Seabourn Ventures in Endicott Arm
Sunday, July 2, 2017
Seabourn’s Seabourn Sojourn slowly entered Endicott Arm this morning, gingerly feeling her way along the picturesque fjord amongst increasing mist, low-hanging clouds and driving rain that came and went with little predictability.
Our itinerary today was originally scheduled to visit Tracy Arm Fjord, but our Seabourn Ventures team reports it is still choked with ice. Because of that, the decision was made early on this season to cruise nearby Endicott Arm instead.
Located just a few hours sail’ south of Juneau, both fjords are accessed by the same inlet off Stephen’s Passage, with Tracy Arm veering to the northeast, and Endicott Arm peeling off to the southeast. While Tracy Arm eventually terminates at the breathtaking (but hard to reach) North and South Sawyer glaciers, Endicott Arm ends with the magnificently active Dawes Glacier.
Seabourn Sojourn didn’t get far this morning, stopped by ice just outside the entrance to an inlet known as Ford’s Terror. Still roughly eight miles from Dawes Glacier, we were surrounded by ice that choked the remainder of the channel, and beset by increasingly low visibility. Even the smaller Wilderness Adventurer, part of UnCruise Adventures small ship expedition fleet sailing up ahead of us, stopped and turned around.
I’ve been here several times before, and I can’t recall ever seeing so much ice at this time of year. Compounding that, the amount of ice that stretched along our starboard side seemed to increase during the day. I sat in The Restaurant on Deck 4 enjoying lunch, and during the hour I was there, conditions changed rapidly. Visibility went from a few miles to a few dozen feet and back again. At one point, as I finished my strawberry sorbet dessert, I noticed the ice start to undulate. Then, the whole fjord started to undulate, rocking the ice floes gently back and forth. A major section of ice must have calved off Dawes Glacier to generate a wave that, eight miles on, was still churning.
Although we couldn’t reach the Dawes Glacier, at 10:20 this morning, Seabourn Ventures Expedition Leader Juan came over the ship’s public address to state that we were staying in this area so that this afternoon’s excursions could go ahead as planned.
On most cruise lines, today would be a day of scenic cruising, with no chance to get off the ship. But thanks to Seabourn’s expedition-like Ventures by Seabourn excursions, guests are treated to optional experiences that would normally only be available on small, pocket-style ships that typically have minimal features.
Two tours are offered today in Endicott Arm: a Kayak Exploration of Endicott Arm (2 hours, $250 per person); or a Dawes Glacier Exploration by Catamaran (2.5 hours, $250 per person). Both are unique opportunities to experience Endicott Arm on a more intimate scale.
Seabourn has really hit it out of the park with their Ventures offerings. While Alaska is one of my favorite cruise destinations, the shore excursion roster has remained largely the same for decades. By offering these exclusive tours on its new Alaska cruises, Seabourn is offering its guests more opportunities to see this beautiful part of the world up-close. They may cost extra, but these are well worth the price of admission.
This afternoon, I participated in the Kayak Exploration of Endicott Arm. I’d watched the fog roll in and out all day, and rain come down in sheets. But Seabourn is well-equipped for this: along with a detailed kayak orientation briefing, guests were fitted in full-body drysuits and provided with dry bags for rain-sensitive items like cameras. It turns out we didn’t really need these: the rain held off for all but the last 20 minutes of our two-hour exploration.
Seabourn’s kayaks are all doubles. For those participating in the excursion solo (like myself), you’ll be matched up with another solo person. I was partnered with a nice chap from Australia, who had also been kayaking before. I can imagine, though, if you’re a novice paired with an experienced kayaker, the experience could be somewhat more difficult.
Once in the kayaks, we paddled around the ice floes that surrounded the Seabourn Sojourn. Safely away, our “mother ship” also began steaming ahead. She’d maneuver a few miles up the channel, away from the ice, and we would rendezvous with her just before dinner.