Mark and I have wanted to go to Alaska for many years. After doing some research we decided we did not want to drive our RV there.
We heard about UnCruise last summer from friends Virginia and Kirk (we volunteered with them at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge).
The large cruise ships have never interested Mark but UnCruise sounded more doable. Before putting our deposit down last summer, we contacted the volunteer coordinator here at Dungeness (Dave) to make sure it would be okay for us to take a couple of weeks off. It was fine with him. He has continuously encouraged us to see and do as many things as possible while we are here.
Although UnCruise has been in business for 21 years, we had never heard of them. Their brochure states: “Small ships, Big Experiences, headed to where the big ships can’t go.”
After looking at all the different UnCruise Alaska trips and boats offered, we decided on a 12 night excursion on the Wilderness Discoverer.
We left Dungeness at 8 a.m. Monday, May 15, 2017. After crossing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge we drove to an off-site airport parking lot.
The Tacoma Narrows Bridge is a pair of suspension bridges that span the Tacoma Narrows strait of Puget Sound. The bridges connect the city of Tacoma with the Kitsap Peninsula. The original bridge at this location was the infamous "Galloping Gertie" that collapsed because of wind-induced flutter just four months after opening. There is an amazing film of the collapse that can be viewed on YouTube.
Since we were driving to Seattle (not flying), it took a little planning to leave our truck some place and catch our UnCruise shuttle. We parked at an off-site airport parking lot, were shuttled to the airport, picked up by an UnCruise driver at the airport and driven to the Crowne Royal Hotel for check in. Whew!
We had a couple of hours to explore Seattle before boarding. We walked a few blocks to the famous Pike Place Market.
The market opened August 17, 1907.
Around 5:30 the UnCruise shuttle arrived to take us to the boat. We had a short, rainy walk to board.
Once on board we found our room where our luggage had already been delivered. We were in Cabin 403. Ours was one of only 4 large cabins on the top deck and well worth the extra cost.
Our room is 403 on the Sundeck.
The Wilderness Discoverer has 38 cabins, 76 guests, and 26 crew. It is 176 feet in length and 39 feet wide. Built in 1992, it was renovated in 2011 with a cruising speed of 10 knots.
After checking out our room and grabbing our PFD (Personal Flotation Device), we headed to the lounge for a safety/abandon ship drill.
One size fits all?
We met the Captain (Keith) and were encouraged to visit the bridge any time, day or night. So after stowing our PFD’s back in our room, we headed up to the bridge as the boat left the dock.
Our first hurdle was to maneuver through the Chittenden Locks where we were lowered twenty feet into the Salish Sea.
We shared the lock with another boat.
The locks serve three purposes:
1: To maintain the water level of the fresh water Lakes Washington and Lake Union at 20 to 22 feet above sea level.
2: To prevent the mixing of sea water from Puget Sound with the fresh water of the lakes.
3: To move boats from the water level of the lakes to the water level of Puget Sound, and vice versa.
There are 2 locks. We went through the large (80 x 825, 24.4 x 251.5 meter) lock. They are operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and were opened on July 4, 1917.
As we left the lights of Seattle behind, we traveled North, to Alaska.
Next time: Our journey continues.