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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Un-cruise Adventures has unusual appeal

Posted: 12/7/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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S.S. Legacy, Un-Cruise Adventure's coastal steamer replica, in the Columbia River.

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S.S. Legacy, Un-Cruise Adventure's coastal steamer replica, in the Columbia River.

For cruise lovers not content floating from island to island or from country to country, Un-Cruise Adventures CEO and captain Dan Blanchard and executive vice-president Tim Jaycox have something completely different to offer.

The two partners have a history in small-line cruising, and the word "captain" in Dan Blanchard's title is not honorary; he has sailed around the world and captained small boats in Alaska for the Glacier Bay Lodge cruises.

How do you describe this niche company in the context of the cruising world at large? "Un-rushed, un-crowded and un-believable," says Jaycox.

Their fleet of eight boats, and yachts that range in capacity from 20 to 88 passengers, can be found cruising the U.S., in Alaska, the Columbia and Snake rivers and Hawaii.

I asked Blanchard about his newest market, the Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California.

"We are up a whopping 230 per cent over last year and see this destination growing for some time," he replied. "Here we can offer not only adventures but soft ones as well."

He explains the difference? "Think of soft adventure as putting your toe in the water ... snorkelling, kayaking and hiking with some elevation. The adventure part of the cruise is tailored to the passenger's ability. A kayak allows you to paddle among wildlife or to get up close in short order."

Rigidity is a four-letter word.

"While we have a schedule," he explained, "it's flexible. Spot some whales, and the boat hangs around. It's all about the wildlife, the natural surroundings and the local culture. Wild trumps all, and the destination is the focus. And don't pack your tie. No need to dress up. It's casual and comfortable on all our boats."

Fran Golden, chief blogger and contributing editor of Porthole Cruise Magazine, took an Un-Cruise Adventure trip through B.C. to Alaska this past summer. "You spend your time watching wildlife, kayaking, embracing Mother Nature, and hanging out with your fellow passengers and crew -- rather than the typical cruise-ship activities," she says. "It's soft-adventure travel on water, but in comfortable surrounds."

On her luxury cruise, there were only 19 people on board. "We felt like we were on a yacht with a bunch of friends. Beware the pastry chef: Amazing creations from the kitchen may lead to weight gain," she says.

Both Jaycox and Blanchard originally worked for Cruise West, the Seattle-based small-ship operator that closed in 2010. Blanchard left long before that, in 1999 joining American Safari Cruises, the line that pioneered yacht cruising in Alaska.

The two of them bought American Safari in 2008 and created InnerSea Discoveries before settling on the brand name Un-Cruise Adventures, under which there are three distinct brands: the four-yacht American Safari, the luxury adventure brand, the more affordable Wilderness brand with three vessels and the newest brand, Heritage, one vessel that's a replica of a turn-of-the-century coastal steamer that was the norm for gold rush prospectors and pioneers.

New schedules for these lines are now in place for this winter in Hawaii and the Sea of Cortez.

I asked Blanchard what was next.

"We are heading south, probably in 2015, to Central America -- especially Costa Rica. Later in this decade, we will continue south to find adventures in South America.

Un-Cruise Adventures is the perfect name for this un-usual and adventurous line.

Even an invitation for coffee is un-expected. "If you are ever in Juneau, just knock on our door and come on in," says Dan. "We always have a pot of coffee on."

Visit portsandbows.com for daily updates on the latest cruise news, best deals and behind-the-scenes stories from the industry. You can also sign up for an email newsletter on the site for even more cruise information. Phil Reimer may be contacted directly at portsandbows

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 7, 2013 ??65529

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