Hawaii is a picture of paradise, and a cruise voyage offers a special way to see the islands.
For travelers who are also nature-lovers and like to stay active, UnCruise Adventures features water-intensive expedition cruises that sail from Molokai on the 36-passenger Safari Explorer. These cruises offer something quite different than the traditional sailings from major cruise lines that visit the Hawaiian Islands.
Cruise Addicts joined for a voyage on UnCruise Adventures’ new summer itinerary and discovered nine things that make these cruises unique.
Time on Molokai
UnCruise is the lone cruise line to visit this pristine island of just more than 7,000 residents. Molokai is the fifth–largest island in the chain and has one hotel, Hotel Molokai, which serves as the hospitality center for UnCruise. Voyages sail roundtrip from the harbor on Molokai, and passengers get to experience time hiking in the Halawa Valley and visiting with residents living off the grid there in what is the oldest continuously settled region of the entire island chain. This is where the Polynesians first came to the islands and settled around 650 AD.
Aside from serene Molokai, UnCruise’s sailings take passengers to other places that show Hawaii at its most Hawaiian. We spent time ashore on Lanai to visit a secluded beach and the sleepy historic old town of Lanai City. We also ventured to Lahaina Town on Maui’s far northeast coast and had a few days anchored offshore of the Big Island and Maui to explore the lagoons and bays with no one else except our fellow cruise companions.
The cruises typically sail with 20 to 30 passengers, so you don’t deal with crowds. The ship also is free of any frills, and the entertainment is simply good conversation with like-minded travelers or views of blue skies, gorgeous sunsets or the frequent bow-riding dolphin pod. Days are filled with activities, and meals include lively conversation discussing all that you do or see. Your cruise fare includes drinks, so the bar and lounge area also are popular gathering spots at the end of the night for enrichment talks and as a way to wind down with new friends.
Sailing with Family
Passengers and crew get to know each other quickly and form great bonds. You are out and about each day with your expedition leaders, fellow passengers and other crew who also get to participate in the daily activities. UnCruise has a crew of about 15 people onboard, and the person who serves your meal might also clean your cabin and be out kayaking or snorkeling with you, too. It’s a brilliant time among friendly people who love the outdoors and really care about nature.
Night Snorkeling with Manta Rays
One of the truly one-of-a-kind experiences is the chance to go out for a night-time snorkel to see manta rays. The excursion has you get into a wet suit and drop in at a noted feeding place where these gentle giants come to feed on plankton. They estimate a 50-50 chance that you’ll get to see them (we didn’t), but you do get to witness feeding schools of fish, and we even enjoyed a rare glimpse of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal during our session. Guides lead the way as you simply hang on to a modified surfboard outfitted with lights to draw the plankton. We hovered at the surface as hundreds of fish swirled around us, and the ethereal scene was made complete by dozens of scuba divers below releasing clouds of bubbles to the surface.
Activities include near-daily snorkeling sessions, frequent kayaking, skiff tours, wooden canoe paddling in Kona, hiking outings and cultural tours and free time in the towns and villages. Sailing can be rough as you cross the Maui channel back and forth between Maui and the Island of Hawaii. Cabins are small and austere. The in-room TV has a documentary running on a loop and a DVD player (the ship has a large library of movies).
Food is the third prong of the experience that makes the UnCruise journey so incredible. You have the activities, the people and the meals, which are made from scratch daily using locally and sustainably sourced ingredients. I regularly heard from passengers how they have never had better food any of their previous trips, and many of us regularly ordered a “half and half” meal, choosing half sizes of two menu options because they both sounded so good. The chef and crew also were great in accommodating diets and special requests. Breads and pastries are made fresh onboard by a pastry chef and serve as a highlight. (Don’t skip the afternoon cookie hour.)
The cuisine also touches on true Hawaiian meals, with a chance to eat freshly made poi on the Halawa Valley tour and an end-of-cruise pa’ina (traditional Hawaiian feast) on Molokai.
A Weeklong Excursion
While large cruise ships offer a large range of excursions to pick from as you visit larger cities in Hawaii, an UnCruise Adventures sailing is essentially a weeklong excursion itself. The ship has a swim step that you can jump off to splash around in the blue waters at the back of the ship. Many passengers also had a blast jumping from the second deck, plunging themselves into the waters from more than 20 feet up.
I mean really light. I thought I had nailed it by coming with my swim trunks, couple pair of shorts, swim shirt, a few athletic shirts and short-sleeve shirts. I also had two pair of shoes and my socks and underwear. That still was probably too much. Barefoot is the standard footwear choice onboard, even at dinner, so I had too many socks and an extra pair of shoes that I didn’t really need. Also, toiletries and reef–safe sunscreen are provided. So, this really is a low-key and hassle-free vacation.
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