Meet Captain Dan of Un-Cruise Adventures
You don’t have to chat with Captain Dan Blanchard of Un-Cruise Adventures for long to sense the spirit of the man and the company he’s created. His impressive fleet can accommodate as few as 22 guests or as many as 88 on a variety of exciting vessels, sailing in fascinating destinations. Right now, he’s gearing up to introduce new 2016 adventures in both the Galápagos Islands -aboard the 48-guest La Pinta including side-trips to Machu Picchu - and in Costa Rica and Panama, aboard the 64-guest Safari Voyager.
If you’re an adventure loving traveller, Captain Dan is your kind of guy!
Photo courtesy of Un-Cruise Adventures
Q. Why Un-Cruise Adventures? What’s the story behind the name?
A. For starters, it is a name people don’t forget! We began in 1996 as American Safari Cruises, yacht cruising in Alaska. Today, we’re all about adventure and river cruising with boutique yachts, expedition vessels and even one replica coastal steamer. The company has expanded beyond Alaska with itineraries along the West Coast of the Americas and adventure cruises in Alaska, Mexico’s Sea of Cortés, the Hawaiian Islands, coastal Washington, British Columbia, the Galápagos Islands, Costa Rica and Panama. We even offer river cruising on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. What we do is the antithesis of big ship cruising; we offer off-the-beaten path explorations and we can be truly active from our ships—snorkeling, kayaking and hiking. That’s why we’re Un-Cruise Adventures!
Q. What is it that sets Un-Cruise Adventures apart from the competition?
A. The first thing is our people. On other ships, the crew is there to serve and not be seen, but for us, our people are a huge part of the experience. You might sit down to breakfast one morning with a steward who’s travelled the world and is ready to share her experiences with you! We’re a group of like-minded people, exploring together.
The other big difference is our focus on adventure. We’re less about what we see in the ports and more about what’s between them – where we have our adventures. Many of our ships are equipped with launch platforms at the stern to make it easy to snorkel and to use kayaks and paddle boards.
Q. How has being part of Un-Cruise Adventures changed you as a traveller and as a leader?
A. My life took a big turn following a family trip. I’d been in a pretty senior position at Cruise West but took a leave to spend three years sailing the Pacific with my family. When I came back, I found I really didn’t like what I was doing. I had to make a change.
We started with just five people who were all very passionate about the adventure travel business and now we have 60, but we all share that same passion. I’ve had to change my leadership style to make sure we communicate and share our ideas but it’s working! Un-Cruise Adventures is really a reflection of who I am.
Q. Which of the Un-Cruise Adventures destinations are your favourites and why?
A. I’m an Alaska boy, through and through – and the Tongass National Forest, the world’s largest temperate rain forest, is a very special place for me. It’s just so refreshing to be in Alaska.
Q. What is the most telling comment you've ever had from an Un-Cruise Adventures guest?
A. It’s great when someone’s perspective on life and the natural world changes …and that happens on our trips. I’ve changed in the same way. I grew up in a family where we enjoyed the outdoors but never thought of it as something we should respect and preserve. When I started this business and convinced my dad to work with us, I saw his attitude change to the point where he went skin-diving in Alaska! He’d undergone a huge change and that was a very important moment for me.
Q. What kind of guest gets the most from an Un-Cruise Adventures trip and what advice would you offer?
A. The guest who keeps his or her expectations in check will get the most from an Un-Cruise adventure. For example, we see whales all the time on our trips in Alaska but if I say that, seeing them becomes expected and the adventure loses its value. The guests who are happiest are those willing to adapt and be flexible – they see the most and have the best time.
Q. Why is everyone who works at Un-Cruise Adventures so passionate about what they do?
A. We are true believers. We love what we do and we work hard. We have wild arguments about the directions we should take – arguments that end in really genuine hugs because we all understand how much we care. Our passion comes from believing in what we do, caring about the environment and each other. We do crazy things like paying our people $10/day if they walk, bike or bus to work and we’ve even weighed ourselves in water so we could compete to reduce body mass in an office fitness challenge! Working together is fun – we certainly don’t do it for the money. We could all make a lot more doing something other than travel! We’re a working family and we love it.
Written by Liz Fleming and originally published in Cruise & Travel Lifestyles Spring/Summer 2015 issue.