UnCruise Adventures spent more than 18 months on the sidelines before it was able to relaunch in Alaska with its famed expedition voyages exploring the wild Southeastern region of the 49th state.
Cruise Addicts was onboard one of the first sailings, a seven-night adventure from Juneau to Sitka that included incredible days in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
While all sailings with UnCruise result in thrilling experiences doing heart-pumping activities in amazing wild spaces, this trip hit a little differently for the 60 passengers and 30 crew members onboard the line’s Wilderness Legacy ship.
For many passengers on the voyage, it was the first time traveling in more than 15 months. The crew also was elated to be back working and sharing their passion and knowledge for Alaska and its bounty of charms – the wildlife, stunning landscapes and rich history.
UnCruise is sailing with a fully vaccinated community on its ships, and it was a fantastic experience to be able to feel comfortable shedding masks and mingling with new friends.
Here is a look at the places you will explore and activities you can expect when you sail on UnCruise’s itineraries that visit Glacier Bay while sailing between Juneau and Sitka.
Juneau to Glacier Bay
After arriving in Juneau, cruisers get a walking historical tour of the city (often led by UnCruise founder and owner Dan Blanchard) before heading to their ship.
Our journey began as we sailed away from Juneau, gliding up the Gastineau Channel and into the network of islands and waterways of Southeast Alaska.
After a night onboard, getting acquainted with the Wilderness Legacy and many of our traveling companions, we arrived at Idaho Inlet. This first stop gave us the opportunity to dive right in to our shore excursions. Passengers went out for bushwhacker hikes in the Tongass National Forest, or on kayaking adventures or skiff tours around the inlet.
The next day, we entered Glacier Bay. This place is a national gem, a slice of unspoiled space roiling with marine life, mammals and birds, with the temperate forests and snow-capped mountains providing a gorgeous backdrop. We would have two days to explore here.
At Hugh Miller Inlet, we went for a two-hour kayaking tour. Then, a challenging afternoon bushwhack, making our own trail up a steep hill to see the views over the bay before slip, sliding our way down to a snowy landing spot and babbling creek.
After dinner, we sailed past Gloomy Knob and witnesses a melting pot of wildlife. By the end of our first two days on this adventure, we had spotted brown bears, mountain goats, eagles, humpback whales, Dall’s porpoises, otters, seals and a range of marine birds like cormorants, Harlequin ducks and puffins.
On our second day in the park, it was time to view the glaciers up close. Wilderness Legacy anchored in a fjord in the morning, giving us a great view of the massive Margerie Glacier, which was kind enough to give us a little show. A large chunk of ice calved off the edge of the 21-mile-long tidewater glacier sending out a wave surge that gently rolled our ship by the time it went past. It was an impressive look at the size and awesome power of these ice formations.
We then repositioned at the head of another fjord and kayaked in to get up close to the beautiful blue Lamplugh Glacier. It was still early in the day, and we had plenty still to come.
As we gathered back on the ship after our kayaking outings, it was time for the UnCruise Polar Plunge. Many hearty passengers (and crew members, including our Captain Doug) took the jump from the second deck into the icy-cold emerald waters, and the rest cheered us on enthusiastically. It is great fun, and fortunately, you get hot chocolate (spiked with Baileys, if you wish) and can dip into the hot tub right after.
We sailed past South Marble Island on a sunny afternoon to witness hundreds of Steller sea lions that haul out of the water and laze about on the rocky island. All kinds of seabirds also traced lazy loops around the rocky outcroppings or bobbed in the waters nearby.
After dinner on the ship, we went ashore at Bartlett Cove for a nature walk in a beautiful moss-covered forest. This ranger station sits at the edge of the forest and is the lone inhabited site in Glacier Bay. We saw a porcupine, brown bear in the distance at the edge of a pond and a gorgeous sunset before it was time to sail out of the park.
Glacier Bay to Sitka
Between our time in Glacier Bay, which UnCruise guide Bobby DeMarinis correctly said is a special place that “leaves you wanting more,” and the end of the voyage in Sitka, we still had three more days of new destinations and activities to get after.
In Neka Bay, I went on my first tidepooling shorewalk. This is where you wander the rocky shoreline early in the morning when the tide is out to see what lives just below the shallow waters near shore. It’s a stunning diversity of marine life that turns up, especially when you get an extremely low tide as we were able to witness.
We saw hundreds of colorful sea stars, mussels, chitons, sea slugs, crabs, limpets and other kinds of slimy and fascinating creatures.
Then, the afternoon delivered the chance for another bushwhack. Each time we would head into the forest during the weeklong expedition, we saw a different kind of environment. Some spots were more mossy and green than others; some bushwhacks were steep or among densely packed trees and bushes. On some hikes, we walked through muskegs, and on others, we followed “animal highways.”
On this day, with our guide Jesse, we traversed a challenging bit of up-and-down terrain and had a great workout in a beautiful sprawling forest filled with cedar, spruce and hemlock trees.
Next up: Deep Bay. This waterway just off Baranoff Island gave cruisers more chances for skiff tours and kayaking outings, as well hiking adventures into the wild and woolly forests.
The adventure wrapped up with a day at The Magouns, a set of islands and state marine park. The weather was rainy and cloudy, and the winds left the waters choppy, cutting short our kayaking outing. So, we stayed on the ship most of the day to look for wildlife from the comfort of Legacy.
Onboard Wilderness Legacy
Wilderness Legacy is the largest ship in the UnCruise Adventures’ fleet. It carries up to 86 passengers, using four main decks. The ship is ideally built for adventure; there are no frills, but its cabins and spaces are cozy, warm and welcoming.
The top sun deck has two hot tubs and a small area at the back that features workout equipment (hand weights, an exercise bike, bands and yoga mats. This is the place for morning stretch classes.
Decks 2 and 3 have passenger staterooms. And Deck 2 is the main gathering spot on the ship. It has a large lounge (with a bar) and leads to the huge bow used for wildlife viewing. Deck 1 has cabins with porthole views, as well as the main dining room and the Pesky Barnacle, a space used for briefing cruisers about to head ashore. This is also where you’ll find the bottle-filling water stations.
At the very back of Legacy, boat operations take place from the Sea Dragon floating marine platform. This is used for launching stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking and skiff tours.
Your cruise fare includes meals and drinks (we love the selection of Alaskan craft beers), and the food is a definite highlight of the cruise. The chefs on UnCruise whip up incredible meals using fresh regional ingredients. We enjoyed steak, Dungeness crab, fresh-made pizzas, burgers, pulled pork arepas, salmon dishes and more. Mouthwatering desserts included brownies, chocolate chip cookies and specialties like apricot goat crème anglais cake.