You might have noticed my recent conversion to cruise lover. Let me correct that, small ship cruise lover with companies that focus on responsible travel. I couldn’t think of a better way to island hop and discover the Aloha state then aboard the Safari Explorer for an adventure in Hawaii.
To date, my only experience with Hawaii had been a stop-over during one of my many trips to the Philippines in my previous life as a clothing designer. Green and lush from above, with that Jurassic Park feel that attracts me, I knew it was a landscape I wanted to someday explore up close and personal.
A desire to visit the verdant valleys where Hawaiians still celebrated the land was high on the list my husband, Neil, and I put together. We wanted to see the unusual landscape and flowers in their natural setting, not in a pre packaged fire-twirling luau on the beach.
Enter an Un-Cruise adventure in Hawaii. Embracing the aloha spirit and exploring the natural splendor and wildlife of the Hawaiian archipelago is the focus of their itinerary. Discovered centuries ago by the Polynesians, we were looking for a piece of the islands that had retained that original magic; expecting the unexpected is a phrase UnCruise lives by.
After a long day of travel from the east coast, we arrived in Molokai, a bit frazzled, but ready for adventure. The seven-night trip would take us from Molokai to Lanai, Maui and the Big Island.
One of the best parts of sailing on a small 36 passenger ship is the program. The size of the Safari Explorer allows stops in destinations inaccessible to large cruise ships. Translation: we will be in locations rarely seen by other travelers. The ability to see four different islands in seven days while only unpacking once is a true luxury for all passengers on board. The packing list focuses on casual dress: flip flops and sneakers were the norm. Sun protection should be a priority.
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Accommodations – UnCruise Adventure in Hawaii
The UnCruise sailing season for Hawaii is November thru April. Safari Explorer is a newly refurbished sparkling vessel made for adventure. On the 145 foot boutique yacht, all cabins have viewing windows, eco friendly toiletries, robes and heated bathroom floors. There is a TV/DVD player and extensive video library, reusable water bottles, hair dryer and a very comfortable Tempur-Pedic bed.
A separate bathroom houses the toilet and shower. The sink is in the main cabin. The cabins are compact, cozy and elegant. After all, with the extensive activity going on outside, very little time is spent in your cabin aside from sleeping.
We introduced ourselves over cocktails in the salon, and learned many guests had traveled with UnCruise before, raving about the experience. Several were counting this as a third or fourth voyage, truly the ultimate compliment to any adventure travel company.
The majority of guests were baby boomers just like us, but there was also a family with two younger children and a mix of other guests both younger and older. (Remember there are only 17 cabins). The casual atmosphere and small ship feel encouraged immediate camaraderie amongst guests.
Food and Drink
The boutique yacht features a curated wine library and full bar with premium spirits and microbrew. Trevor, the multitasking bartender, mixed up the gamut of cocktails “as you like it”. After the second night you felt like the lounge area was a private club. Conversations about the days activities, tall tales and getting to know you stories were all part of the conversation.
Dinner was held on the same level adjacent to the salon and wine library. We can’t rave enough about the onboard food. Meals were healthy, delicious and made to order. There was always a choice of two or three entrées, and any food allergies or preferences were always accommodated with a smile from the friendly staff.
When it was hard to make a choice between the evenings selections, a creative “Why not try ½ and ½ was suggested by LaLa or Charlie, our cheerful stewards for the trip. That became my mantra most nights. Fresh fish, local produce and ingredients were the stars of the show, presented without fail in creative, visually pleasing plates.
Tables of 6 or 8 guests waited with anticipation to hear about the baked goods and desserts presented by the pastry chef at each meal.
On Board Activities: UnCruise Adventure in Hawaii
Mornings began with a yoga class as the sun rose over the mountains. The moving boat made balance more of a challenge and stretching was a great way to get ready for the days activities. In addition there were free weights and fitness equipment available, but honestly there was plenty of physical challenge that took place on and in the water.
Complimentary massages for each passenger sweetened the onboard experience. Evenings often ended with experts speaking about the wildlife we had seen or would see the next day.
One of the highlights of the trip was having Danny and Anna Akaka as our onboard hosts for the week. The native Hawaiian husband and wife storytellers showcase traditional culture accompanied with ukulele and hula. The romantic spark between them is contagious and they embody the aloha spirit we were hoping to find.
The kūpunas (elders) of past generations used the idea of Talking Story to pass their history from one generation to the next. Danny and Anna believe the interchange that takes place between people when you Talk Story is something that can not be replaced with the written word. “Sharing thoughts from within and the resulting dialogue that takes place is the best form of communication.” The charming couple, who are normally on board only for day, brought the culture and authenticity of the trip to a whole new level.
Off Ship: UnCruise Adventure in Hawaii
Although almost all of the off ship activity took place in or on the water, our hike to Sweetheart Rock on Lanai was one of my favorites. Thousand foot sea cliffs line the shore and volcanic outcroppings are the setting for the legend of PuuPehe. Hearing the tragic Hawaiian love story surrounded by windswept cliffs and crashing azure waves transported us back to a time when indigenous people gathered water in gourds and lived off the land.
Coming down the trail and looking across the cove to the Four Seasons Lanai where Bill and Melinda Gates were married on the 18thgreen brought us back to reality, the now privateisland of Lanai and the broad dichotomy that is Hawaii, indeed a place of contrasts.
Marine Life : UnCruise Adventure in Hawaii
While impossible to detail all of the marine life we saw in the water, I can say it was often and a daily occurrence. It was the essence of the UnCruise Hawaii adventure. Whales regularly breached and and tail slapped from all sides of the ship. When a humpback whale approaches within 100 yards of a boat, the captain can’t engage the engines, even to back away. When they are active, sometimes the encounter can last for quite a while. On board, the crew playfully calls it Maui Mugging; another reminder that traveling on a small boat allows the captain the flexibility of navigating towards the wildlife instead of following a strict charted course.
Schools of dolphins friskily swam along the bow as if to say hello. Panicky snorkelers (can you see me raising my hand) were treated with kid gloves by a thoughtful staff, thus enabling all to fully enjoy the kaleidoscope of fish and sea turtles swimming amongst the coral gardens. Stepping out of your comfort zone and into nature was an occurrence I’d guess each of the 36 passengers experienced in one form or another during their UnCruise adventure in Hawaii.
The Safari Explorer is well equipped with water toys: snorking gear, paddleboards, wet suits and kayaks were put to use regularly.
The cabin deck platform was a favorite spot for adrenaline junkies. Diving into the gorgeous azure water from the platform gave all a thrill.
Our only disappointment was not seeing the Giant Pacific Manta Rays during our night snorkel. The experience was still exciting and one of a kind, an adventure that could only be made better by the appearance of the rays.
After so many encounters with wildlife it was as if Mother Nature wanted to make sure we remembered who was in charge; this wasn’t a theme park and animals don’t perform by the clock.
For an authentic experience in the wild, it’s best to remember on an UnCruise adventure in Hawaii expect the unexpected. The next day, as if on cue, we were rewarded with a final treat. The elusive manta rays appeared during a snorkel in Kealakekus Bay, the spot on the Big Island where Captain Cook was slain in 1779.
Most definitely when you’re thinking about an adventure cruise size matters. This photo says it all. And now, you too know the secret that keeps guests coming back again and again-there is cruising and then there is UnCruising.
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Disclaimer: The author was the hosted guest of UnCruise for the Hawaii adventure. As always opinions and reviews are her own and have not been influenced in any way.