Barb Cann overcame two of her fears so she could share an unforgettable trip with her family. “I don’t like planes and I don’t like boats,” she said.
But Barb decided to take the long flight from her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to Alaska for a weeklong cruise aboard the Wilderness Explorer with her husband Tom, her daughter Jessica Rich and her son-in-law Tom Rich. It was the first cruise Barb had ever taken in her life.
Are those fears now gone?
“I still don’t like planes,” Barb said, smiling. “But I really did enjoy this boat and I would definitely take a cruise again.”
The list of outdoor activities offered by the Wilderness Explorer was a main reason for choosing the ship, Barb said. Hiking and kayaking were among her top choices. “I had never seen a bear in my life until this cruise,” Barb said. “Now I can say that I’ve seen several bears.”
Each day, Expedition Leader Randall Tate and Expedition Guide Julie Cardenas talk with passengers to see what activities are of most interest. Then lists are posted on a bulletin board and passengers sign up for what they want to do – kayak, hike, snorkel, stand-up paddleboard and skiff tour. The boat provides equipment, including wet suits and boots.
“Or you can stay on the ship and read or just look at what is out there,” Randall said. “You have to be careful of ‘FOMO’ – ‘Fear of Missing Out.’ You don’t have to do everything. This is such a cool beautiful ship that sometimes you might just want to stay on board.”
A proposed itinerary posted on a large map best sums up some of the joys of our “uncruise.” Although the itinerary is a general idea of the direction the ship will go, the Wilderness Explorer can quickly change course or stop in the water for a closer look at whales or other wildlife along the way.
“We call it ‘The Plan From Which To Deviate,’” Julie said with a laugh. “We always want to give you the very best experience possible … We like to let you choose the activities. On the big cruise liners, you don’t even get to disembark off the boat out here … We get to really explore some very unique and special places.”
One of the big bonuses on the Wilderness Explorer‘s the state-of-the-art kayak launch platform that was adapted specifically for the ship. The boat carries 26 kayaks and the platform allows the crew to quickly and safely launch four kayaks at once.
Most people who capsize their kayaks do so when getting in it or getting out, Expedition Guide Jeremy Saenz said. With the new kayak platform, kayakers get comfortably settled in while the kayak is still steadily on the platform. “Then we just push you out into the water,” Jeremy said. “To disembark, the same procedure is followed – we pull in the kayak and you step out.”
Each day is usually greeted by a yoga session on deck lead by Wellness Specialist Gabriella Coniglio. In the lounge, crewmembers present programs on various subjects, such as bears, whales, the history of glaciers and much more.
A daily listing keeps track of wildlife sightings. Don’t know if we were super lucky but our first day compilation was long and varied.
“That was amazing,” Randall said at the end of the first day. “Our wildlife list is full,” he joked, “so we might as well turn around and go back.”
But we have almost a week left on our cruise – so many miles yet to cover, so many adventures and sights to see. Who knows what tomorrow might bring. Follow our “uncruise” and discover what lies ahead.
Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch