You might need a vacation after your cruise on Safari Explorer, which has a pretty rapid pace when it comes to shore excursions. All excursions are included in the price of your fare, and, of course, all are completely optional. As with virtually every activity onboard, the approach to excursions is casual. At breakfast, the guide jumps on the microphone and talks about what the day's activities will look like. Usually, there's an active and less-active option. Passengers sign up on a laminated sheet at the service desk. Activities aren't particularly strenuous, though you should be comfortable in the water. Most people take advantage of the excursions, choosing to join a couple each day.
During the summer season, you have the opportunity to be on or in the water every day (and often several times a day). You might start off with a morning kayaking tour to a turtle-filled lagoon, followed by an afternoon snorkeling over a wreck. Usually, passengers looking for something quieter can enjoy a skiff ride toward shore. You might go days without actually setting foot on land. Other activities might include a waterfall hike, visit with a local kahuna in the Halawa Valley or fun pa'ina (part party, part feast). In the winter season, you'll spend more time focused on whales, including a visit to the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
The ship has two full-time guides onboard to lead excursions, and they always walk through exactly what passengers can expect, outlining potential areas that might be difficult for some to take on. For snorkeling, they offer multiple options for people of all abilities to be comfortable in the water, including pool noodles and inflatable life vests (though they don't require anyone to use any flotation aid.) In addition to the two guides, members of the crew join and help keep track of the passengers -- and point out wildlife.
Impressively, safety is always top of mind with the guides and crew, especially at potentially difficult spots like getting in and out of skiffs and approaching coral and wildlife.
In Hawaii, you can expect to see fish galore if you're willing to throw on a snorkel and hop in the water during one of the excursions from the ship. Green turtles are also common, so bring an underwater camera. While you're cruising, you might see dolphins go "bow surfing" at the front of the ship. Thankfully, there's a big, open viewing area at the bow so passengers can hang out and watch the dolphins play. Skiff excursion might put people up close to marine life, like spinner dolphins and whales of all sorts, seasonally. Plus, Safari Explorer offers a blissful night snorkel where you might see gentle giant manta rays feeding on plankton.
The ship has no underwater cameras, but crew are eagle-eyed and will announce over the PA system when they see wildlife and where you should look. Bonus: They'll also explain the behavior you're seeing.
Safari Explorer offers enrichment in spades. Each night, guides talk about different pieces of Hawaii, its history and its ecology. You might learn about the marine species you've seen on your snorkel adventures, or you could find out about the coral reef system and recovery efforts. Lectures are optional, though most people will attend them after dinner. Part of the appeal of a cruise on Safari Explorer is the passion with which each person speaks about the things they love. Guides are knowledgeable about so many aspects of Hawaii, and they answer questions frankly. All lectures are included in the price of your cruise.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
If you're looking for entertainment on Safari Explorer, it's pretty much self-service. The ship's DVD library is surprisingly well-stocked, and many passengers grab a movie before retreating to their rooms for the night. Reading about Hawaii and its wildlife also is common, and Safari Explorer offers many well-worn books on the topics. A trivia contest might pop up if the mood strikes. On the last night, guides will play a slideshow that highlights the photos they took during the week. It's accompanied by many oohs, ahs and belly laughs as cruisers relive their week of adventure.
Safari Explorer has one bar, but it's open nearly 24/7. It features a bar with a few high chairs and a seating area, called the salon. Cocktails feature local and craft spirits, made expertly by a bartender who can creatively whip up anyone's favorites or make recommendations based on tastes. Beer, too, is from local breweries, so expect selections from Maui Brewing Company or Kona Brewing Company, for example.
The salon is busiest during happy hour, about an hour before dinner starts. There isn't quite enough space in the salon to fit everyone, so passengers sometime overflow into the dining room (only separated from the salon by a low series of cabinets). Happy hour features a drink of the day -- bartender's choice -- and an appetizer such as artichoke and crab dip or baked Brie. Most head to bed right after dinner, but a few die-hards will hang at the bar for quiet conversation and post-dinner cocktails. The most popular seats when crowd's thin are the one's right at the bar.
A large sun deck takes up much of the A Deck. Here, you'll find lounge chairs, couches and low tables. Shade is sparse (underneath the canopied area) and the deck bakes under the hot sun, so flip-flops are a good idea. If weather cooperates, you might be treated to a sun deck party once during your cruise. This fun affair features cocktails and beer, great music and, Mother Nature willing, a spectacular sunset.
A swim step can be lowered from the back marina area on C Deck when the ship is stationary, and crew will toss out lines with swim noodles attached to them, so passengers don't have to battle the currents once they're in the water. On our sailing, the swim step was opened several times, and passengers took advantage of the time to relax in the clear blue water. For the bold, take a leap off the platform from B Deck, about 22 feet to the water below.
All of the services are run out of the hotel director's small desk area, adjacent to the ship's lounge. This is where you sign up for shore excursions daily, and pay your gratuities or for purchases made onboard. It's also the spot where crew grab the mic for making announcements.
Just off the bar area is a small library that houses a vast array of nonfiction books and games. You'll also find a piano and guitar here, free for anyone to play while onboard. A wine cabinet lines the front wall of the room. This is also where you'll find items for purchase, including hats, rain jackets, water bottles, artwork and UnCruise Adventures logo rash guards -- a popular item on our sailing after passengers had spent a couple of days snorkeling under the hot sun.
There's no Wi-Fi on the ship, but you'll be close enough to shore most days that your data plan and cell service should function just fine.
The ship has an open-bridge policy: As long as the door to the bridge is open, you can wander in, speak with the captain and his officers and even watch wildlife.
Safari Explorer has no spa. It does have a small outdoor area on the A Deck that holds a weight bench, rowing machine, elliptical machine and some dumbbells. Yoga mats are located in a bin near the workout area, though they were lightly used on our cruise. Fitness and wellness classes aren't offered. Some of the excursions, such as kayaking or longer hikes, require a moderate level of fitness, but most are pretty accessible for most people who have a spirit of adventure.
The minimum age to sail on Safari Explorer is 8, though exceptions can be granted but require a call to UnCruise Adventures before booking. Kids 8 to 13 get a special rate that is $500 less than what you'll pay for adults. You're more likely to see children during summer itineraries and over holidays, when school is out. There are no kids facilities, and only two cabins offer accommodations for three. Safari Explorer doesn't offer babysitting services.
Parents are required to monitor their kids onboard and on shore excursions, and they ultimately are the ones who decide which activities are appropriate for their own children. Safari Explorer is equipped with child-sized life jackets, snorkel equipment and wet suits. Kids eat in the dining room alongside adults, and while there isn't a specific children's menu, the chef can whip up standards like PB&J and mac and cheese.
Children sailing on Safari Explorer tend to be curious and well-traveled. They are comfortable in an adult environment and spending time with people much older than they are. Still, they appreciate the fun touches, like when the swim step at the back of the ship is open.