Un-cruise line heads to Hawaii, in style

Not long ago, we introduced InnerSea Discoveries, an up-close personal adventure experience that just happens to travel on water. The tiny, 2-ship cruise line does what they call an “un-cruise” in Alaska for up to 76 passengers that are about as far away from the big cruise ship experience as you can get and still be floating. Now its time to get to know sister-line American Safari Cruises, also offering a unique adventure experience on water. This time heading to Hawaii. In style.

The darn-near-all-inclusive cruises include all from-the-yacht activities and equipment; transfers; meals; fine wine, premium spirits and microbrews in addition to only the “port charges, taxes and fees” that are included in a big-ship cruise. All American Safari yachts feature a hot tub, Tempur-pedic mattresses, heated tile floors in all bathrooms and upper category balconies. Some also feature saunas, a complimentary massage and Jacuzzi tubs. An all-American crew has a guest-crew ratio of 2 to 1.

“This type of inclusive yacht cruise is a totally new way to vacation in Hawaii” said Tim Jacox, executive vice president of sales and marketing. “We are an exclusive floating resort that cruises between the islands to show you the best of Hawaii. Going ashore with only 36 total guests means cultural experiences are more personal and authentic. And since we provide adventure gear and include activities, it’s 100% fun and relaxation.”

The 36-guest Safari Explorer sails inter-island Hawaiian adventure cruises between Maui and the Big Island (and reverse). From November through April, weeklong Hawaiian Seascapes and 10-night Hawaii’s Traditional Shores itineraries explore Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Molokini and the Big Island.

The 22-guest Safari Quest sails weeklong Aquarium of the World itineraries in Mexico’s Sea of Cortés from November through April. Sailing roundtrip from La Paz, Mexico, the flexible itinerary takes time to seek out the myriad marine life in this World Heritage biosphere reserve and explores Isla Partida, Isla San José, Bahia Agua Verde, Los Islotes, Isla Coyote, Isla San Francisco and Isla Espiritu.

In both warm water destinations, the two yachts feature exciting and novel holiday travel Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day (with a special Hawaii Romance Package), Easter and special Kids in Nature family departures during popular spring break weeks in March.

A relaxed itinerary of cruising from cove-to-cove among islands in Hawaii and the Sea of Cortés maximizes the yachts ability to act as a platform for water based adventures such as kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, swimming from the yacht’s swim step, snorkeling, braving the rope swing, sailing, skiff explorations and tubing. Guided excursions are led by expert on board naturalists.

In both destinations, exclusive cultural explorations ashore are included and led by the yacht’s expedition leaders. Guests in the Sea of Cortés visit Isla Coyote, a small island inhabited by the Cuevas fishing family, where guests will tour the village and visit with the family. On Hawaii’s Molokai, guests meet a local family for guided walks through the valley focusing on history and archaeology, a chance to help restore ancient taro terraces and a traditional Hawaiian paina celebration and feast.

Considering one of these? Better move fast; if American Safari to Hawaii and Mexico fills up as well as InnerSea Discoveries did to Alaska, the season will sell out fast.

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Luxury yachts host just a few guests in spectacular destinations

Earlier this year, Gadling introduced InnerSea Discoveries, what we called the Alaska Adventure Cruise for people that hate even the idea of a cruise. Called the “Un-Cruise” its an up-close personal adventure experience that just happens to travel on water. The line’s moderately priced inaugural season sold out fast and reports back from the field validate the adventure nature of the travel experience.

Now, InnerSea’s sister-line American Safari Cruises, promising luxury in the pursuit of adventure, has released its 2012-2013 Schedule Of Active Yacht Adventures deployment detailing voyages for its three yacht fleet.

The nimble yachts, 12-guest Safari Spirit, 22-guest Safari Quest and 36-guest Safari Explorer, specialize in expedition cruising with flexible itineraries. Destinations include Southeast Alaska, Mexico’s Sea of Cortés, Columbia and Snake Rivers, Hawaiian Islands and Washington and British Columbia.

“We are releasing our brochure a bit earlier this year” said Tim Jacox, executive vice president of sales and marketing. “We had a stellar year in 2011, and we want to get the new brochure in travelers’ hands now to book 2012 as early as possible.”

In all destinations, the yachts sail flexible itineraries in order to maximize wildlife viewing opportunities and provide one-of-a-kind active adventures for guests. Activities may vary by destination and include kayaking, hiking, biking, yoga, beachcombing, snorkeling, stand up paddle boarding, tubing, sailing and skiff rides. Expert guides and naturalists lead many excursions.
Let’s take a look at what they are offering in the upcoming season.

Washington and British Columbia
For 2012, the 22-guest Safari Quest sails weeklong Pacific Northwest Passages cruises along the coasts of Washington state and British Columbia from September 14 to November 16, 2012 and from March 29 to May 3, 2013. Sailing roundtrip from Seattle, WA, the yacht visits Victoria, Jervis Inlet and the Harmony Islands, Princess Louisa Inlet, Nanaimo and Gulf Islands, B.C.; and San Juan Islands, WA.

Introduced in 2011, the 36-guest Safari Explorer continues sailing seven-night Hawaiian Seascapes cruises between Maui and the Big Island (and reverse) from January 4 to May 3 and November 3 to December 29, 2012; January 5 to April 13, 2013. The inter-island yacht cruise explores Moloka’i and its picture book Halawa Valley, Lanai, Maui, Molokini and the Big Island.

Southeast Alaska
All three luxury yachts sail roundtrip from Juneau, Alaska from May 11 to August 24, 2012. The seven night Discoverers Glacier Country cruises spend two full days in Glacier Bay National Park with opportunities to hike and kayak with park rangers. The yachts will explore around Icy Strait, Frederick Sound, Admiralty Island, Fords Terror and Endicott Arm.

The 15-day Famed Inside Passage cruise from Seattle to Juneau (or reverse) visits San Juan Islands, WA; Canadian Inside Passage; Misty Fjords National Monument, Ketchikan, Petersburg, LeConte Bay, Baird Glacier, Frederick Sound, Red Bluff Bay, Pavlof Harbor, Glacier Bay National Park and Icy Strait, Alaska. In 2012, spring dates include May 11 on Safari Quest and April 27 on Safari Spirit. Returning from Alaska, the Safari Quest departs on August 31 and the Safari Explorer and Safari Spirit depart September 7.

Mexico’s Sea of Cortés
From January 7 to March 31, 2012, the 22-guest Safari Quest explores this UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve on weeklong Aquarium of the World cruises sailing roundtrip from La Paz, Baja California Sur. The itinerary explores Isla Partida, Bahia Agua Verde, Isla Coyote, Isla San Francisco, Los Islotes, Isla San José and Isla Espiritu Santos.

Columbia and Snake Rivers

The 12-guest Safari Spirit sails from Portland, OR to Lewiston, ID (and reverse) on weeklong Rivers of the West cruises September 29, October 13 and 20, 2012. The itinerary visits the Columbia River Gorge, Bonneville Dam, Hood River, Washington Wine Country, Palouse River Canyon and Hells Canyon.

Culinary and Wine Discovery cruises travel the same route but include an on board visit by a guest sommelier, visits with winemakers, food and wine pairings, a visit to the Maryhill Museum and winery tours in the Walla Walla, Red Mountain, Columbia Gorge and Yakima Valley appellations. Culinary and Wine cruises depart October 6 and 27 and November 3, 10 and 17, 2012.

Here’s the best part. These very-inclusive cruises include all from-the-yacht activities and equipment; transfers; exquisite meals; fine wine, premium spirits and microbrews; and all port charges, taxes and fees. All yachts feature a hot tub, Tempur-pedic mattresses, heated tile floors in all bathrooms and upper category balconies. Some also feature saunas, a complimentary massage and Jacuzzi tubs.

With all that, an all-American crew and a guest-crew ratio of 2 to 1 this is too could be called an “un-cruise”.

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Adventure cruise line prepares for inaugural season

Getting ready for opening day is a big job for any business. No matter how experienced, knowledgeable and prepared workers may be, there are always unexpected things that come up. If your business is active, adventure cruises in the wilderness of Alaska the unexpected could mean life-threatening emergencies far from the nearest emergency room.

InnerSea Discoveries (@InnerSeaD) is preparing for its sold-out inaugural season. Sailing active, adventure cruises in Alaska the small 5-ship line looks to be perfect for “the active, outdoor person who is more experiential based” InnerSea’s Dan Blanchard told Gadling recently. On a typical “un-cruise” the line hopes to “pull the curtain back on the natural world and let people see it” says Blanchard which means actively engaging the wilderness.

As opposed to a standard Alaska cruise which pretty much floats on by the best stuff, InnerSea Discoveries passengers get up close and personal with the land of the midnight sun. That exposure promises to add a delicious element of risk, the unknown and uncertainty as each voyage will surely take on a flavor of it’s own. It also bumps up the need for emergency training.

In addition to customary training and certification, InnerSea Discoveries’ crew members are getting Wilderness First Responder training this week in Seattle from the Wilderness Medicine Training Center. While crew members will become certified, the training is far from a typical classroom setting.

To get prepared, the line’s first mates, second mates, expedition leaders and expedition guides are taking part in the hands-on training that covers everything from trauma to wilderness CPR. All good stuff to know on a small ship that does not include a full-size medical center with operating rooms, doctors, nurses and suckers for the kids.

CEO Blanchard himself is prepared too. After sailing across the Pacific for two years in a 42-foot sailboat, Blanchard realized cruising is “a lot more than a port to port experience.” Passengers on Innersea Discoveries can engage in a variety of off-ship activities, most included in the price, or stay on board and do nothing but enjoy the majestic Alaskan scenery.

I doubt many will.

Flickr photo by leakytyr8

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Alaska Adventure Cruise: For people that hate even the idea of a cruise

You’re a packer, hiker, camper, flier or photo freak so “Alaska” you’re good with, “Adventure you’re fine with too but the word “Cruise” sends your brain into unpleasant places. Travel to you might be getting to interesting places you have never been or returning to awesome memories once again. On your own. With good gear. You choose Independent over guided when you can. Adventure activities turn you on.

About the last place in the world that you want to be is on a cruise ship. The idea of herds of people bellying up to the buffet, playing bingo or climibing a simulated rock wall make you laugh outloud. You’ll catch dinner, look to the stars at night for entertainment and do a real mountain if given half a chance.

Still, cruise vacations have become more popular than ever and major cruise lines are looking for ways to make their line unique. You could care less.

Some build new, larger ships packed with more onboard programming no one passenger could possibly take advantage of. So what? You hate them.

Others focus on their existing fleet, refining what they do with a keen eye on what their target passenger is looking for, molding what they do to match. Again, give you a home where the buffalo roam and you’re in heaven.

But wait.

Now there is new InnerSea Discoveries, an up-close personal adventure experience that just happens to travel on water.

A tiny, 2-ship cruise line, InnerSea Discoveries does what they call “un-cruises”. In their inaugural season which starts in May, the line will do Alaska Adventure cruises for up to 49 passengers (that’s forty-nine, not 4,900) that are about as far away from the big cruise ship experience as you can get and still be floating.

Actually, the floating part, in this application, can provide a better travel experience than even the most adventurous independent traveler could get.

“The great success of the Ultimate Adventure proves there is a real demand for this type of active adventure in Southeast Alaska,” said Tim Jacox, of InnnerSea Discoveries. “People are choosing to spend two weeks exploring the remote wilderness-places they’ve never heard of-and that’s the beauty of it. It’s unrushed, uncrowded and truly unbelievable.”

First difference: No Internet. This will knock out about half the regular cruising public. You? Mr.Ms Adventure Traveler person? No big deal.

These handy-sized ships visit ports that big ships can’t get to, stop along the way were big ships can’t go and see wilderness big ships and the hordes of people on them scare away. In fact, the line’s Green Guardians program requires their small groups of passengers to “leave only footprints behind” while drinking in nature and it’s wild inhabitants.

“We believe it is a privilege to explore the world’s natural wonders, step ashore in remote destinations and meet the people living in these breathtaking wilderness environments. While employing sustainable travel principles and management practices to ensure we are responsible stewards of the environment is a core part of our business, we also strive to leave a positive impact on the people and communities we visit around the world. InnerSea Discoveries’ office and vessel personnel support the following organizations with donations or volunteer time.” says the line’s Green Guardian pledge.

Each trip, starting at $1795 per person, is different too with a choice of personalized Alaska Inside Passage itineraries featuring a 7-night Juneau to Ketchikan Eastern Coves or a 7-night Ketchikan to Juneau Western Coves sailing. Ultimate adventurers can combine the 2 cruises into a 14-night round-trip cruise from Juneau or experience 900-miles of the Inside Passage on a 14-night cruise between Seattle to Juneau (or reverse).

Unlike massive cruise liner sailings, most of what would be called “shore excursions” and carry an extra fee on big ships is included in the price.

Whale-Watching? You are in a small ship that can get up close. No charge.

Kayak Adventure? They have plenty for everyone. Free.

Inflatable boat excursions, Hiking, Caving, Beachcombing, Snorkeling, Birding, Glacier Viewing; all included.

Want to talk gear?

The ship’s kayaking fleet includes Looksha T and Manitou II kayaks, Surftech Softop and Stand-up Paddle Boards, Black Diamond trail compact trekking poles, REI EcoSensitive, lightweight and kids daypacks. If overnight-camping they provide the tent or forest service cabin, sleeping bags, food/drink, binoculars, cooking supplies, walking sticks, backpacks and a radio to stay in contact with the ship.

There are optional expedition activities available varying from “LeConte Glacier Floatplane Tour” ($200) to “Whale Island Overnight Camping” ($150). All are rated from 1 to 3 on an activity level scale with 1 being excursions that require basic physical fitness and 3 being excursions that require exertion, agility, sure-footedness on hikes and/or stamina for the most challenging workout.

No, the normal cruise ship passenger would not be along for this ride.

On board there are things to do, but not like the big ships. That’s not what this is all about.

No big pool:You were just in the ocean in a kayak or snorkeling or doing a polar bear swim.

No tight schedule: They pride themselves on flexibility and stop for a pod of orcas or some bubble-feeding humpbacks.

No formal night: It’s casual all the way here with more of a explorers-come-back-to-basecamp feel aboard ship.

No rock-climbing wall: You just climbed up the side of a mountain if you wanted to.

Retuning from the wilderness, passengers will find adequately appointed cabins feature Queen or twin beds, private bath with shower and a view window. Most are double occupancy but each ship has solo cabins as well. Meals include a healthy menu featuring locally-caught seafood . You may have had a hand in dinner earlier in the day. A hot Espresso, coffee, tea bar is open 24-hours a day too.

But here, the ship is a place to come back to, like a base camp from which the few along for the adventure return to at night. In this application, a floating camp makes sense to even the most hard-core travelers. Small ships sail up close to glaciers, whales, signts and sounds that people can not get to on foot or big cruise ships would scare off if they could even get close enough to see.


Images courtesy of InnerSea Discoveries