UnCruise Alaska Review: The Ultimate Way to Cruise in Alaska
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My coffee is steaming, as is my breath as I exhale in the cold morning air. I’m in Alaska. My home state. I’m back, for the first time in three years, and it’s May 2017. There’s still a bite of winter in the air.
I’m standing aboard the bow of the Safari Endeavour, a ship operated by Seattle-based UnCruise Adventures. When most people think “Alaska Cruise” they don’t think of UnCruise ships. They think of gargantuan white-hulled ghosts that power churn through the waterways of Southeast Alaska in search of whales, wildlife, and wilderness – but often see very little of any because of their heavy ecological footprint.
UnCruise, as its name suggests, approaches cruising differently, seeking to take visitors deeper into a destination than other cruise companies do (or can). I was invited to board the Safari Endeavour in May 2017; I’ve since had the chance to cruise twice more with UnCruise in Hawaii and Baja – and have loved it every time. In this post (and video, below!), I’ll share my UnCruise Alaska review, giving you a peek inside life aboard UnCruise in Alaska.
Best of all, I’ve got an UnCruise discount code! If you want it right now, use code VAL500 to get $500 per person on your Alaskan UnCruise adventure… but if you still need to be sold on the experience, read on.
In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the Lingít Aaní of the Áak’w Ḵwáan (Tlingit) people. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
This post was originally published in August 2017, and was updated in March 2023.
All prices and itineraries should be accurate for the 2023 season.
How to Choose an Alaskan UnCruise Itinerary
Many people want to book an Alaska cruise from Seattle. It’s convenient to fly into Seattle, board a ship, and spend a week cutting a path through the wilderness of Southeast Alaska. If you’re craving an Alaska cruise experience, you’re not alone: nearly 1 million travelers took a cruise from Seattle to Alaska in 2016!
UnCruise offers eight different itineraries in Southeast Alaska; one of them lets you UnCruise to Alaska from Seattle. They range from 7 to 14 days in length, and can take you all over the Inside Passage. (As of 2024, they also offer a few other Alaska itineraries in different parts of the state and different seasons!)
Regardless of how long your Alaskan UnCruise will be or where you embark and disembark, UnCruise offers a truly unique cruise opportunity. You will see Alaska as it actually is. Alaska is open and wild and for the most part empty – big ships that cruise through Southeast Alaska can’t reach the coves, bays, and fjords that give you a sense of how huge Alaska is (and how small you are in it).
An Average Day Aboard UnCruise Adventures in Alaska
Curious what the average day is like? Here’s a general recap of the average day on Alaskan UnCruise.
An average day on an Alaskan UnCruise starts with yoga on the aft deck in the chilly morning air. There’s nothing quite like waking up – and warming up – through some yoga on an Alaska morning.
Afterward, I would enjoy my coffee in the lounge or on the forward deck, followed by breakfast in the dining room. The food aboard the Safari Endeavour is on par with every meal I’ve had on other cruises.
After breakfast, you’ll have the opportunity to head out on a morning activity. These activities are announced each evening before by the Expedition Leader for the boat, and you have time to sign up that previous evening. This can be any activity ranging from kayaking to skiff tours to hiking; see the next section of this post for more info about excursions.
Lunch is another indulgent affair, followed by more activities off the ship. One of my favorite parts of my Alaskan UnCruise was how each day our goal was to get off the ship. Bigger cruise companies want you to stay on the ship where you spend more money; UnCruise wants you to experience the destination, and all activities are in service of this goal.
Most people would spend the late afternoon relaxing in their cabin, the open air hot tubs, or the lounge. At 5 pm, Happy Hour would begin as Jimmy, our bartender, unveiled the day’s specialty cocktail.
Dinner was around 6 pm, followed by an evening talk in the lounge on subjects ranging from glaciers to grizzly bears. Then, most people would wander off to bed or stay in the lounge for an additional glass of wine or whiskey.
The rhythm of life on the ship was immediately predictable and reassuring, without ever feeling dull. After a few days, I looked forward to each new phase of the day, and by the end of the 7-night cruise, I was reticent to give up my new lifestyle of delicious meals, adventurous activities, and a lot of lounging around.
Read on to dive into the exact activities and experiences I had on my UnCruise Adventures Alaska trip in May 2017.
My UnCruise Adventures Itinerary: Alaska Fjords & Glaciers
When I cruised with UnCruise in 2017, my itinerary was called “Inner Reaches Eastern Coves;” today it’s called Alaska Fjords & Glaciers. As part of my UnCruise Alaska review, here’s a run-down of the experience each day so you can get a sense for what the whole week was like. My friend Marissa from Postcards to Seattle joined me on this trip, so you may see her in some photos!
It’s important to point out – UnCruise Adventures Alaska itineraries (and all of their itineraries) are flexible. While your ship captain will do their best to follow the route maps UnCruise provided for your itinerary, they will deviate as necessary for whale watching, better weather, and other great experiences.
Day 1 – Embark from Ketchikan
After flying from Seattle to Ketchikan in the morning, Marissa and I explored the small town while waiting to go board our ship. We wandered past the huge cruise terminal, tiny local souvenir shops, and ate at a local bar.
Top Sights & Activities in Ketchikan:
- Creek Street, with its colorful houses suspended above Ketchikan Creek
- Cape Fox Hill Tram, with stunning views as you rise up above the city
- Totem poles, including Totem Bight State Park, Saxman Native Village, or the Totem Heritage Center
Day 2 – Walker’s Cove & Rudyerd Bay in Misty Fjords National Monument
We woke up our first morning as we pulled into Misty Fjords National Monument. With fjords that rival any you’ll see in Norway, mirror-smooth glass, and my favorite type of clouds in the trees, it was the perfect spot for our first off-ship excursion (kayaking!).
Misty Fjords is one of the most stunning spots I’ve seen in Alaska – it’s also a place you’ll never see if you take a big ship cruise!
Day 3 – Bailey Bay in Tongass National Forest
Another day in the Alaskan wilderness, we spent the day doing skiff tours and hiking. This is where we learned the expression “boot sucking mud,” and had our chance to experience it directly.
Day 4 – Port Day in Wrangell
After three days aboard the ship, it was weird to spend most of the day on land in Wrangell, Alaska. Marissa and I spent the morning exploring Petroglyph Beach, where 8,000-year old Tlingit stone carvings were left scattered across the beach. We then learned about more modern Tlingit traditions at Chief Shakes’ House, where local resident Arthur Larsen told us his family history – and heritage.
Top Sights & Attractions in Wrangell:
- Petroglyph Beach, a one-mile walk from the boat terminal, where 40 stone carvings are revealed at low tide.
- Chief Shakes’ House, where you can learn the history of the Tlingit people in the Wrangell area of Southeast Alaska
- Mount Dewey and/or Rainbow Falls trails, both short hikes with equally impressive views.
Here are all of my suggestions for the best things to do in Wrangell.
After dinner, we also passed through Wrangell Narrows, a 22-mile channel that requires small ships to time their passing by the tides. It’s so narrow and shallow, large cruise ships can’t pass through!
Day 5 – Thomas Bay, Scenery Cove, & Baird Glacier off Frederick’s Sound
Among the several bays and coves we visited on this day, Scenery Cove was most aptly named – it was a picturesque spot to soak in the stunning mountains on all sides.
In the afternoon, most people on the boat took a skiff tour to see Baird Glacier. We had to hike across the alluvial plain and various moraines to see the face of the glacier. It was our first glacier encounter (but not our last) and my group was lucky enough to have a glaciologist among us, so we had an extra knowledge boost.
Note: What I really liked about the whole UnCruise experience is that it showed that it takes an effort to see the most beautiful sights in Alaska. Yes, there are glaciers you can cruise right up to, but there’s something special about the ones where you have to pick your path across huge smooth boulders and silky silt to get there.
Day 6 – Frederick Sound & Robert and Crow Islands
If there’s one animal everyone wants to see in Alaska, it’s whales (followed closely by moose and bear). On our day crossing through Frederick Sound, we spent most of the midday dancing with some humpback whales feeding in the area.
While we never saw a breach, we saw plenty of breathing and feeding – and even a mother/calf duo! Afterwards, we set out on another set of afternoon activities, and again I opted for kayaking. It was such a peaceful yet active way to see the land up close.
Day 7 – Endicott Arm, Dawes Glacier & Tracy Arm Wilderness
On our last full day abroad the Safari Endeavour, we had two treats: a bigger glacier encounter, and activity “free time!” First, we spent the morning in the shadow of Dawes Glacier, a massive tidewater glacier whose icebergs we passed for hours leading up to our arrival.
At the glacier, everyone boarded skiffs to navigate the ice-strewn waters to get closer to the face of the glacier. We enjoyed hot chocolate and spotted some harbor seals in the area too. In a week of breathtaking and picturesque moments (yes, two of the most cliched ways to describe it!), this was a grand finale.
Our last afternoon was relatively calm: most people took out kayaks or standup paddleboards at their discretion, took one last dip in the hot tub, or relaxed in the lounge. I opted for the latter.
Day 8 – Disembark in Juneau
We woke up on the last day of our Alaskan UnCruise to disembark in Juneau, the capital of Alaska. It was luckily not a ship day for larger cruise companies, so we had the town to ourselves. Marissa and I met up with Midgi from Juneau Food Tours to explore the blossoming food scene in this tiny town.
After a walk through town and delicious brunch, we boarded a bus to the airport and winged back to Seattle… do we have to go home??
Top Sights & Activities in Juneau:
- Juneau Food Tours, a walking and eating tour of the state capital
- Mount Roberts Tramway, which helps you rise above the city and shows sweeping landscape views
- Mendenhall Glacier, a half-day trip from Juneau that lets you get up close and personal with a popular glacier
- Learn more about the best tours and excursion in Juneau
Notes on UnCruise Adventures Alaska Itineraries
To round out my UnCruise Alaska review, here are a few extra points. These address some of the top questions I’ve received.
By Alaska cruise standards, we had a short route of roughly 700 nautical miles (if my memory serves). For context, most large cruise ships cover up 700 nautical miles in one day. With UnCruise, you spend seven days moving slowly and quietly through the massive waterways of Southeast Alaska, getting a real sense of the beauty of this state.
The other important thing to remember is that UnCruise is different for every single route. Even if you take the same Alaska Fjords & Glaciers route I did, your ship will likely dock in different places, offer different activities, and feature a different crew and menu. UnCruise adapts to Alaska and all it has to offer: some days you may not go hiking because it’s too muddy, other days you may get a special skiff tour that I never had the chance to do.
UnCruise Alaska Excursions & Activities
Despite my love of lounging, the best part of UnCruise by far are the off-ship organized activities and excursions each day. Typically, we had to choose between two or three of several options:
- Skiff (small inflatable boat) Tours
- “Go Getter” Hiking (for the ambitious types!)
- Standup Paddleboarding
Aboard the Safari Endeavour, our Expedition Leader Kent would brief us on the options for the next day just before dinner. He would detail the two or three options and then come around to collect our preferences. The Expedition team would then organize tour groups and departure times – all of our gear was provided by UnCruise, so all we did was show up for whatever adventure awaits!
In addition to organized activities each day, there are a variety of less structured activities aboard the ship:
- Morning Yoga Sessions
- Workout Equipment
- Massage Treatments
- Hot Tubs (Open from After Lunch to Dark)
- Evening Lectures
- Team Trivia
These happened intermittently (or every day) throughout the cruise, and added some relaxing aspects to an otherwise active, adventurous cruise.
UnCruise Alaska Cabins (Peek Inside!)
UnCruise Adventures operates several ships in Alaska each summer; I was aboard the Safari Endeavour and you can also choose from a cruise aboard the S.S. Legacy, Safari Quest, Wilderness Adventurer, Wilderness Discoverer, or Wilderness Explorer. As you can see above, UnCruise Alaska cabins are cozy but sufficient for a night of rest after a day of adventure.
Your cabin is meant to be the place to store your gear and rest – it’s not like larger cruise ships where you might have a couch and other excess space. Instead, you can use the common areas like the salon to lounge during the day.
UnCruise Alaska Itineraries for 2023
If you’re totally sold on doing an UnCruise to Alaska now, the only question is: which excursion will you choose? UnCruise has really nice maps for each route on their website, but I wanted to include a list of the itineraries here so you could get a general sense:
- WILD, WOOLLY, & WOW – 7-night round-trip from Juneau, exploring Glacier National Park, Baranof Island, Leconte Glacier, Baird Glacier, and Stephen’s Passage.
- NORTHERN PASSAGES & GLACIER BAY – 7-night from Juneau to Sitka (or reverse) exploring the Lynn Canal, Glacier Bay, Icy Strait, and Chichigof and Baranof Islands.
- ALASKA FJORDS & GLACIERS – 7-night from Juneau to Ketchikan (or reverse) exploring Ford’s Terror Wilderness, the Wrangell Narrows, Blaske Island, Yes Bay, and Behm Canal.
- GLACIER BAY NATIONAL PARK ADVENTURE – 7-night round-trip from Juneau, exploring Glacier Bay, Chichigoff Island, Frederick Sound, Hobart Bay, and Sawyer Glacier.
- GLACIER BAY NATIONAL PARK, HAINES & PELICAN – 7-night round-trip from Juneau, exploring Lynn Canal, Haines, Glacier Bay, Chichigof Island, Admiralty Island, and Icy Strait.
- ALASKA’S GLACIER COUNTRY – 7-night round-trip from Juneau, exploring Glacier Bay, Icy Strait, Chichigof Island, Admiralty Island, Windham Bay Wilderness, and Dawes Glacier.
- INSIDE PASSAGE & GLACIER BAY WILDERNESS – 12-night from Juneau to Seattle (or reverse), exploring the San Juans, Vancouver Island, Canada’s Inside Passage, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, the Alaskan Inside Passage, and Glacier Bay.
- ALASKA FJORDS & GLACIER BAY ULTIMATE EXPEDITION – 14-night from Juneau to Ketchikan (or reverse), exploring Yes Bay, the Wrangell Narrows, Fords Terror Wilderness, Baranof Island, Glacier Bay, and Haines.
They also have two new itineraries coming for 2024, so I’m excited to add those once we reach the end of the summer 2023 season. Do you have other questions about my UnCruise Alaska review or choosing the right UnCruise itinerary for your trip? Let me know in the comments or join me in my Alaska Travel Tips Facebook Community!
Don’t forget: you can get $500 off per person if you use code VAL500 when booking your UnCruise – be sure to mention it over the phone if you decide not to book online!
I was hosted by UnCruise aboard the Safari Endeavour. This post was produced in partnership with them.
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I’ve always wanted to do a cruise through Alaska so I loved seeing your photos. So cool that Uncruise has so many destinations.
Thanks for reading! Glad my photos could help, and hopefully you can take an UnCruise some day to one of their cool destinations!
I’ve always wanted to go on an Alaska cruise. The scenery is to die for! I love how you included a comparison cost chart!
Thanks for reading, Sabrina! Alaska is definitely one of my favorite places to visit, and I’m glad the price comparison helped!
Wow! I absolutely loved this. Alaska is on my travel list but I’ve never really entertained the thought of cruising Alaska. Thank you so much for opening my eyes with this well put together piece!
Thanks for reading, Brandi! UnCruise is definitely the way to go if you decide to cruise in Alaska!
the nature in there is matchless! the Iceland cruise was a little less beautiful
I can imagine – Iceland is beautiful inland, but the coastline isn’t as much, right?
Valerie have you had any e perience with the Alaskan Dreams company? Trying to decide between them and UnCruise. There have been some reviews complaining about the maintenance of Uncruise ships. It’s hard to find up to date reviews of either company. Do both have nature experts on board? Is there any history/cultural component regarding the towns along the way? Not interested in shopping stops. Any insights would be welcome.Thank you.
Elodia, thanks for your comment! I haven’t cruised with Alaskan Dreams, so I can’t comment on what they can offer. However, I didn’t see any maintenance issues with the Safari Endeavour while I was aboard. I’m actually sailing with UnCruise again next week in Hawaii – so if you want to email me (http://valisemag.com/contact), I can give you an up-to-date review in a few weeks! In Alaska/on the Safari Endeavour, there were definitely experts aboard, and we had some events in the communities that did have specific historic/cultural events (Wrangell in particular). I hope that helps!
Hi Valerie & Valise–thank you for sharing this information. We are looking at cruise to Alaska next year and your comments help us to lean toward UnCruise. We’re looking at late May rather than Fall. Do you have any suggestions for this preference? Also, how physical are the hikes? Thank you.
Adrianne, thanks so much for reading! As I’ve talked to people comparing UnCruise with other cruises, a lot of people said it really depends on your cruise goals. If you’re traveling with children, for example, UnCruise isn’t a great fit because they don’t have a lot of activities catered to kids like bigger ships.
I went in early May, and highly recommend May – the weather was chilly but in a brisk, invigorating way. We didn’t have much rain either, and that only improves through late May and June.
As for the hikes, they usually offer two per day when hiking is an option: a “walk” and a “go-getter.” The Go-Getter will be more physically challenging and best for people who have the physical ability and fitness. The walks might offer less vistas, but they’ll still get you on land to explore a bit.
I hope this helps! I’m happy to answer any other questions, or to connect you with my contacts UnCruise if you have questions I can’t answer 🙂
This is such a great post, full of valuable information, and stunningly beautiful photos. I’ve never been to Alaska, nor taken a cruise, but it’s definitely on my travel wish list, so I’m saving this post for future reference!
Wow! I love this post. David and I have never done this together. But I’ve been hearing a lot of great reviews about Alaska cruise experiences. I think we will add this to our bucket list for our Goodbye US trip soon. 😀
-Gerome of G&D Blog
What a great article! Very helpful in many ways, thank you! The only question I have for you is …because of the small number of people on the ship, is it a bit “too cozy”? What I mean is, if you are liking the idea of a trip to be alone and romantic with my spouse, is this not the trip? Thanks so much for your reply!
Catherine, thanks for your comment! I can’t speak to say, the sound insulation in the walls between cabins ? but I don’t think UnCruise is too cozy. The common area is where a lot of people spend time, but at least on the Safari Endeavour, there were a variety of seating options (couches, chairs, round tables at booths), and you’re never pressured to spend time there unless you want to. There’s also the upper deck, bow, and hot tub on the back deck for some more private areas. Most people seemed really respectful if a couple was in one of those areas. I hope this helps!
Thanks for sharing your experience, we hope to book an Alaska trip on UnCruise for next summer. Really appreciate you sharing all your adventures!
Glad to help, and thanks for reading, Kathleen! I hope you have an amazing trip!
Hi, thank you for this invaluable information!!! I’m curious as to which Uncruise itinerary you would recommend? This is on our bucket list! I’d also love to know what you thought of your Hawaiian cruise when you come back. The earlier comment about the maintenance issues on the Uncruise boats made me a little nervous :-).
How would you suggest arranging transportation from the final day on an Uncruise (Juneau or Sitka) to Anchorage so that we can follow our cruise with your 10-day land itinerary?
Thanks for your comments, Elizabeth! I got your email and just replied with tips on getting to Anchorage. In short, Alaska Air is the way to go!
I hope you can give me your honest answer on this. My husband and I are interested in a Uncruise but he is 75 yoa and in fair health. Bending and walking are sometimes an issue due to arthritis. Is this truly something he will be able to do and enjoy? He always said the only way I would get him on a cruise ship is to Alaska and the large cruise lines are just not for us. Since this type of cruising is more expensive than the traditional cruises I truly need as much of an honest answer as you can give me.
Pat, thanks for amending your comment – I included those prices below so that you could get a fair cost assessment.
Here’s my take, based on two different UnCruise experiences: yes, you and he *can* do an UnCruise as long as you make sure the staff are aware of his limitations and you don’t push beyond what he can do – they’ll be really good to be honest with you about the excursion options and which ones he’ll be able to handle. The skiff tours are a great option for him since they only require assisted entry/exit from the boats, and the ability to sit on the benches. Also, maybe the easy walks will work well for him too.
I’d actually recommend contacting them directly too, if you still have concerns. Their sales team is really wonderful and can provide a lot more insight based on getting questions like yours a lot. Have a great trip if you do decide to go!
Thank you for this post as I believe more people need to be aware that there are other options in cruising. I am all about small ships.
I just disembarked from the Wilderness Explorer this past Saturday and I wanted to reply to Pat or get a message to Pat if she is still having trouble deciding. Our group was composed of 30 people ranging in age from 12 to 80 . I witnessed 3 guides plus the lead guide aid some of the elders in the group on short hikes to a beautiful lake, in and out of the skiffs to a shore walk, and up a moderately steep hill to get a better view of the glacier. Everyone in our group had a great time and we all became friends. Though we admit we were pretty lucky being in a group of only 30.
Heather, sounds like you had a great time! Thanks so much for sharing your experience, and I hope it inspires other travelers too!
Do you think this would be a good tour for a single woman?
Great question! I wouldn’t go solo, only because of how expensive it will be – but if you can find someone to join in your cabin, it will be an AMAZING experience!
Also, what is fall like in Alaska? Definitely would take this during shoulder season, either spring or fall?
Fall is great, but the season gets cold fast – I went in late Spring (roughly May 5-12, 2017) and it was still quite chilly/frosty in the mornings! Pack for that with plenty of layers and you’ll be okay!
Valerie, I have been scouring various options for visiting Alaska. Large cruise ships are not of interest to me and I have heard good things about Uncruise. However, they have so many different itineraries that i am confused as to which one might be the best one to choose. My husband and I, in our late 70s and in reasonably good shape, will be taking only one trip to Alaska and I want to be sure to give it our best shot. Can you recommend an itinerary? Scenery and wild life are priorities for us. Also, we want to get to the interior and would love to take a post-trip to Denali. I gather Uncruise does not offer land trips to Denali. I have read your very informative blog about visiting Denali National Park/Preserve. Can you recommend a trip provider to Denali? Thanks so much, Ann Armstrong
Ann, thanks for all your questions! I’d love to put you in touch with someone at UnCruise directly to help you choose the right itinerary. Since I’ve only done one myself personally, it’s hard for me to know if the one I did is right for you or if there might be a better fit. Can you email me firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll help more?
Regarding Denali, you will need to fly from the end-point of your UnCruise to either Fairbanks or Anchorage then transfer to Denali… I recommend checking out this post I have about Alaska land travel, as it will help: https://www.valisemag.com/10-days-alaska-itinerary-guide/ I think it would make the most sense to fly to Anchorage and take the Alaska Railroad to Denali. I don’t know of any operators who do this other than the big cruise companies… but it’s not hard to do on your own!
Have a great trip – I’m confident it will be unforgettable!