HAINES, Alaska – I’m a little over halfway through my 11-day Ultimate Alaska Sojourn cruise aboard Seabourns 450-guest Seabourn Sojourn as I write this from the small village of Haines, where we’re docked for the day.

The elegant 450-guest Seabourn Sojourn docked in Haines, Alaska on July 3, 2017. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

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.

Looking down Seabourn Sojourn’s grand spiral staircase, as seen from Deck 9. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

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:

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.

Creek Street, Ketchikan. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

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.

Kayaking Endicott Arm: one of Seabourn’s active, adventurous Seabourn Ventures excursions in Alaska. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

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.

Hiking Rainbow Falls, near Wrangell, Alaska, as part of Seabourn’s new Seabourn Ventures expedition-style shore excursion offerings. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

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.

Seabourn’s Alaskan itineraries visit big name ports, and smaller, out-of-the-way places like Wrangell, shown here. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

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.

Scenic cruising Misty Fjords. Seabourn is one of the very few lines to actually take guests to this pristine place. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

In Alaska, Seabourn gives guests their own complimentary parka. It’s come in handy nearly every day so far. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

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.

All The Better To See You With: Seabourn Sojourn features a passenger-accessible bow viewing area, and a great hot tub for guests. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Guests line Seabourn Sojourn’s forward decks…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…to admire Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Then, there’s the elegant Seabourn Sojourn. One of the most relaxing ships I’ve ever been on, Seabourn Sojourn is the perfect vessel for Alaska. Windows adorn every public room from stem to stern, and an abundance of open deck space on multiple levels ensures that guests are never pressed for great views. Seabourn also placed overhead heater lamps on many of the outer decks where guests might want to dine, making them comfortable even when temperatures drop.

Seabourn Square on Deck 7 is the social hub of the ship, housing a wonderful coffee shop and Guest Services, along with computer workstations and some fantastic seating areas. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Inside, she’s all class. Seabourn Square replaces the typical reception desk and shore excursion desk layout with a more intimate space surrounded by a coffee bar, bookshelves and cozy seating areas.

The Observation Bar is the place to be by day and night. Kudos to Seabourn for creating an observation bar that actually works! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Enjoying an evening cocktail – and some great views – in the Observation Bar on Deck 10.

High atop the ship, the Observation Bar has daily (and nightly) drink specials, live music, and 180 degree views – plus an outdoor deck with observation platforms above the ship’s navigation bridge wings.

The Club on Deck 5 is the place to be for pre-dinner cocktails and nightly dancing, and serves as a meeting place for shore excursions during the day.

The Club, Deck 5 aft. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

An Evening with Sir Tim Rice was performed last night in the Grand Salon, to a standing ovation. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

One deck above, The Grand Salon offers Seabourn Conversations – lectures and presentations on topics of interest – while at night, full-blown production shows are staged here. Last night’s event, An Evening with Sir Tim Rice, featured live performances of some of his most popular creations, including “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” from Evita; and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from The Lion King. At one point, the cast even did a fabulous rendition of “One Night in Bangkok” – a heavily-produced 80’s pop number that seems like it’d be a nightmare to perform live. The cast did it, and the results were in: a standing ovation.

The Restaurant, Deck 4. One of the classiest dining rooms at sea. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

There’s literally not a bad table in the house. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Then, on Deck 4, is The RestaurantSeabourn Sojourn’s main dining venue, and one of the classiest dining rooms at sea. Besides the great views and the excellent service and cuisine, you’ll fall in love with Seabourn’s very civilised dress code that encourages guests to dress Elegantly Casual on all but a handful of nights.

There are still four days left for me onboard this, Seabourn’s third Alaskan cruise of its first season in 15 years. Next week, I’ll start my day-by-day Voyage Report coverage from the ship, with plenty of photographs and detailed information. Until then, know this: if you’ve booked on Seabourn Sojourn’s inaugural voyages in Alaska, you’re in for a real treat.

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Our Voyage Report from Seabourn Sojourn’s Ultimate Alaska voyage will begin next week with day-by-day coverage. Follow along with our latest cruise adventures on Twitter: @deckchairblog.

Seabourn Sojourn - Ultimate Alaskan Sojourn

DAYPORTARRIVEDEPART
Monday, June 26, 2017Vancouver, British ColumbiaEmbark Seabourn Sojourn1700
Tuesday, June 27Cruise the Inside Passage; Seymour Narrows; Queen Charlotte Sound
Wednesday, June 28Ketchikan, Alaska08002300
Thursday, June 29Scenic cruising Misty Fjords
Friday, June 30Wrangell, Alaska07001600
Saturday, July 1Scenic cruising Glacier Bay National Park10002000
Sunday, July 2Cruising Tracy Arm and/or Endicott Arm
Monday, July 3Haines, Alaska07002000
Tuesday, July 4Juneau, Alaska08001700
Wednesday, July 5Sitka, Alaska10001900
Thursday, July 6At Sea
Friday, July 7, 2017Seward (Anchorage), Alaska0700Disembark

 

 

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