Travel Professional NEWS® speaks with Tim Jacox, President and COO, UnCruise Adventures.
First and foremost, thank you for taking the time to speak with us, we know that 2017 is showing promise as a GREAT year in the Travel Industry, can you give us some exciting things that are new with your line?
UnCruise Adventures launched departures in Costa Rica and Panama this year on the refitted Safari Voyager. We have two new itineraries, one explores both Costa Rica and Panama and beginning in April, a Pure Panama itinerary spends a full week exploring jungles, beaches and waters of Panama. We also updated our wine cruise itinerary on seven departures on the Columbia and Snake Rivers out of Portland, Oregon. We’ve added a full day of winery tours in the Willamette Valley and a visit to the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center. We’ve also added new wellness theme cruises in Alaska, Costa Rica and Mexico’s Sea of Cortés.
What unique value proposition does your line bring to the consumer? For example, destination, culinary, onboard experience, etc.
One of the most unique aspects of UnCruise Adventures is our fluid itineraries. Because we have few to no port calls, we have the freedom to do and see what we want. We don’t have to be in port by 9:00 am. This is especially beneficial when it comes to wildlife viewing. Wildlife doesn’t appear on demand, so we adjust our schedule to fit theirs. If we know there are whales nearby, we can change course to find them and watch as long as guests are interested. We are guided by whim, weather and wildlife. In Alaska and all of our other destinations, because our ships are small (less than 100 guests), we’re able to go places and see things that most other ships can’t access.
We are an adventure cruise line which means we are focused outward on the environment. We offer many activities each day to get people outside enjoying the scenery and seeing new things. It’s an immersive experience in the destination. We spend our days kayaking in scenic fjords, snorkeling among reefs, watching whales from skiffs, bushwhacking through the forest, paddle boarding in quiet coves or beachcombing and discovering tide pool life.
We serve innovative, fresh meals with meat, seafood and vegetarian choices available. Whenever possible we purchase local ingredients and chefs work to incorporate flavors and specialties from the region. We are the first cruise line to partner with Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program and have committed to serve only sustainable seafood on board.
What do you expect to be your most popular itineraries in the next year?
I expect all of our Alaskan itineraries to continue to be popular, especially the itineraries that visit Glacier Bay National Park, a well-known destination for many guests. Costa Rica and Panama are new for us, but as we increase recognition of our adventures in Central America, I expect these to be popular. Traveling along the coast of Costa Rica by ship is a very comfortable and convenient way to see the parks, jungle and beaches. Snorkeling, water sports activities, jungle hikes, spotting birds and wildlife, and beach time round out the tropical vacation–appealing to many people. Panama adds in a cultural component with visits to the Embera village in the Darién jungle and the Kuna people in the Guna Yala. Both itineraries include a full transit of the Panamá Canal.
There is no doubt that one of the major benefits of Small Ship Cruising is being able to go to unique destinations and go where some other lines just cannot get to! What new and exciting destinations and or areas have you been exploring?
We begin a Pure Panamá itinerary in April 2017. This is quite different. There aren’t many operators who spend a full week here. This will be an adventurous mix of exploring tropical islands and jungles with a rich cultural experience meeting two native groups—the Kuna and the Embera. Take a motorized canoe into the Darién Jungle to an Embera village. Snorkel and kayak among the picturesque islands of Guna Yala and Las Perlas, and hike in the Punta Patino Nature Reserve. This itinerary captures the essence of UnCruise—off the beaten path, scenic and remote, and opportunities for fun outdoor adventures.
Are you seeing any new emerging markets for your line?
Central America is an emerging market for us with new itineraries in Costa Rica and Panama. We also have our eye on operating in Arctic Alaska in the future, and possibly the Amazon.
Are you seeing an increase in family vacation bookings?
Yes, we have seen an increase in family and multigenerational vacation bookings. Our most popular itineraries for families are our summer cruises in Alaska and in Costa Rica/Panama. It’s difficult to plan a vacation that family members of all ages will enjoy. An UnCruise trip includes all food, drinks and excursions so it takes the hassle out of planning a big trip. With a range of activities available, it appeals to people ages nine to 90.
Do you offer enrichment themed cruises on cultural or other topics? Can you explain what makes these options unique for potential clients?
Most of our cruises include a cultural aspect and we also plan several theme cruise topics including wine, photography, ornithology, craft beer, marine biology, music and wellness. All theme cruises feature a guest expert on board for the week.
What three things would you like to share with our Travel Professionals to assist in selling your line?
We have several tools to help Travel Professionals sell our line. Our Adventurist program includes live training webinars and an exam to become a certified UnCruise Adventurist. Adventurist club members receive benefits such as bonus commissions, reduced FAM rates and entry into a drawing for a free cruise each year. A travel agent portal on uncruise.com provides agents with images and videos, marketing flyers, special offers and webinars. Adventurists are listed on the website for anyone seeking a qualified travel agent. Special agent FAM rates encourage travel agents to sail with us and gain firsthand knowledge of the UnCruise experience.
Small Ship Cruising has come a long way over the years. What do you see as the next advancement in this growing marketplace?
Small ship cruising has come a long way, and as it advances, we see more up close and personalized experiences as a growing trend. Travelers no longer want to simply look at the scenery from the deck or cabin; they want to go out and touch, feel and experience it for themselves. Instead of gazing out at the glacier from afar, we get into kayaks or small skiffs for an up close look at ice bergs, seals hauled out, feel the cold air off the glacier, hear the cracking and see the birds swirling around the face of it. We may even pick up a bergy bit and taste the ice.
Do you have any additional information you would like to say before we end our conversation?
Here’s how we define our Un-ness: To break away from the masses. Challenge. Freely used to release, exemplify, or intensify a force or quality. To engage, connect, and explore unique places, oneself, and with others on a most uncommon adventure.
We invite you to come aboard and define yours.