Magnificent Glacier Bay National Park

Seabourn Sojourn arrives off Margerie Glacier, in Glacier Bay National Park. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The fog rolled in and out this morning, obscuring the shoreline and flattening the glare of the ocean. The water turned from grey to soft green as Seabourns Seabourn Sojourn felt her way up the Sitkaday Narrows, past the North and South Marble Islands, and into the misty embrace of Glacier Bay National Park.

Not every cruise to Alaska comes here. To me, a day of scenic cruising in Glacier Bay is the ultimate experience you can have in Alaska. I’ve taken cruises that don’t stop here, and I’ve always felt they were somehow incomplete. To sail into Glacier Bay, with its ever-changing weather conditions, is to discover Alaska at its most breathtaking.

Seabourn Sojourn quietly cruised into Glacier Bay National Park today…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…and the hunt for glaciers and wildlife was out on the open decks. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Seabourn Sojourn entered the Park at 10:00am, slowing down to pick up our three Park Rangers from the National Park Service. Two of them set up shop in the Observation Bar on Deck 10, bringing with them a variety of books and souvenirs for purchase that sold out rapidly. The third stationed herself on the ship’s Navigation Bridge, where commentary was piped over the ship’s public areas, corridors and outer decks, or in staterooms on TV channel 16.

I first came here in July of 1998, on a foggy, misty, rainy day like this. In fact, this is the first time in eight visits to Glacier Bay that the weather conditions have reproduced almost exactly as they were 19 years ago. I’ve been here in the bright sunshine, where temperatures were so hot that you needed a drink to cool down. I’ve been here in spring, summer and fall. And I can tell you this: days like today, when the weather is drippy and the fog rolls in and out, is when Glacier Bay is at its most dramatic.

Even in the gorgeous surroundings of Seabourn Sojourn’s main Restaurant on Deck 4…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…the scenery is never far from reach. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Carnival Legend heads southbound out of the park…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…as my entree arrives. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

A ridiculously relaxing meal. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Over lunch (which I enjoyed once again in the peaceful surroundings of The Restaurant on Deck 4), Seabourn Sojourn made her way deeper into the park, passing Composite Island on our starboard side and hanging a right at Russel Island, to enter the mouth of the Tarr Inlet.

Tarr Inlet could be the most famous in all of Alaska. It is here that you’ll find Margerie Glacier and its dirtier sibling to the north, Grand Pacific Glacier. When Captain George Vancouver came here in 1794, Grand Pacific Glacier was back at the entrance of Glacier Bay. Today, it is another two hours’ sail inland.

Margerie Glacier has always been the most dramatic of the two. Ships have stopped at the end of Tarr Inlet for over a century, carrying passengers just like you and me to witness one of Mother Nature’s most awesome creations. But when I saw Margerie Glacier today, my heart stopped a little. Its retreat is now unmistakable. It’s smaller than it was on my last visit back in 2015, and for the first time I can remember, I can see patches of land poking through its lower reaches.

There it is: Margerie Glacier. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Now, there’s still plenty of Margerie Glacier left – and will be for some time – but the fact that the evaporation of this glacier was visible to me left me rattled. If you don’t think climate change is a real thing, come to Glacier Bay. Let the Park Rangers tell you all about the retreat of the Grand Pacific Glacier, or the glorious Johns Hopkins Glacier and Lamplugh Glacier that reside in Johns Hopkins Inlet.

Nevertheless, Seabourn Sojourn arrived off Margerie Glacier just before 2:00pm today, staying for a full hour. Captain Tim rotated the ship once, to let folks on the starboard side of the ship enjoy the view too. Though admittedly, finding a good spot for glacial viewing aboard Seabourn Sojourn isn’t hard. Ample deck space is available amidships on Deck 9 and 8, and along the half-promenades that run on the port and starboard sides of Deck 5; an area which most guests forget about.

There is no shortage of vantage points from Seabourn Sojourn. Facing forward, guests can access Deck 10 or Deck 6…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…while amidships there’s plenty of space for photo-opportunities from Decsk 8 and 9…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…and Deck 10. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Guests are also invited to watch up on Deck 10 in front of the Observation Bar, or on Deck 6, where guests can walk out to the very tip of the bow of the ship, perhaps to enjoy a dip in the hot tub that’s there for their use.

This is the part of my commentary where, on a larger cruise ship, I’d talk about the value of having a balcony stateroom in Alaska, particularly for Glacier Bay. I don’t need to do that with Seabourn, because every single suite (there are no staterooms as such) aboard Seabourn Sojourn has its own very spacious balcony. Deep and sheltered from the wind and the elements, I managed to enjoy our sail-in to Tarr Inlet from my own balcony, where I was protected from the heavy rain.

At a certain point, though, you just have to get out there and enjoy the glaciers. It’s tempting to sit in a lounge, but don’t. Outside, you can hear the stillness in the air, interrupted only by the thunderous crack of the ice shifting and falling with great fanfare into the deep blue sea below.

Patience is rewarded…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…as Margerie Glacier calves with a crack of thunder. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Regulations are strict for our day in Glacier Bay…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…but the park service has set up some nice information tables in the Observation Bar on Deck 10…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…along with an expected timeline for our day in the park. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

After a few hours of scenic cruising in front of Margerie Glacier…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…Seabourn Sojourn begins a slow, picturesque transit out of the Park. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Although I’m in Alaska now, I’m not far from my Canadian roots. Today is Canada Day, and my country is turning a very young 150 years old (though, to be fair, our First Nations peoples have inhabited this land for the past 10,000 years).

Seabourn Sojourn’s Passenger List (yes, Seabourn gives out a Passenger List! How amazing is that?) shows that a total of 13 Canadians are onboard this sailing. For a voyage that embarked in Vancouver, that surprises me a little; I thought the number would be higher.

So imagine my surprise when I received an invitation in my little mailbox outside my suite door last evening: I, along with my fellow Canadian guests and crew, have been invited to a special Canada Day Celebration tonight at 6:00pm in The Club on Deck 5. The mastermind behind this? Seabourn Sojourn’s friendly Canadian-Australian hotel director, Jason Gelineau.

A private cocktail bash…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…was thrown for Seabourn Sojourn’s Canadian guests and crew…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…in recognition of Canada Day (July 1). Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Bonus points for the authentic and delicious Caesars! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

I’ve taken many cruises that have occurred over the Canada Day holiday. Seabourn is the first and only line that’s ever done something special for Canadians who are travelling abroad on their National Holiday, whereas celebrations for American Independence Day on July 4 are practically de-facto. It’s a little touch, to be sure, but one that carries a lot of significance. My fellow Canadian guests seemed to think so, too.

Tonight, I had the opportunity to dine in Restaurant 2, Seabourn Sojourn’s reservations-only specialty restaurant high atop Deck 8, on the port side adjacent to the atrium. In the fall, this will become The Grill by Thomas Keller, and will be completely redesigned by Seabourn’s noted interior designer, Adam Tihany.

Tonight, I was able to dine in Restaurant 2…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…Seabourn Sojourn’s reservations-only evening dining venue. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

For now, though, Restaurant 2 serves up classic international fare presented in the form of small-plate tasting menus. Tonight’s Signature Dinner:

Malossol Osetra Caviar

Potato shallot cake, remoulade, herb salad

Foie Gras Torchon

Quince confiture, roasted hazelnuts, hazelnut brioche


White Plum Tomato Cappucino

Sun-blushed tomatoes


Orange Sorbet

Champagne topping


Broiled Lobster Tail

Lemon risotto, asparagus, newburg sauce

Chateaubriand Roast Filet of Beef Tenderloin

Pommes neuf, asparagus ragout, truffle jus


Soft Centered Chocolate Ganache Cake

Berry compote & vanilla ice cream

Ice Pralines & Warm Amaretti

In the end, I didn’t bring my camera to this exceptional meal. I thought it wasn’t appropriate, given the intimate nature of the restaurant, for me to be clicking away with each of the seven courses that were brought out, accompanied by four stellar wine pairings.

Instead, I watched as Glacier Bay National Park slipped away and into the mist outside Restaurant 2’s floor-to-ceiling windows. How interesting it is to be surrounded by every creature comfort, while just outside a few inches of plate glass lies a beautiful but unforgiving environment that will outlast us all.

Sailing out of Glacier Bay…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…and a toast to the day up in the Observation Bar, Deck 10. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Our Voyage Report from Seabourn Sojourn’s Ultimate Alaska voyage continues tomorrow as we spend the day cruising Tracy Arm Fjord & Endicott Arm. 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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