As a resident of Southern California and a regular visitor to Seattle, I've spent time in the San Juan Islands and up and near Vancouver/Victoria. I had heard about the Princess Louisa Inlet and decided this was the year to explore.
This was my 3rd Un-Cruise, a company I love and remain very loyal to. I was skeptical about the small size of this vessel and the 22 guests onboard knowing I really enjoy 50 - 75 people on these small ships. I was in for a big surprise. I had a blast. The very small group allows you to really bond and jump from summer camp for adults (which has been my larger small ship experience ~ vessels under 100 guests) to bonding as a family of strangers. The group consisted of a varied age group from 50 to 80. Since it was September (and my favorite time to take off to avoid lots of kids), I knew the age group would be older. The great thing about these kinds of cruises if that you get to know everyone very quickly. Those of us who are high energy, very adventurous and want to exert energy found ourselves being cheered on by those who have either had their day in the sun or simply don't want an overly physical trip. It's all available here.
Embarkation was a breeze. Be at the designed hotel is downtown Seattle by the assigned time, go to the hospitality suite, ditch your luggage and transfer to the ship. Easy-breezy. The hotel is located in the heart of all that can be found on foot downtown. A ten minute walk to Pike's Place Market, a three minute walk to the Nordstrom mothership and a 15 minute walk to the REI flagship store. Lots to do and see if you arrive early and have the full day to explore.
The vessel is small but very clean and well assigned. The bar was stocked with high end spirits (Belvedere vodka thank you very much) and some very good wine. I would recommend the Bridge Deck. The cabins are spacious and have French balconies. The cabins on the main deck open directly into the dining room and the cabins on the cabin deck do not have any porthole or balcony only bridge lights. They are still worth it, believe me. I talked with everyone on board about their accommodations. You get to know everything in a group this small. Within a very short time after embarkation you realize you have found a jewel and the feeling is that you have your own privately chartered yacht. It is a spectacular experience.
Meals are served in the dining room at set hours. Pick a table, order, enjoy. The one HUGE perk for me is that they are very conscious of waste and no meal is ever super-sized. For me, the ultimate cruise turn off are large buffet lines with plates piled to the ceiling being hauled by generously proportioned guests. With a focus on nature, nature lovers and outdoor sports, most of the guests on Un-Cruise are somewhat health conscious so the portion size of all meals encourages healthy eating. If you wish for a 2nd serving, it is yours for the asking. I never saw anyone go for it.
As with all Un-Cruise itineraries, the day is set by wildlife. If you encounter a pod of humpbacks or orcas, you will stay with the pod to allow maximum viewing without encroaching on nature. Un-Cruise is VERY observant and respectful of proximity to these amazing creatures and respectful of their place in our oceans. We witnessed day boats following dangerously close to a pod but maintained our required distance and still had a spectacular viewing.
I am an adrenaline junkie so getting out and about on a kayak is my favorite experience in the Pacific Northwest. We had 4 days of kayaking with ample time to get a great workout and then some. There were also hikes and a campfire with singing thrown in for good measure. Sounds cheesy? It wasn't at all.
The success of any cruise is dependent on two things. Your perspective and ability to be flexible and the crew's ability to insure you have a great trip. Un-Cruise excels in this area. I booked late in the process but one of the onboard crew saw my name on the manifest (I sailed with her last year on the Endeavour) thought it could be me and remembered I love ruby red grapefruit juice and vodka. Voila, imagine my surprise when I was greeted with my favorite drink. Heaven on the high seas!! Our EL "Exploration Leader" was great. She knew her stuff about the area we were headed to and the flora and fauna we came across. She was also very savvy in quickly sizing up those of us that would require a little more adrenaline stimulation and insured that we got our time out in nature. It was a perfect blend of time spent burning calories and being one with nature.
The crown jewel of the itinerary is the Princess Louisa Inlet. It is truly spectacular and not easy to access. It is also well worth the effort to get to. Since it is accessible through a very narrow channel and tide-dependent, large cruise ships cannot reach it. That's a huge plus. The pristine nature of the whole experience is a testament to its accessibility. You may have a few private yachts anchored but you are virtually in your own little world and it's beautiful. This is the place for west coasters who think they've seen it all, love nature and yachting. Again, the private yacht experience comes in to play here. The exclusivity of it makes it that much more enjoyable.
In summary, this was a really great vacation. Lots to see, do and experience with some very cool new friends. Well worth the price to have the feeling of your own private yacht, to wake up at the base of Chatterbox Falls in the Princess Louisa inlet, to be in waters with some of the ocean’s most beautiful creatures and to have them put on a private show all for you. Very few people will ever experience this honor.
Cabins are as would be expected on a private yacht. Enough room to move around and to store your gear. Very comfortable bed and high quality soft sheets. The bathroom was fabulous. Heated tile floor and a glass enclosed shower.