenient. The Barcelo would not honor our reservation we had since May 25th 2016. They said because it was for only one night (cruising on Saturday) they needed the room for people that were staying four days. They accepted our reservation online. They confirmed our reservation. But the kicker is THEY CHARGED MY CREDIT CARD for the night. They graciously drove us to the Holiday Inn. I did not come to Mexico to stay at the Holiday Inn. Holiday Inn does not charge the same rate as a night at the Barcelo. Funny thing is, we met a couple (on our cruise) that the same thing happened to them. They were told that their room had plumbing problems. Another couple at the Holiday Inn said a similar thing happened to them. Barcelo called them three days before they were supposed to arrive. Said they needed their room for a conference. At least, they stayed at the Dreams hotel. The Holiday Inn staff was very nice, and the place was clean. It did not have the same facilities as the Barcelo and was a little run down. We should not have been treated like that! Un-Cruise guests, be warned. Read Less