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Wilderness Discoverer
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Chris Gray Faust
Cruise Critic Managing Editor

Wilderness Discoverer Overview

When Cruise West went bankrupt in 2010, small ship cruise lovers who wanted to explore Alaska's nooks and crannies were left with few options. Luckily, Un-Cruise Adventures has stepped into the void with two Inside Passage itineraries on three expedition vessels aimed at active travelers that bring guests much closer to nature than the deck of a megaship.

About Un-cruise Wilderness Discoverer


Pro

Visit off-the-beaten path ports; emphasis on kayaking and hiking

Con

No onboard entertainment, both during the day between excursions and in the evening

Bottom Line

Choose for the itinerary, wildlife viewing and active excursions, not the onboard experience

The line's Wilderness Discoverer, bought from the now-defunct Glacier Bay Cruise Line and completely overhauled, isn't glamorous. In most cabins, showers share space with toilets, and a plastic shower curtain keeps the toilet and your towels dry while you bathe. But thoughtful touches, such as memory foam mattresses, bedside stands with pull-out laptop spaces and outside hooks for bulky gear, abound. Best of all, each cabin has an outside window that opens, so you can breathe in the fresh Alaska air, day and night.

The ship does have its comforts. The two hot tubs were packed many nights on our August cruise, and the onboard masseuse will rub out your kinks (for an extra fee). A full bar offers drink specials, as well as a thorough wine list, but you'll see more action at Happy Hour than after dinner. Most passengers spend their evenings reading, playing cards and other games, or watching borrowed movies in their cabins. It's not a ship where you'll see people downing shots at the bar, although the bartender will make you a Duck Fart if you ask.

The minimal onboard amenities don't seem to bother Wilderness Discoverer's passengers because the focus of these cruises is Alaska's nature and wildlife. We woke up in isolated bays surrounded by mountains and trees, instead of noisy ports. Rather than battling the crowds in Glacier Bay, we had Sawyer Glacier in Tracy Arm all to ourselves. And when the ship came upon a pod of humpback whales in Frederick Sound, it lingered for several hours so everyone could observe the majestic creatures. In order to make the most of Alaska's unpredictable wildlife, a certain go-with-the-flow attitude is required, and the schedule we received when we boarded was merely a guideline.

And that's just fine with this ship's crowd, which places outdoor exploration high on its agenda. REI is the dominant label, and fisherman-style rubber boots will get more wear than heels. On one recent cruise, multigenerational families dominated the passenger list, with ages 5 to 85 represented. With a maximum of 76 people on board, you'll know everyone's name before the week is over. (Mingling is encouraged with name tags.)

No matter what your age, you'll get plenty of activity on Wilderness Discoverer. Your days will be filled with guided paddles and hikes that are well off the beaten cruise path, with opportunities to try stand-up paddle-boarding, glacier-trekking and even snorkeling. (Don't worry, you wear a wetsuit.) Hikes are ranked by difficulty, and the crew is honest with its fitness appraisals. More traditional Inside Passage cruise excursions, such as saltwater-fishing, flight-seeing and jet boat trips, are available for an extra fee. Morning comes early in the Alaska summer, and you'll likely fall exhausted into bed while it's still dusk.

And the Wilderness Discoverer crew -- many veterans of Cruise West -- keep it all lively with outstanding service and a "can do" approach to the outdoors. Expedition leaders do their best to make Alaska accessible to even the biggest couch potatoes; every day, people were seen trying activities that they originally claimed were out of their comfort zones. You'll leave feeling like you stretched your limits to meet Alaska's challenges, and that's an excellent way to experience such a vast wilderness.

Fellow Passengers

As you might expect from the emphasis on activity, Wilderness Discoverer passengers tend to be more athletic and outdoor-minded than typical cruisers (although not necessarily younger). The line has struck it big with families, and multigenerational groups of a dozen or more have been common.


Un-cruise Wilderness Discoverer Dress Code

Do shoes count as a dress code? Even then, you'll see plenty of passengers padding around in warm socks. Wilderness Discoverer is strictly casual, and people are more likely to comment on your gear than your outfit.

Speaking of gear, believe the recommended list that Un-Cruise Adventures sends out before the trip. You will need tall waterproof boots, for example, as well as rain pants, a raincoat and other things to keep you warm. Sunny days are the exception, rather than the rule, in this corner of Alaska. If you aren't dressed to get wet, you'll be a very unhappy camper.


Un-cruise Wilderness Discoverer Gratuity

Tips can be added to your bill at the end of the cruise, and they are split evenly between the crew. The captain recommended between 5 and 10 percent of your total cabin cost.


Un-cruise Wilderness Discoverer Ship Stats

  • Crew: 26
  • Launched: 1992
  • Decks: 4
  • Passengers: 76
  • Registry: Juneau, AK
Wilderness Discoverer Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 4.0 0.0
Entertainment 3.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 3.0 0.0
Family 4.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 3.0 0.0
Service 5.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0
Rates 4.0 0.0

Un-cruise Wilderness Discoverer Member Reviews

Wilderness Discoverer
Youarejerks
Sail Date: May 2017
We choose this cruise based on ship size but would choose Un Cruise again due to covering all aspects of life on board in excellent manner. The cabin beds were comfortable, allowing for sleep even chronic hip...Read More
Wilderness Discoverer
Memphremagog
Sail Date: Jul 2017
We were looking to celebrate my mother's 70th birthday with a trip to Alaska. I have done a medium size cruise in the past and a few of the gigantic boats. Each has there pluses and minuses. I have an eleven year...Read More
Wilderness Discoverer
Tomroof
Sail Date: Oct 2016
Un-Cruise choosen to stay in USA and do a river type cruise. Beautiful scenery trip could be done by taking your own car and use ferry system, where you could be more independent.Good variety of meals were served...Read More
Wilderness Discoverer
shtexas
Sail Date: Apr 2016
We had never been to the Seattle area and wanted to see as much of the area as possible. The Un-Cruise from Seattle was an excellent way to see this area. Each day we would be at anchor near a different island. In...Read More

UnCruise Adventures Fleet