HAINES, Alaska – I’m a little over halfway through my 11-day Ultimate Alaska Sojourn cruise aboard Seabourn’s 450-guest Seabourn Sojourn as I write this from the small village of Haines, where we’re docked for the day.
Since leaving Vancouver last Monday, we’ve already spent time docked in Ketchikan and Wrangell; cruised Glacier Bay National Park; and explored both Endicott Arm and Misty Fjords. More adventure is still in store before we disembark on Friday in Seward, with port calls in Juneau and Sitka, followed by a relaxing day at sea.
This is Seabourn’s first return to Alaska in 15 years, and the luxury line is really pulling out all the stops for Seabourn Sojourn’s maiden season. Three different itineraries are on offer between June and September:
- Ultimate Alaska Sojourn – 11 days, Vancouver to Seward;
- Ultimate Glacier & Fjord Adventure – 14 days, Seward to Vancouver, including calls on the British Columbia ports of Prince Rupert, Klemtu and Alert Bay;
- Ultimate Alaska & Inside Passage – 12 days, Roundtrip Vancouver (September only).
You won’t find the old ho-hum weeklong runs to Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway here. Instead, Seabourn has crafted a maiden season in Alaska that spends more time exploring the lesser-known places in Alaska and British Columbia, along with a selection of big-name ports of call.
There’s no annoying half-day port visits that the bigger lines rely on, and scenic cruising is just that – scenic cruising. When we anchored in Misty Fjords, I became aware that the only time I’ve ever just sat on a ship in Alaska that nestled into a quiet, secluded cove for the day involved small ships of less than 60 guests. Seabourn offers that intimate experience to its guests in Alaska.
In addition to the usual list of shore excursion offerings that you’d expect on any cruise line, Seabourn has introduced Seabourn Ventures: exclusive, expedition-style shore excursions that cater to active, adventurous travellers of all skill levels.
Led by Seabourn’s exceptional Seabourn Ventures expedition team (most of whom I know from expedition voyages with luxury competitor Silversea), these excursions are a great addition to the standard excursion offerings. Guests can purchase optional Seabourn Ventures excursions that kayak Misty Fjords and Endicott Arm; hike Wrangell’s Rainbow Falls; go ice climbing on Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau; or even indulge in a half-day or full day of bear watching at the Anan Bear & Wildlife Observatory near Wrangell.
While Seabourn had initially also planned to offer Zodiac tours, these had to be scrapped – at least for now – in Alaska, though they are still going ahead in the line’s British Columbia ports of call. Instead of just cancelling these, Seabourn replaced them, last-minute, with Catamaran Tours offering a similar experience. I can only imagine how much this cost the line – and I am endlessly impressed that Seabourn was so quick to develop a solution.
I’ve also been impressed to see Seabourn take a more active interest in the local communities and cultures of the places it calls on than other lines do. Today, for example, local Haines author Heather Lende is onboard to talk about life in Haines, her numerous bestselling books, and even autograph a few copies. A local dance troupe has also assembled pierside as I type this, and the ship made a special announcement to inform guests so that they don’t miss this wonderful opportunity.
If experiences ashore are immersive and culturally-relevant, the onboard Seabourn experience is completely soothing. Staff are top-notch and genuinely friendly, taking an interest in learning not just your name, but your preferences and interests. They address you as an old friend, not as someone who is just passing through.
Cuisine, some of which is designed in conjunction with Seabourn’s culinary partner, Thomas Keller, is exceptional throughout. Seabourn won me over by having fresh, locally-caught BC salmon on the dinner menu in The Restaurant as we departed Vancouver, and a full range of Alaska Brewing Company beers at the ready. It’s a small touch, sure – but not every line does it.