Saving The Best For Last
Jordan Herschel, Guest Blogger, Safari Endeavour
I watched in stunned silence from my window seat as Mendenhall Glacier basked in the golden light of the evening sun. It was a trip I’d dreamed of repeatedly over the years, but it wasn’t until this moment that reality sunk in — I was here; Alaska, my 50th state. Once the wheels touched down in Juneau and the fresh Southeast Alaskan air filled my lungs, I was full of hope that I had saved the best for last.
With it being my first time in Alaska, I was unsure of what to expect. In my research I’d crossed countless articles, blogs, and posts about the variable weather commonly experienced throughout Alaska’s Inside Passage, including over ten types of rain (who knew upside-down rain was a thing), and what one should pack in preparation. Of these items my favorite were rubber boots, dubbed “Alaskan sneakers” by locals, which UnCruise dutifully provided along with most everything else needed to handle the elements.
And luckily for us, the heavy rains never came. Instead, beyond the occasional squall, we were treated to a delightful mix of calm fog, sunny skies, and spectacular sunsets during our week at sea.
The calm waters made for smooth sailing and the Safari Endeavor’s quaint berth made tight passages a breeze. We were able to go where others could not, which only added to the mystique and isolation of each location. If we weren’t in a large port, the only things on the water around us would be local fishermen or other small, unobtrusive explorers. And the whales. Lots of whales.
This mystique carried over into every daily excursion I experienced. I spent hours in a sea kayak running along the rugged shoreline in search of wildlife. Bald eagles were plentiful, sea otters were curious and black and brown bears made the occasional appearance as well. The daily hikes and bushwhacks were also a delight, each one led by an experienced, knowledgeable, and friendly guide full of opportune jokes and answers to nearly any ecological question I could toss their way.
Of all the excursions, rides on the inflatable zodiac boats were my absolute favorite.
Gliding over the water powered by an outboard motor, the zodiac transported us from outing to outing throughout the nooks and crannies of the Inner Passage. Routes the modestly-sized Safari Endeavor was still too large to navigate, the zodiacs conquered with ease.
I was especially awed as we weaved around icebergs the size of large homes to approach the imposing 200 foot walls of the Sawyer Glacier. Hearing the sound of the ice creak and moan under its own weight rightly inspired a feeling of smallness and provided reminder that the world around us is truly alive.
The only thing more plentiful than the daily excursions, magnificent views, and wildlife was the food.
Professionally prepared and plated, the cuisine was wide-ranging and fantastic; the menu was refreshed daily with fare purchased locally, and the knowledge that UnCruise utilizes environmentally friendly practices at every opportunity added an extra element to the delicious dishes.
They’ve gone as far as to be the first cruise company to partner with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, which leads the charge in helping businesses source seafood from sustainable suppliers.
Disembarking in Sitka was bittersweet to say the least, and I’m still kicking myself for not finding a way to sneak back onboard. The week I spent on the Safari Endeavor was long enough to make it feel like a second home, and the endlessly accommodating staff and 50 passengers to feel like a second family.
I discovered Alaska to be the raw and natural beauty that I’d always imagined it to be... and then some. I’ll definitely be back again, sooner than later, and I now know for a fact that I indeed saved the best for last.