For many, the Un-Cruise experience begins with being fetched at the airport. This was our second Un-Cruise adventure and we have yet to experience that, as our first was in home town Portland and to reach this Seattle departure we enjoyed a train ride north.
All assemble at the designated hotel, generally the Crowne Point in downtown Seattle, which is in a fine location. Its big recommendation? Location. Other than that, it’s just an average hotel with above average prices.
The hospitality room is staffed by a fellow called Steven who is very helpful and deserves a raise. Why? On disembarkation day there was a communication glitch which put us back at the hotel instead of in a cab to the train station. I told Steven I was not thrilled and his only question was “What can I do to make this right?” He got four of us an Uber SUV within two minutes and off we went. Great problem-solver.
I mention that because he deserves a pat on the back, but more important because it is typical of the attitude of every Un-Cruise crew member we encountered on our fantastic week. They look for ways to make your experience better.
From the hotel, our group of 19 passengers was taken to the ship via a one-hour bus tour of Seattle which was nice enough. The driver talked nonstop, trying to be both informative and funny. Some people loved it. Personally, I thought it was annoying. (But people say the same about me, so there you go.)
At the ship, the entire crew turned out to bring us on board and show us to our cabins. My wife and I had cabin A4, with a large sliding glass door that we would enjoy for hours once we got to some spectacular scenery. The cabin was comfortable and quiet – other than the engine noise when underway and the clatter of the anchor chain now and then. But neither was a bother.
Right away, we met pretty much the entire crew except Rob, the second mate, who was asleep as he would be driving the boat that night. Our crew of 10 included seven women – Captain Denee Blanchard, hotel manager Erica Van Ausdal, expedition leader Pam Navis, chef Kerri Eckels, pastry chef (!) Kate Fujimoto and stewards Courtney Landon and Carla Minnichofer – and three men – chief mate Dirk Boschek, second mate Rob McDougall and engineer Steve Eagleston.
It didn’t seem to matter a whole lot what a crew member’s job was, as they all pitched in to help one another and each was willing to tackle a passenger’s request no matter how complex or trivial. Or help without asking. When my camera went for a short swim and failed to work despite my having cleaned the contacts and dried it to within an inch of its life, engineer Steve raced down to the engine room and returned with a baggie of rice and packet of desiccant. A night in the baggie and the camera was good to go. In the lounge and dining room, Carla, Courtney and Erica soon learned our preferences and anticipated our wishes.
Capt. Denee grew up messing about with boats and inspired confidence despite her tender years. Talk to her in the wheelhouse and she'll gladly explain boat operations, navigation, all sorts of seafaring stuff. The multi-talented Pam is an expert sailor, a naturalist, a gifted story teller, intimately knows the areas into which we sailed and is a fine musician to boot. One passenger asked “Is there anything this woman can’t do?” The thing about the crew, though, is they all seem to enjoy each other and love what they are doing. It’s a happy ship.
A word about the food. I’ve been on several cruise ships and never have I eaten so well as on Safari Quest. I hope Kerri decides to stay and stay, for she’s a magician. She takes often simple, often local ingredients and produces meals that would do a restaurant anywhere proud. We were looking for a way to adopt her. Kate gave us not only extraordinary desserts, but out of this world rolls. This is not a place to lose weight.
Each day begins with “early riser” coffee/tea, fresh fruit and yogurt and pastries at 0630, with a full breakfast at 0730 or later, depending on the day’s schedule. Days include looking for wildlife while cruising, the chance to kayak or paddle board, skiff rides, hikes, sightseeing if in port, or just hanging out on the boat. The day draws down with happy hour aboard or ashore around 5:30 or so, dinner, then a gathering in the lounge to share stories of the day and discuss the next day’s activities.
On our cruise, passengers seemed to range in age from mid-50s to late 70s. Some were quite athletic, some were not but were game to try anything, some just enjoyed skiff rides, some hung out on the boat. All were personable, boon companions. Pam, the expedition leader, made sure to include all – no matter how outgoing or how shy – in activities, in conversation, and in the photos she shot all week long.
Probably the favorite spot of just about everyone was that beautiful place as far north and as remote as we got – Princess Louisa Inlet. It is spectacular. No, spectacular is something of an understatement. You can see photos, you can hear descriptions, but until you see it for yourself you won’t truly appreciate it.
My wife and I have signed up for a third Un-Cruise trip, destination unknown at this point. It could well be a repeat of this one; it was that good.
There are four "Captain" cabins on the deck with the wheelhouse, aka "Bridge." As far as I can tell, they are all virtually the same. They have a floor to ceiling picture window with floor to ceiling (natch) sliding glass door. No balcony but what could be called a "French balcony" if the Frenchman has tiny feet. It's great for view and photo taking and brings in a nice breeze. The bathroom is compact but nice. The shower is about as big as a phone booth and the floor is slippery, making showering while underway somewhat precarious. They should put down a non-slip mat of some sort, but the good news is that the shower's so small you'd really have to work to fall down. The bed is extremely comfortable. Closet space is minimal, so don't pack a steamer trunk. There's a TV which can play DVDS, of which there is a huge collection in the lounge.