Willamette Valley – The Majestic Oregon Wine Trail

Willamette Valley – The Majestic Oregon Wine Trail

Penner-Ash Wine Cellars

Vintners Rich with Napa Valley Roots Stake their Acclaim in the Willamette Valley

Sip, Explore and Stay

Up until 1979, which is not so long ago, the Willamette Valley and the presence of vineyards and winemaking in Oregon were somewhat of a fledgling undertaking. The tides turned shortly after Oregon vintner David Lett returned from a blind tasting in France where he was invited to submit a red wine to go up against the haughty, aristocratic French, German and Italian vintages, including the illustrious French Burgundies and similar European varietals.

David Lett

This came only three short years after the California wine industry put their name on the map at a similar competition in France creating the “French Paradox” with an award-winning Chardonnay. Lett stunned the judges in the Gault-Millau French Wine Olympiades in 1979 finishing among the top 10 out of over 330 entrants. It was a mere year later that renowned French Burgundian winemaker, Robert Drouhin, stepped up and instigated a re-match. To even greater acclaim, Lett’s Pinot finished second to Drouhin’s Chambolle-Mussigny, by only two-tenths. Not a surprise that Drouhin, then himself crossed the pond to the open his Oregon Domaine Drouhin in the stunning town of Dayton in the Willamette Valley.

Thus the “Oregon Story” was created which put an impressive stake on the map for the Oregon-made French-Style Pinot Noirs. Lett had left the Napa Valley only 10 years prior, shortly after studying at UC Davis. Despite the advice against it from his viticulture colleagues, Lett left his native California to put his own stake in the terroirs of the Pacific Northwest. His hunches proved him right.

Lett’s success from the competition fueled his notoriety stemming from the accolades he gained as a result of the infamous competition with his Eyrie Vineyards South Block Pinot Noir. A short 15 years down the road from the renowned competition in France; Oregon exploded on the wine scene bringing some of his doubtful colleagues from the UC Davis and other eager winemaking pioneers, many from the Napa Valley, to jump on the bandwagon to lay their roots in the rich Oregon soils.

Domaine Drouhin

The richness of the valley’s soils can be attributed to the Missoula Floods from the Glacial Lake Missoula which impacted the region more than 40 times at the end of the ice age over 13,000 years ago. Floodwaters swept into the region bringing rich volcanic and glacier soil. You will find that a good majority of the wineries in the area are perched on knolls or hillside vineyards where the most optimum soils for grape growing are found.

Soter Vineyards

The Willamette Valley has over two-thirds of Oregon’s Vineyards and is now home to over 700 wineries and vineyards, with many vintners who found their way there from the Napa Valley. The region known initially for their outstanding Pinot Noir production has brought in many notable varietals to great success, such as Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc and in addition, further expanding is the burgeoning sparkling wine production with the méthode champenoise. Some of the lesser produced varietals in the region are Syrah, Cabernet, and Merlot. There are 6 sub-appellations in the Willamette Valley – Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge, and Yamhill-Carlton.

Where to Sip:

Soter Vineyards

Well-known Napa Valley Vintner creator of Etude Wines, Tony Soter, who was a 30 plus year veteran in winemaking in the Napa Valley, left the Valley in 2007. Much to the surprise of his colleagues, he took off for Oregon to go full time at the winery he owned since the mid-1990s with his wife Michelle, Soter Vineyards. He was an applauded consulting winemaker for Napa Valley well-known wineries, such as Stags Leap Wine Cellars, Shafer, Sequoia Grove, Viader, Robert Pepi, Etude, Chappellet, Spottswoode, Dalle Valle, Spring Mountain, Niebaum Coppola, and Stonegate.

Tony Soter

Michelle and Tony working together formed a dynamic team to follow in their own philosophy to consistently produce the highest caliber of wines that treads softly on the earth utilizing his over 4-decades of expertise and dedication to allow the character of the land to resonate in wines.

Soter Vineyards

Their stunning winery is in an architecturally re-crafted 1943 barn where open spaces abound, and views of the surrounding hills resonate with every turn. They also have a state-of-the-art kitchen for wine events on the property. They are located in the Yamhill-Carton AVA on a 240-acre bio-dynamic farm planted to 32 acres of vines including 30 acres of Pinot and 2 acres of Chardonnay which they use for their award-winning Brut Rose. In addition to their Mineral Springs location, they also have a second property which showcases their North Valley Vineyards Label and their Planet Oregon wines where $1 from the proceeds of every bottle sold is donated to the Oregon Environmental Council.

: Tastings by Reservation: Mineral Springs Ranch 10880 NE Mineral Springs Road, Carlton 97111 www.sotervineyards.com503-662-5600

Monks Gate

Monks Gate

The Moore family originally from the Napa Valley also migrated to the Yamhill Carlton AVA several decades ago. Ronald Moore was a cargo pilot and his wife, Linda was a software consultant. They were in search of a retirement venture with the mission of getting back to the land. The Willamette Valley drew them in with Its rolling hills and cool climates and the region’s notoriety for growing outstanding Pinots. Their 50-acre family farm is adjacent to the land owned by Trappist Abbey who helped the Moore’s clear their land for planting in 2000. The creation for the winery name was inspired by the actual gate entering to the Trappist Abbey estate, which was actually built to allow the monks to access the land over the years. Today sits a statue near the gateway of Saint Francis of Assisi commemorating their frequent passages across the lands.

Monks Gate

The vineyard is dry-farmed and also sustainably farmed to ensure that it will be environmentally and economically viable for generations to come. It is a two-generation operation, as their daughter Rebecca Moore also transplanted to the family compound from the Bay area and is the overall hands-on chief for every aspect for the winery from driving the tractor to pouring in the tasting room. Of the 50 acres, twenty are planted to Pinot Noir and Riesling.

: Carlton: Tastings by appointment: Open Thursday to Monday 12-5: www.monksgate.com503-852-6521

Alexana Winery

Dr. Madaiah Revana who is the proprietor of Napa Valley’s Revana Family Vineyards in Saint Helena had a love of the great wines of Burgundy and in 2005 began a search for the ideal location for his winery in Oregon. In addition to seeking out the perfect parcel of land for his winery and vineyards, he was also in search for a premier winemaker of Burgundian-style wines in the Willamette Valley. His quest led him to Lynn Penner-Ash, who had transplanted years before to this Pinot Noir abundant region from the Napa Valley.

Dr. Revana

Both Lynn and Dr. Revana were of the same philosophy with a commitment to producing world-class wines. Lynn’s vivid descriptions of the soils, the micro-climates, and elevations that would create the ultimate growing environment, presented them with a specific focus. They came upon the perfect location in the Dundee Hills, which offered 80-acres of which coincidentally sixteen acres had already been meticulously planted to Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris and the next year the launched Alexana Winery with their first estate 2006 vintages of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Today in addition to their stunning Pinot Noir Collection, they also offer Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay, a Bordeaux Blend, and a Rhone Blend. Keep an eye out for the touring helicopters which frequently bring in guests for a wine tasting experience at Alexana.

: Newberg: Reservations Preferred and a must for parties of 6 or more: www.alexanawinery.com503-537-3100

Penner-Ash Wine Cellars

After getting her kick-start in the wine business at Domaine Chandon and Stags Leap in Napa, Lynn Penner-Ash decided to leave for Oregon in 1988 to work at Rex Hill Winery as one of Oregon’s first female winemakers. Thirty years later as a renowned veteran winemaker, she and her husband Ron Penner-Ash celebrate the success of their mutually collaborated Penner-Ash brand which they founded in 1998.

Lynn and Ron Penner-Ash

In 2005, they designed and built their sustainable, gravity-flow estate winery in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, though their portfolio of wines also includes varietals from 7 major AVA’s of the Willamette Valley. Their winery, tasting room, and perfectly landscaped grounds offer majestic 360-degree views from their hillside perch overlooking the stunning vineyards of surrounding Newberg area.

In addition to their award-winning Pinot Noirs, they also produce Viognier, Roseo, Riesling, and Syrah.

: Newberg: Open 7 Days 11am to 5pm: Reservations Preferred and a must for parties of 6 or more: www.pennerash.com503-554-5545

Gran Moraine

Gran Moraine

Eugenia Keegan, Estate Manager and Winemaker at Gran Moraine, part of the Jackson Family Wines, continued her wine career in the 80’s in Napa Valley after working in Burgundy for several years honing her skills in Burgundian style wines. Upon arriving back in Napa, she took on the post as Bouchaine’s business manager at their Carneros location during their start-up days, and then later being promoted to President and CEO. In the late 90’s she moved over to Vine Cliff Winery in Oakville as president. In 2003, she took the plunge and moved on to the Henry Wine Group in Oregon until 2009. Prior to taking over at Gran Moraine in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Eugenia managed her own wine brand on two different continents, Keegan Cellars in Russian River and Roussillon, France.

Eugenia Keegan

Gran Moraine, founded in 2014, is located in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA on 220 acres planted to the classic Burgundian varietals of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on the hillsides behind the winery. Teaming up with Shane Moore – Winemaker and Ken Kupperman – Vineyard Director, they have certainly created the trifecta for success at Gran Moraine. She is indeed a grand dame of Pinot Noir the Willamette Valley and continues to be committed to sustainable practices and creating elegance and finesse in a glass.

: Yamhill: Open Daily: 11am to 5pm: www.granmoraine.com855-831-6631

Archery Summit

Archery Summit

Gary and Nancy Andrus founders of Napa Valley’s Pine Ridge Winery expanded their wine world and opened Archery Summit in 1993. Now owned by the Crimson Wine Group, Archery Summit now lays claim to an expanding vineyard portfolio which includes 6 vineyards across 120 estate acres in Dayton in the Dundee Hills. They are known for producing some of the most luxurious New World Pinot Noirs.

They celebrate over two decades of crafting their estate-grown pinots and have just introduced their newest estate vineyard, Archer’s Edge. Winemaker, Ian Burch, has worked harvests across Sonoma County, Barossa Valley, New Zealand, and South Africa before settling in the Willamette Valley in 2008. Many of their Pinots have received outstanding marks from both Wine Spectator and Robert Parker.

: Dayton: Open Daily except Holidays: 10am to 4pm: Please call Tasting Room for Appointments or Availability: 503-714-2030: www.archerysummit.com

Domaine Drouhin

Domaine Drouhin

A visit to Domaine Drouhin is also a must to put on your list when visiting the Willamette Valley as its roots take you back to wine country in Burgundy where it all started 130 years ago when Maison Joseph Drouhin introduced their outstanding Pinot Noirs to the world. Run now by fourth-generation Drouhin’s at the helm, Veronique Boss-Drouhin, and Philippe Drouhin. Domaine Drouhin Oregon was built in 1988 for $10,000,000 in the Dundee Hills by then patriarch Robert Drouhin.

Domaine Drouhin

Their Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays continue the family legacy and tradition of fine winemaking in France and now in Oregon with finesse and elegance. As the saying goes, “French Soul, Oregon Soil.”

: Dayton: Open Daily 11am to 4pm: For larger groups, please call Tasting Room for Appointments and Tours: www.domainedrouhin.com: 503-864-2700

(Please note that when visiting many of the Wineries in Willamette Valley, picnicking and outside food may not be permitted)

Where to Stay

The Allison Inn and Spa

Allison Inn and Spa

Celebrating their 10thAnniversary, The Allison Inn and Spa offers guests a casually elegant and luxurious experience in the heart of the Willamette Valley. No attention to detail has been overlooked at this stunning spa resort hosting 77 luxury guest rooms and 8 suites all with gas fireplaces, a terrace or balcony, and spa-like bathrooms with outstanding views of the luscious landscape of the surrounding rolling hills and vineyards. No other place in the Willamette Valley offers this kind of unique guest experience. Whether you are taking off right from the property on a helicopter tour, a luxury private car, a hot air balloon, or even by horseback, the Allison can personalize your visit and choose from more than 200 area wineries. They will also prepare a customized picnic basket to take along with you.

Allison Inn and Spa

Upon your return from tasting some of the best Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in the world, take time to chill a little in their award-winning spa offering an extensive spa menu utilizing the energies, and ecological elements stemmed from the fertile soils of the Willamette Valley.

Dining at the Jory Restaurant at the Allison provides yet another memorable sensory experience. This one is offering a journey that accentuates the native flavors of the region sourcing seasonal and farm to table products in every dish specially prepared to create your culinary memory of the Willamette Valley.

Brunch on the deck at The Allison Inn and Spa

: 2525 Allison Lane, Newberg, OR: www.theallison.com: 877-294-2525

Black Walnut Inn and Vineyards

Black Walnut Inn

If it is a luxury bed and breakfast you are in search of, then look no further than the exquisite Black Walnut Inn and Vineyards in the Dundee Hills. This majestic Inn is nestled on a knoll surrounded by rolling vineyards on their 42 acres. Each of the nine guest rooms all with private baths are uniquely adorned with their individual designer décor, many with balconies or private patios. These inviting rooms offer guests a relaxing retreat where you will enjoy spectacular evening sunsets and vistas on your patio with an afternoon glass of wine from their expansive wine cellar along with a Charcuterie and Cheeseboard.

Black Walnut Inn

You can expect your stay to be absolutely memorable as this dynamic property sets the stage for the perfect romantic getaway. Before rushing out to a full day of visiting the region’s wineries, you will indulge in Black Walnuts Inn’s signature breakfast where each dish is made to order with the freshest of local ingredients. What a perfect way to start your perfect day! Owners Rick and Erika Miller are hands-on hosts who look after your every need.

Guest Suite at the Black Walnut Inn

: 9600 NE Worden Hill Road, Dundee, OR: www.blackwalnutvineyard.com503-538-8663

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring Baja California Sur with Un-Cruise Adventures

Exploring Baja California Sur with Un-Cruise Adventures

Safari Endeavor In Baja California Sur

Our Quintessential Warm Winter Getaway to Mexico’s Magical Sea of Cortes

When it’s snowing and cold during the long winter months, it’s the perfect time to plan a mid-winter escape. It was our mission to find a lesser-known paradise where you can endlessly cruise through inviting turquoise seas from cove to cove from island to island from port to port.

We were in search of authentic native culture, kayaking in glassy coves, and hiking the uninhabited brass colored desert mountains. Seeking out white sandy beaches, snorkeling with sea lions, and experience wildlife from both sea, land, and sky. The whales and a plethora of birdlife will be awaiting our arrival.

It was time to plan our warm-weather excursion down to Baja California Sur. We wanted to do a small ship adventure eco-cruise somewhere south of the border. We were looking for a winter escape to parts of the world lesser known.

Here is the video created by UnCruise on the Sea of Cortes Exploration on the Safari Endeavor!

Off we went in search of a journey that offered unique destinations harboring us in someplace warm and sunny, that is a bit away from the winter snowbird crowds. We were referred to Un-Cruise Adventures by several friends who happened to be repeat passengers and raved about it with huge accolades. We were intrigued and excited about their enthusiasm from their memorable experiences with Un-Cruise. We realized we had found the perfect choice as it offered just what we were in search of – “Small ships and BIG Adventures.”

Un-Cruise Adventures offers many select destinations around the world at different times of the year for their guests to discover a variety of untouched locales with off the beaten path explorations. They provide their adventurous passengers a journey over oceans, seas, bays, and rivers as a way to change the way you see the world.

In the winter months, Un-Cruise offers four different warm-weather destinations.  The Hawaiian Islands, Central America – Costa Rica & Panama, the Galapagos and Mexico’s Sea of Cortes, which was our number one choice taking us to Mexico’s inland sea, also known as the Gulf of California in Baja California Sur.

With every Un-Cruise experience, one can expect to receive unparalleled service and impeccable attention to details.  Each cruise offers relaxed and cozy accommodations, adventure and shore excursions, and an abundance of amazing food and beverages along the way.

Map of the Route of the Safari Endeavor through the Sea of Cortez

Once we made our decision to book in this adventure to Mexico’s Sea of Cortes with Un-Cruise, the rest of the planning was plug-and-play! Their team of travel experts was on top of everything from the moment we arrived at Los Cabos International Airport to the day we flew back home.

When we left the chilly snow-capped mountains and arrived in warm Baja California Sur, we peeled off our winter layers of clothes into sunny warm weather attire. Our first “Ah-Ha” moment. Upon arriving, we were graciously escorted to one of their partner hotels in San Jose del Cabo, the Barcelo Grand Faro Los Cabos.

That evening we dined on local seafood, fresh salsa, and guacamole and toasted to margaritas overlooking the sunset from the hotel’s outdoor restaurant. We also had the opportunity to meet many of our future shipmates who were just as thrilled as we were to embark on our upcoming small ship adventure cruise.

Welcome Introduction to our weeklong adventure by Ellie

The next day our 8-Day/7-Night sojourn with the Un-Cruise Sea of Cortes Exploration began. In the afternoon, we boarded a bus to the docks in La Paz, where we boarded the 42-Cabin, 232-foot Safari Endeavor with our binoculars, cameras, and journals in tow. Upon stepping aboard, the week’s guests were shown to our cabins and given a tour around the different decks, the lounge salon, and the dining room. Early that evening over cocktails, and after introductions and an informative orientation by their experienced crew, our expedition set sail with the glowing sunset on our tail.

The Admiral Cabin – One of Five Different Types of Staterooms

View off of the Deck the First Evening

Just before dinner, we embarked from the port, as we gently cruised out of the harbor onto the sparkling moonlit Sea of Cortes for our week-long Island-hopping Un-Cruise Adventure. The numerous bays and islands along Mexico’s Eastern shores was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 and also a Biosphere Reserve. We will be following the great John Steinbeck’s path into the protected waters of Cousteau’s “world aquarium.” At this moment, we knew for sure we were in store for a memorable experience and an adventure for the books!

Searching for Marine Life

Let the adventures begin!

View off the top deck of the Safari Endeavor

Daily Activities

  • Every day you can watch the sunrise as you begin your adventure-packed day with wellness and Yoga on the 400 Sundeck at 6:45 where all levels of flexibility and experience are welcome.
  • The sumptuous breakfasts are always the perfect way to start your day at 7:30 am in the ship’s spacious dining room.
  • 9:45 am after the daily activity orientations; you can sign up for your “Fun Day” of choice from the ship, whether it be a snorkel, a ride on the skiff’s, a hike, a guided paddle on the kayaks. There are two days with off-ship excursions, whether you are visiting the historic town of Loreto or off to Magdalena Bay in search of Gray Whales.
  • Lunch on the ship is in Endeavor’s Dining room at 12:30, unless ashore on an adventure excursion.
  • Happy Hour is Daily in the Salon at 5:30, where the guests mingle and share stories about their day’s adventures at sea or on land.

    Happy Hour

  • Dinner is at 6:30 every evening in the ship’s dining room. Each evening presents delicious, specially crafted dishes created with locally sourced produce, seafood, and meats by the onboard chef. There are selections to delight in for every palate, and they can also cater to your dietary needs and food restrictions too.

    Safari Endeavor Dining Room

    One of our Evening Meals Aboard the Safari Endeavor

Our Daily Itinerary for the Week at Sea

Snorkeling Adventure UnCruise Baja California Sur

Happy Snorkeler

Sunday – Day 2 Adventures

  • Daily Activity Presentations – Route Talk with Mark
  • Cruising and Los Islotes
  • “Cruising for Critters,” as they call it on board, through the rolling seas such as blue whales and pods of dolphins

    Sea Lions Galore

  • Skiff Tours to the Surrounding Islands

    Skiff Tours of the Islas

  • Snorkeling with the California Sea Lions, with a focus on interactions with juveniles, graceful, agile, playful, or known as “puppies of the sea.” All snorkel gear, wetsuits, and fins are provided onboard by Un-Cruise. Select your set-up for the week and get ready to explore a variety of marine life below the surface. There were many different schools of fish and plentiful underwater creatures.

    Snorkeling with the Sea Lions

  • The birding is sensational – We set our eyes on Blue-footed boobies, Brown Pelicans, Frigate birds, shorebirds, and Cormorants.

    Shorebirds

  • After our snorkeling expedition, upon return to the ship, we warmed up on the deck in one of the inviting hot tubs with a hot beverage.

    Time to Relax

  • In the late afternoon, we went up to the bridge with Captain Bernadette to search for marine life in the waters ahead.

Monday – Day 3 Adventures

Coming Ashore for our Burro Ride on the Arroyo

  • Daily Activity Presentation – Treasure with Ellie
  • We met on deck three at 8:30 am for the shore excursion to Agua Verde – we experienced the real Baja on burro rides with the Romero family from San Cosme. This family is one of the last remaining strongholds of the Vaquero/Ranchero culture of Baja. They are horse-mounted livestock herders of tradition that originated on the Iberian Peninsula. They are traditional horseman cowboy ranchers.

    Saddling up the Burros for our Ride

  • We cruised to shore across the brilliant blue-green waters of this Bahia Agua Verde on the skiffs from the ship to the sprawling shores of the Romero property. We were saddled up with our own burro and then headed up the trails where we experienced a gentle meandering ride up and down the rolling hills and untouched shoreline.

    At the Shore from the Endeavor for our Burro Adventure

  • Along the Trails on the Burro Ride

    One of the picturesque views from the burro trail ride

    Our friendly burros had minds of their own when it came to which order they wanted to follow in along the uninhabited trails. Though when the guide stopped, we stopped, and when the guide started moving along the path again, our burros followed suit, keeping an even pace with their leader. Along the top of the ridge, we overlooked breathtaking views of the bay and learned much about the Romero family’s deep history ranching in this stunning remote desert terrain.

    Burro Ride

  • We rode our mules through the arroyos of native cactus and an oasis of palms through the sand dunes and occasional streams. Sixteen of us from the ship went on the first round of trail rides. It was a good thing I had my waterproof windbreaker as we ran into an unexpected but short shower.

    My Burro

  • After lunch, we took another cruise to other islands on the skiffs. We ran into a bit of unexpected wind as the seas pick up a bit. One of the other skiffs came out to the deserted island we had landed on to escort us back to the ship.

    Cruising the Islas in the Skiffs

 Tuesday – Day 4 Adventures

  • Daily Activity Presentation – Creatures of Culture with Lindsey
  • Isla Danzante Snorkel and Honeymoon Cove. A stroll through Steinbeck Canyon and then off to the charming historic town of Loretto for lunch.

    The Snorkel at Isla Danzante

  • Danzante means dancer because the high mountain peaks from the peninsula look like women dancing. This part of Isla Danzante is part of the Bahia de Loreto de Parque Nacional and is home to dolphins, whales, and pelicans. The city of Loreto is backed by the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range, where trails lead to prehistoric cave paintings.

    Our Walking Tour Around Loreto

  • What a great afternoon, we had to explore the town of Loreto on our walking tour. We toured the colonial buildings and the Mision de Nuestra Senora de Loreto, a 17th-century church in the heart of town.

    Mision de Nuestra Señora de Loreto

  • Before heading back to the Safari Endeavor, we stopped for a tasty bite of regional cuisine and few yummy margaritas at one of Loreto’s favorite dining spots – Orlando’s Restaurante.

    Orlando’s Restaurante in Loreto

Wednesday – Day 5 Adventures

Magdalena Bay Gray Whale Excursion

  • Daily Activity Presentation – Gray Whales with Mark
  • Magdalena Bay Day – Our Gray Whale Adventure – After an early breakfast, we boarded the waiting Lopez Mateos vans for our ride across the peninsula to the Pacific side to Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos, a municipality of Comondu in Baja California Sur. It is a small fishing town located on the Magdalena Bay coast, mainly known for its whale watching operations. We boarded several waiting white panga boats and headed out to the nearby lagoon, which has calm, warm waters perfect for Gray Whale calving. The bay is protected from the Pacific Ocean by the sandy barrier islands of Isla Magdalena and Isla Santa Margarita.

    Mother and Baby Gray Whale

  • The Gray Whales are sometimes known as the “friendlies” due to their tolerance and curiosity of the cruising small panga boats with people such as us. As it was our own friendly mission to get up close and personal with these charming and docile migrating creatures of the sea.

    Baby Gray Whale coming to Say Hello

  • We had only 5 or 6 passengers and a guide in our 20-person panga for our 2-hour whale watching adventure. It was absolutely exhilarating getting so close to these fascinating and grand gray whales. We had a mother and her calf spend almost an hour flirting with all of us between the surrounding pangas. They seemed to love the attention as they came close to our boats to say hello. We all kept in observance the guidelines of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

    The Gray Whales Love to Visit

  • Our lunch after the whale watch adventure was quite fantastic. We noshed on regional langoustine, prawns, fresh-caught fish with tortillas beans and rice at one of the local outdoor restaurants, and of course, a fresh cold Cerveza.

 Thursday – Day 6 Adventures

Kayak Launch off of the Safari Endeavor

  • Daily Activity Presentation – Trivia with Marika

    Searching for Underwater Marine Life

  • Today’s excursion took us to San Evaristo and Isla California, where it is protected from the Northerlies. The water seemed a bit colder that day, so I went for extra warm with a shorty wetsuit over my long one. We had excellent fish sightings of Needlefish, Sea Cucumber, Puffer Fish, King Angelfish, colorful coral, and seastars. The visibility was excellent, around 50 feet, so we see could see an abundance of underwater marine activity.

    The Onboard Wetsuits and Underwater Gear

  • We also did a hill hike referred to as our “Bushwhack Hike,” 4.6 miles up into the arroyo through the chaparral and coastal hills. We had a fantastic view of the old salt flats, and the Safari Endeavor moored in the distance out in the bay. We passed through a tiny village of a few homes where only about 40 families still. Many of the area’s buildings appeared to be abandoned and falling down due to the hurricane damage from several years before.

    Hiking Isla California

    Hiking Isla California

    Our Expedition Guide for the Day

 Friday – Day 6 Adventures

Arriving on Shore for the Beach Party

  • Daily Activity Presentation
  • It was Beach Party day in the protective cove of Ensenada Grande, which is part of Espirito Santo National Park. At 9 am, we boarded the skiffs on a short ride from the ship where we landed on a secluded, pristine white sand beach and where the staff had set up absolutely everything for us.

    Kayaks along the Beach at Espirto Santo National Park

    Food and Beverages – The Picnic

  • They had brought food and beverages, and they even set up a beach picnic and beach bar for us. Also waiting for us was the fleet of yellow kayaks to take out with one of the expedition guides or on our own at our leisure in the calm waters of the aquamarine bay. We paddled about the rim of the island and the dynamic shoreline amidst sheltering rocky walls, volcanic ridges, and abundant birdlife.

    Kayaking around the Protective Cove of Ensenada Grande

    The Beach Party Farwell

  • As a wrap up for the week, we all assembled in the ship’s dining room for our exquisitely prepared farewell dinner with our many new-found friends.
  • After dinner, they followed with a fantastic slideshow of memorable photos taken by the expedition team during our weeklong journey cruising Baja California Sur.
  • As our finale, we did some post-dinner stargazing on the top deck as we bid a melancholy farewell to the glimmering luminescence of the waters surrounding the Safari Endeavor. At the end of the evening, we all settled in with our journey’s home beginning the next morning, leaving with great experiences and memories.

THE FOOD

The cuisine on board was an absolute delight. All of the meals presented to us were handcrafted and prepared by their experienced executive chefs. These innovative dishes are all created with local fresh, sustainable products. Their culinary program thrives upon the relationships they have built with the local farmers, local fishermen, and regional vendors. You can always expect field-to-table produce and ocean-friendly seafood direct from the waters where the Un-Cruise ships go.

Produce from Local Farmer

Un-Cruise Adventures is committed to sustainability, and they are proud to be the first cruise partner of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch

Other than the days where there is a unique excursion away from the ship or a picnic on the beach, all three meals are prepared and served in the ships stunning dining room. And you don’t even have to dress up for dining as it is always a casual and relaxed dining experience.

What to expect with your Dining Experience

The Dining Experience of Un-Cruises

  • Early-riser breakfasts of fresh fruit and baked-on-board pastries
  • Full breakfasts with hot and cold options
  • Lunches featuring salads, sandwiches, homemade soups, and regionally influenced dishes
  • Varied hors d’oeuvres during cocktail hour
  • Dinners come with a choice of entrees including fresh, local seafood, meats, and vegetarian dishes
  • Made from scratch desserts like tiramisu and lavender panna cotta
  • Chef selected wine pairings that complement your meal

Sample Menus

  • Breakfast
    • Smoked Marlin Frittata, portabella mushrooms, spinach, dried tomatoes
    • Omelet of the Day – Mushroom Cheese Omelet
    • Berry Pancakes with Maple Syrup
    • Breakfast Potatoes Choice of Bacon or Sausage
  • Dinner
    • Field Greens with fresh raspberries, caramelized chevre & champagne roasted shallot vinaigrette
    • Fresh -baked rosemary focaccia finished with apricot and sweet onion glaze
    • Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Beef Demi-Glace
    • Baja Lobster with Lemon Butter
    • Squash Napoleon layered with crumbled Boursin & pomegranate balsamic
    • Cinnamon poached pear with buttery puff pastry and salted caramel

Happy Crew Eager to Serve the Passengers at Happy Hour

The bar in the salon area is open for your enjoyment. There is always one of the ship’s friendly staff members waiting to pour you a glass of wine, beer, or create your favorite libation from scratch. Whatever your fancy, you will find premium and small-batch craft spirits. Their cocktails are mixed with seasonal local ingredients like a house-infused cucumber vodka. The infamous Un-Cruise Bloody Mary is a must-try and when cruising through Mexico’s Sea of Cortes, don’t miss their Margaritas, they are sensational. We can vouch for that.

Cocktails at the Bar Every Evening Aboard the Safari Endeavor

I forgot to mention that one of the other perks is that every passenger guest received a complimentary massage! That was a special unexpected treat especially after the long hike in the arroyo.

Weather in Baja California Sur

What’s the weather like in November through March when the Safari Endeavor takes to the waters of the Sea of Cortes?

Air temperatures are moderate and can vary from 74F to 83F degrees. Evenings can get slightly chilly with the off-shore winds.

Water temperatures vary from 66F to 77F.

What to Bring for your Adventure Cruise on the Safari Endeavor

  • Don’t forget your passport
  • Reef-safe Bio-degradable sunscreen and hats for shade
  • Mobile phones or iPad for photos and photo sharing, though there is limited or no Internet onboard
  • Cameras, Binoculars, chargers/power cords, memory card, extra batteries
  • Collapsible Suitcase to fit under your bed
  • Dress in layers throughout the day – sun protective fabric is suggested
  • Hiking attire – hiking poles, hiking shoes, daypack
  • Dry Bag for camera, binoculars, or anything that you don’t want to get wet.
  • Comfortable clothes, casual attire, beach clothes
  • Windbreaker, fleece or light jacket
  • Any medications you may need during the week

 Un-Cruise Adventures tagline “Unrushed. Uncrowded and Unbelievable”.  And you can count on that!

Goodbye for now! Can’t wait until the next time! Cheers Un-Cruise! You are the Best!

Visit their website for more details on this cruise and their other destinations.

www.uncruise.com

Photo credits: Dynie Sanderson; the expedition crew aboard the Safari Endeavor; Uncruise Adventures; Jean Cusick.