Seabourn (Ad)Ventures in Misty Fjords

Few lines call on Misty Fjords, preferring instead to dock in Ketchikan. Seabourn, however, spends the whole day here. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

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 Seabourns 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.

Seabourn Sojourn, anchored in Rudyerd Bay, Alaska. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

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.

Sailing into Rudyerd Bay. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Even if you just choose to stay onboard, the views from Seabourn Sojourn are tremendous. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

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.

Why not go kayaking in Misty Fjords? With Ventures by Seabourn, you can do just that. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

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.)

Today, I took part in a Ventures by Seabourn catamaran exploration of Misty Fjords. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

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.

Our catamaran arrives alongside Seabourn Sojourn…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…and before long, we’ve traded ships! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Seabourn Sojourn, looking striking in this unique view as we sail further into Misty Fjords. Note the two guests standing above the starboard bridge wing; one of the ship’s greatest viewing areas. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

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.

Seabourn provides guests with complimentary all-weather jackets in Alaska. These came in handy today! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

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.

What’s better than exploring remote Misty Fjords? Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Doing so with a nice cold Alaskan Summer Ale! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

In addition, lite bites and appetizers were served, along with bowls of piping-hot clam chowder or vegetarian chili.

The excursion was well worth the cost of admission. In some ways, it works better with a catamaran than with the previously-scheduled ship’s zodiacs. The “Cat” can do 30 knots flat-out, allowing us to cover more distance than the zodiacs could have – which enabled us to spot a black bear wandering the shoreline further out into the channel.

I hope that Seabourn keeps this Ventures by Seabourn excursion for next year, even though Seabourn is having to contract this vessel from Ketchikan to do so. It’s a great excursion.

Some photos from our time on the catamaran in Misty Fjords:

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

On the lookout for wildlife…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…and it’s spotted! A small black bear on the shoreline. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The grandeur of Alaska is on full display here. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Returning to Seabourn Sojourn as she exits Rudyerd Bay. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Back onboard, we were welcomed with hot towels and cups of hot chocolate – available spiked, if you wish. Food & Beverage Manager Marcelo, whom I know from numerous expedition cruises with luxury competitor Silversea, informed arriving guests that a Seafood Marketplace was available and waiting for them in The Colonnade on Deck 8.

The best part: dressing up wasn’t required.

This relaxed dress code might be the most relaxing thing about Seabourn. Dress is either Formal or Elegant Casual – and we’ve already passed the only Formal Night on this voyage.

Back onboard, and welcomed with a hot drink. Whether you spike it or not is up to you. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

On Formal Nights, men require a tuxedo or a suit; ladies, an evening gown or cocktail dress. This takes effect at 6pm. On Formal Nights, jeans are not appropriate in any venue onboard the ship. Which makes sense: that’s like every Formal Night on most luxury or upscale lines.

But Elegant Casual nights – which describes all but one night on this particular cruise – mandate a collared dress shirt or sweater, along with slacks, for men; and slacks, pantsuit, gown or dress for women. But this only applies in The Restaurant on Deck 4. Jeans and / or casual wear are welcomed in any other public venue.

Casual dinner was served tonight…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…in The Colonnade on Deck 8 aft. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

It’s a great way to handle the dress code, particularly here, where everyone dresses nicely to begin with. Want to bring your blue expedition jacket to the lounge for a nightcap in between sessions out on deck? You can do that.

This may be the most relaxing ship I’ve ever been on. It’s cruising without the crowds; luxury without the fuss. This might only be Seabourn’s third cruise to Alaska in this, its first season back in 15 years, but the onboard product is so polished, so well-thought-out, that it’s like Seabourn never left.

Goodnight! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Our Voyage Report from Seabourn Sojourn’s Ultimate Alaska voyage continues tomorrow as we call on Wrangell, Alaska. Follow along with our latest cruise adventures on Twitter: @deckchairblog.

Seabourn Sojourn - Ultimate Alaskan Sojourn

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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