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Wilderness Discoverer - Small Alaska Adventure Ship

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Overview of Un-Cruise Adventures Voyage
Wilderness Discoverer on the Inside Passage of Southeast Alaska

Wilderness Discoverer on the Inside Passage of Southeast Alaska

Wilderness Discoverer (c) Linda Garrison
The Wilderness Discoverer is a small Alaska adventure ship carrying 76 guests and 24 crew. The ship sails 7-day cruises between Juneau and Ketchikan, Alaska. These weeklong voyages feature many opportunities for hiking (at all levels of difficulty), kayaking, small boat exploring, wildlife sightings, and other adventures. I sailed on a 7-day "western coves" Inside Passage itinerary from Ketchikan to Juneau, and especially appreciated the efforts of the Captain and her crew to modify the itinerary to ensure the best water conditions (i.e. less wind and waves) for our cruise.

The Wilderness Discoverer is operated by Un-Cruise Adventures, which was formerly InnerSea Discoveries and American Safari Cruises. This small ship cruise line sails in Alaska, Hawaii, the Sea of Cortes, and the rivers and waterways of the Pacific Northwest.

Our week on the ship had elements of both cruises and organized land vacations. Like on a mega-ship, you only have to unpack once, you sleep on the small ship, and have all your meals onboard. However, unlike most large cruise ships, all the activities and shore excursions (except snorkeling, fishing, and flightseeing) are included in the fare. In addition, many of the daily events are geared towards the very active, such as difficult hikes or kayaking and paddle boarding.

Those who love the constant onboard activities and amenities of mega-ships will need an attitude readjustment before sailing on one of these marvelous small ship adventures. The Wilderness Discoverer has tiny cabins, no balconied-cabins, no evening performances (other than lectures), and only buffet meals with limited selections. However, you spend little time in the cabin, and all 38 cabins have either a window or a door opening to the outside. Everything is casual, so guests never have to dress up for dinner. Boots and coats are hung in the hallway, and cabin doors don't have a key (although they can be locked from the inside.) Although meal choices are not as varied as on large ships, a vegetarian option is always available, and the meals were diverse and delicious.

The Wilderness Discoverer has three passenger decks with the crew area and engine room on deck 1. Cabins are on decks 2, 3, and 4. The observation deck, access to the hot tubs, and boarding area for the kayaks and small boats are from deck 3. The ship does not have an elevator, so passengers must be able to navigate steps.

The ship is best suited for adults, but the company does have several "family cruises" each year that feature special activities designed for families and children. Although children can sail on any cruise, they might become bored without other kids along. If I was planning a family cruise with Un-Cruise Adventures, I'd certainly inquire about which weeks/itineraries are best for kids and/or family groups.

I've always been a fan of small ship cruises in Alaska, and this vacation experience was terrific, primarily because of the exceptional onboard staff. Although we were on one of the last sailings of the Alaska season, the crew was so enthusiastic and accommodating it could have been their very first sailing. Not a single one of them appeared to be bored or ready for the season to be over.

Let's take a tour of the Wilderness Discoverer.

 

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