The family travel and tourism industry thrives when businesses collaborate and create partnerships to not only expand their products or offerings, but the overall experience of young visitors to a particular destination. It takes work, though, to nurture these partnerships and effort to implement a vision, and not every business is willing to go so far.
In the highly-competitive realm of cruising, this becomes even more true as companies entice families with promises of free shows, activities, and food for, it seems, always lower passage prices. For some, this is a perfect solution for a family vacation; everyone has something to do, something to eat, and someplace to go. These are the big boats, the 2,000+ passenger floating cities that, it seems, never stop the party. The system has a system, and it never varies, which works well with a solid itinerary and passengers who embrace such structure.
But UnCruise doesn’t follow that formula.
In 2012, this Seattle-based company and I began discussions about ways to more actively engage kids during UnCruise Kids in Nature trips, particularly when there were larger numbers of young people. “Large,” of course, means 10 or 12 or even 20 kids on board a 70-passenger vessel, but that’s the UnCruise way. Small boats equal personal service that extends to children, and after sailing through Alaska’s Inside Passage with my own family, I saw an opportunity.
By the time summer 2013 rolled around, UnCruise and AKontheGO had agreed upon a flexible, need-based concept that centered around youngsters aboard Kids in Nature Trips sailing Alaska itineraries. I’ve written about those trips as a sort of “floating summer camp,” playing games, creating projects, and going a bit more in-depth about the incredible shorelines, creatures, and journey we travel. An enthusiastic success right away, the Kids in Nature “Kid Wrangler” position was formally created in 2014, and takes me up and down Southeast Alaska three or four times a summer with my cadres of amazing, curious, and engaged posse of kids.
But about Hawai’i.
UnCruise currently sails itineraries from Washington, Alaska, Mexico, and Hawai’i, offering a Kids in Nature program (discounted sailing on select trips for kids 6-12, and more activities geared toward this age group) on Alaska, Mexico, and Hawai’i trips. In Alaska, one of the most popular trips, I am called when lots and lots of families bring kids on board, and thus spend a week of outdoor bliss playing in mud, paddling coves, and watching for whales.
Hawai’i is not typically an itininerary with lots of kids, since most families find resorts on land to be more amenable for the typical Island vacation. But last week the tides turned in my favor, and AKontheGO jumped in to become a temporary “HIontheGO” for 13 tweens/teens, sailing between Hawai’i Island and Molaka’i on a seven-day trip.
We snorkeled. We kayaked. We crafted and played games. We hiked, surfed, and hung out in the Safari Explorer lounge; dubbed “Kid-Wranger Clubhouse” by some of the parents. Together, these smart and funny young people and I learned a ton about Hawaiian culture, traditions, and each other. In true UnCruise tradition, the unscheduled nature of our plans made for a delightfully unforgettable week.
And, as is true with every UnCruise adventure, the commitment to sharing culture and knowledge with kids shines through, and that is reason enough for me to continue this effort. Well done, team.
Here are a few more photos from our week together. An investment? Yes, it is, but a worthwhile one, I believe. These kids are never going to look at Hawai’i the same way.