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Wilderness Discoverer
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Wilderness Discoverer
Reviewed by D.W. C.
A cruise review of Un-Cruise Adventures Wilderness Discoverer in Alaska
 
 
 
Un-Cruise Adventures Review  
2012 Wilderness Discoverer  

 
by D.W. C.
May 2012
 
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My review is for essentially the same trip (except for a few days) on the same ship (different crew) as reported on this website July 2011 by Chris Dikmen and Rickee Richardson (http://www.cruisereport.com/crReview.aspx?id=2424), who did a fine job with more detailed descriptions, day-by-day itinerary, and included photos. My remarks will echo some of those in that review, the pleasant experience for both of our trips are similar!

1. General

Review comments are specific to the 5/18/12-5/26/12 Alaska "Eastern Coves" north-south cruise Juneau-Ketchikan on the ship M/V Wilderness Discoverer.

  • Ship complement was 26 (ship crew/activities staff/hotel staff) for 67 passengers. The entire crew was all very friendly and personable, receptive to consideration of reasonable special requests. Captain Dano Quinn runs an "open bridge" most times, where guests are welcome onto the bridge to observe and ask questions. Chief engineer announces ship engine room tours at times when the ship is anchored, others times tours arranged upon request. All ship staff appear to do multiple tasks at times, not just related to their nominal duties, saw the captain on occasion use the crane to move skiff boats from the storage deck into the water, help passengers on/off the skiffs, and some of the kitchen staff doing room housekeeping.
  • Casual atmosphere, InnerSea calls it the "uncruise", no dress codes for meals or any other times.
  • Three full sit-down meals/day provided, buffet-style except for last night "Captain's Dinner" which had table service, open tables/booths seating. Typical meal featured 1 or 2 entrees along with veggies and various starches/bread, sometimes vegetarian/non-vegetarian versions of a dish. Breakfast and lunch also featured cut-up fresh fruit. All meals are what one would expect at those meals, and more, all very good, no one will go hungry. Activities times are generally scheduled to allow all to participate together for the meals.
  • Passengers were mostly older, mostly over 50, with some younger couples, a few older and younger singles, and members of a couple of families in their 20s to 40s. Generally all were more active than the general population in their activities participation. There were a surprising number of Australians/New Zealanders, over 20% of the passengers. Everyone was friendly and easy/fun to converse with, especially for the sit-down meals.
  • Kitchen is adjacent to the dining area. Adjacent to the dining area at the forward area of the ship is the lounge area that's used as a passengers' hang-out or socializing when not doing anything else, and as a activities group meeting area. One can sit and watch the scenery out the side windows. A full bar is located there, bartender present mostly during late afternoons and evenings. Alcoholic drinks available via room tab. Complimentary coffee tea, water, lemonade available at all times. I think one can bring own wine bottles and bartender will hold upon request to be served from as asked. The room tab is settled by credit card the last night of the trip, along with any extra activities costs, and voluntary crew tip (suggestion is 10% of cruise trip cost).
  • Ship has several treadmill workout machines, two hot tubs. Workout machines are on the upper deck outside lounge area that has tables and chairs, early daily morning group yoga sessions were offered in this area. A sauna enclosure is also there, but did not see anyone use it.
  • Ship operations with respect to wildlife sighting very good, never seems rushed, sightings were usually announced on the PA system, and the captain often stopped and turned the ship around at times when we were underway so we could have more time and better looks at bears on the shoreline, bald eagles in trees, whales and dolphins/porpoises in the water, etc.
  • For this north-south trip, needed warm and wet weather clothing for the first few days after leaving Juneau, somewhat rainy/cool/windy especially when taking the skiffs to nearby glacier areas and/or hiking near them. Definitely needed waterproof rain parka/pants, fleece clothes, and rubbers boots for some hikes, good idea at times for skiff tours and kayaking also. Area weather got unusually mild for the latter 2 to 3 days, often sunny and warm, but this can't be typically expected.

2. Cabin

  • We had one of the 200-level deck cabins that are the lowest price. This level is same level as the ship kitchen, guest lounge, and dining areas. The 300-level cabins are higher on the ship main deck, 400-level is highest at bridge level. The location of the 200-level cabins is such that they are just above the engine area, so when the ship engines are running to move the ship, a noticeable steady noise is present, but not much vibration. Didn't bother us, but others may need earplugs for sleeping. Very calm waters and good weather during most of this trip meant that any ship motions were minimal or not noticeable all.
  • Our cabin has a queen-size bed (2 singles pushed together), nightstand, closet, and sink outside of the shower/toilet room. Probably should have requested double-size bed instead if available. Everything is small/cramped so sometimes it was difficult to have 2 people dressing or cleaning up in the room. Fortunately, didn't spend much cabin time except to sleep or use the head, better to do some of the planned activities, hang out in the lounge with others, or spend time on the deck looking at scenery or looking for wildlife. Shower curtain must be used to protect the toilet section from getting too wet during showers. We kept that room fan/light on at all times to help dry out that room and the used towels after a shower. Towels can be changed daily if requested, but guests are asked to re-use as practical to reduce waste. Storage is limited in small closet (some space taken up by life-vests), there some space under the bed for not-too-big suitcases or duffel bags. We wound up using part of the bed next to the wall for some of our duffel bags along with under the bed. Only a few wall hooks, no shelves in the cabin although there are some hooks outside each cabin for outer clothes (e.g.
  • wet stuff). Cabin temp. was almost always too warm, some controls for a fan, heat (we never needed), no air conditioning on this trip, cabin window can be opened to provide some cooling at times.

3. Activities

  • Ship provides rubber overboots (can select size pair to use for entire trip), hiking poles and binoculars to all to use as needed, but we brought our own for these items. Some may find their own equipment more comfortable and available to use.
  • Ship has 4 motorized skiffs that can carry a little more than a dozen passengers for off-ship tours and transport to land activities. Two are rubber pontoon-type (larger and more comfortable seating) and two are Zodiac-type rubber rafts. If you have a preference, should ask which are used for any particular excursion during sign-ups. The boat handlers are part of the ship operations crews, all talkative and fun people.
  • Estimate more than a dozen kayaks, mostly 2-person, a few 1-person. These are used for longer guided excursions of few miles, and "open-kayak" when you are on your own, staying within a defined area around the anchored ship.
  • There is also a number of stand-up paddleboards that look like large surfboards, for use around the anchored ship.
  • Most days there are planned skiff tours, hikes (usually 2 levels), guided kayaking. On this trip/ship, sign-ups for each day's activities is by cabin number, with the cabin sign-up order (by deck and odd/even numbers) determined by their system that rotates the cabin numbers to insure that all have the opportunity sometime during the trip to be first in line. Open kayaking and paddleboards usually do not require any pre-sign-up.
  • A few one-time activities on a particular day were the opportunity to do some snorkeling, and overnight camp (lunch/dinner by guides, free beer included), both at extra cost for equipment rental.
  • A one-time supervised "polar bear" plunge is offered on the last full day prior to ending in Ketchikan, for those willing do a brief chilly jump in the water.

4. Conclusions & Comments

  • Overall, a very pleasant experience and week for us, highly recommended for active people who like the outdoors, a more intimate/casual atmosphere on a smaller ship with fewer people, definitely not recommended for young children. Kudos to Captain Dano Quinn and the entire ship staff for their fine work on this trip.
  • One thing to note is that, although the trip package includes transportation from the airport if arriving on departure day, they will not do an airport pickup if you get in on an earlier day and want to return to the airport to meet them for transport to your hotel, you need to get to the group gathering hotel on your own. Seemed kind of chintzy to us, but fortunately our hotel free airport shuttle was also available to take us to the group gathering hotel instead of the airport, saving us taxi fare.
  • At the end of the cruise, all group luggage is taken to their next voyage group's gathering hotel hospitality suite, to await several airport bus runs scheduled at an appropriate time for your flights out. On our particular end-of-cruise day, there was some miscommunication between the ship, group coordinator at the gathering hotel, and the bus company for the bus transport times (coordinator thought it several hours earlier than we were told on the ship) that could have caused some people to miss their flights. Some people did not accompany their luggage to the hotel, but opted to spend time touristing right after getting off the ship. Those of us that did go immediately to the hotel (it was raining so we decided to delay the touristing) found out about the bus schedule change right away, and alerted the coordinator that people who were not there may not show up in time for their bus. The problem was finally resolved after some forceful insistence by some other departing guests present at the hotel, with the bus re-scheduled back to the original ship announced later time, but it could have resulted in a very unpleasant situation for some people and InnerSea if the latter had messed up their last trip package task at the end of a successful and pleasant cruise.

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