UnCruise Adventures Restarts in Alaska
by Anne Kalosh.
It’s looking like UnCruise Adventures may be the only small-boat operator sailing in Alaska this summer. Certainly no big cruise ships are there.
The Seattle-based company resumed cruising Aug. 1 from Juneau with its small Wilderness Adventurer. UnCruise CEO Capt. Dan Blanchard was on hand to welcome the 37 passengers and 30 crew.
The five weeklong “Glacier Bay Adventure” sailings scheduled focus on wilderness and nature activities like hiking, kayaking, birding and whale-watching. Passengers may even get to take a dip in Glacier Bay directly from the ship.
Apart from Juneau, there are no port calls.
Why UnCruise Can Do It
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s no-sail order applies only to overnight cruise ships carrying 250 or more souls (passengers and crew). And, as a U.S.-flag operator, UnCruise does not need to stop at a foreign port on its Alaska itineraries to satisfy U.S. cabotage regulations. So it doesn’t matter that Canada isn’t allowing cruise ships for now.
The company also credits its restart of operations to pivoting quickly as a small business, along with establishing crucial conversations with government officials and leading the Small Boat Operators Coalition, an advocacy group.
Negative COVID-19 Test Required
Alaska allows nonresidents to enter without quarantining provided they present a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken no more than 72 hours prior to travel.
UnCruise requires proof of a negative COVID-19 test, and passengers need to complete a health screening questionnaire.
While Wilderness Adventurer is small — it carries up to 60 passengers — the company self-imposed a 66 percent occupancy cap for this summer.
On board, everyone (including crew) gets daily temperature checks. Four times daily sanitation rounds give attention to touchpoints such as railings, handholds and doorknobs. Adventure gear is sanitized after each use. Plated meal service replaces buffets.
Crew have received training in COVID-19 symptom observation, identification and reporting, and UnCruise Is supplying them with personal protective equipment including face shields, gloves and masks.
For passengers, masks may be required at certain events and in some situations and are mandated when direct contact with people is planned, such as during transfers on/off the ship.
Crew are instructed to maintain social distancing at all times.
“Adventurers, not tourists”
CEO Blanchard is adamant about distinguishing his company from the negatives of big ships and mass tourism.
“Travelers want to have a positive impact upon communities and the environment now more than ever,” he said. “We left the term ‘tourists’ behind long ago. Tourism isn’t about a one-way channel. A balance is needed and that is what ‘untourism’ is.
“Our guests are adventurers, not tourists.”
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