Seabourn (Ad)Ventures in Misty Fjords
Thursday, June 29, 2017
There is silence. My coffee cup isn’t rattling against its saucer, nor is its jet-black liquid of caffeinated gold even remotely quivering. The surface of my coffee in the Observation Bar aboard Seabourn’s ultra-luxurious Seabourn Sojourn looks exactly like that of the Behm Canal: still, motionless and quiet.
Seabourn Sojourn made her way this morning into Misty Fjords National Monument; a protected wilderness reserve located just to the southeast of Ketchikan. Situated deep within the Tongass Forest, it is accessible via the Behm Canal – a whisper-quiet, absolutely still stretch of water that, believe it or not, is where the United States tests its nuclear submarines for their silent-running capabilities.
Today, very few cruise lines call on Misty Fjords. While larger ships used to call here “back in the day”, the increasing size of cruise ships has meant that many are simply too big to negotiate the Behm Canal anymore. But not Seabourn Sojourn.
This is the kind of place I’d expect to visit on a six-passenger sailing ship, or a small motor vessel with just ten or twenty people. That guests are here aboard the ultra-lavish, 450-guest Seabourn Sojourn is a real treat. Calls on out-of-the-way places like Misty Fjords are exclusive experiences that Seabourn’s loyal Seabourn Club past guests have come to expect; points of differentiation that set Seabourn apart from its luxury competitors.
The important thing to note here is that Seabourn Sojourn is holding her position all day in Rudyerd Bay; a picturesque inlet with towering cliff faces that’s nestled in the heart of Misty Fjords. Once again, a feeling of the surreal spread over me: normally, only the smallest ships I’ve ever sailed on have given guests the opportunity to remain, stationary, in a single spot all day that’s not a port of call.
While you can stay onboard and admire the beautiful scenery all day from the decks of the Seabourn Sojourn, you should really book a shore excursion to get the most out of your time here. Which brings us to Ventures by Seabourn.
Ventures by Seabourn is Seabourn’s newly-designed, expedition-style shore excursion collection. Led by Seabourn Sojourn’s crack onboard Expedition Team (many of whom I know well from past expeditions with other expedition and luxury lines), these extra-cost excursions are designed to take you deep into the wilderness of Alaska on experiences that few will be privy to.
Here in Rudyerd Bay, Seabourn offers two distinct Ventures experiences: a two-hour Kayak Exploration of Misty Fjords ($250 per person); or a 2.5-hour Misty Fjords Explorer by Catamaran tour ($250 per person.)
I signed up for the latter, back when it was an exploration by Zodiac. But, after Seabourn Sojourn’s inaugural Alaska cruise earlier this month, a regulator in Alaska forced Seabourn to discontinue its Zodiac operations in the State for the remainder of the season (note that British Columbia excursions by Zodiac are unaffected.)
I was hugely impressed by Seabourn’s response to this setback. The simple solution would have been to just scrap those excursions. Instead, Seabourn replaced its Zodiac excursion of Misty Fjords with a chartered Catamaran that has to sail 90 minutes here from Ketchikan, perform the tour, then sail, empty, 90 minutes back. That must have cost Seabourn a small fortune.
Despite the cost, these Seabourn Ventures excursions are hugely popular – so much so that Seabourn has been adding additional departures and even entirely new excursion options (both Ventures and standard excursions) as this voyage progresses. I’ve never seen that before on any cruise line, and I like what it signifies: Seabourn is testing the waters here in Alaska, and is fine-tuning its product here as it goes along.
I’ve been coming to Alaska for 19 years, but I’ve never been to Misty Fjords before. With that in mind, I booked the Ventures by Seabourn: Misty Fjords by Catamaran excursion. With a departure time of 5:00pm, it promised an “unhurried exploration of Rudyerd Bay”, along with lite bites, fresh clam chowder soup, and a selection of beverages to accompany this scenic cruising, before rejoining Seabourn Sojourn.
The Catamaran came alongside a little late, and we were off and on our way at 5:30pm. Our Seabourn Sojourn Expedition Team came with us, to scan the shoreline for evidence of wildlife and to answer any questions we might have. Onboard, a team of local guides from Ketchikan were also there to spot wildlife, and to impart the history of this gorgeous preserve on us.
Although this was put together at the last minute (literally, weeks ago) by Seabourn, you’d never know it. Drinks – including Alaskan Brewing Company beers and red and white wine – were served complimentary, just as if we were onboard our floating palace.