Seabourn Ventures in Endicott Arm

Come kayaking in Endicott Arm with Seabourn – just one of the line’s exclusive Ventures by Seabourn shore excursions in Alaska. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Seabourns 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.

You Don’t See This Every Day: sailing through ice-choked Endicott Arm…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…near the entrance to Ford’s Terror. UnCruise Adventures’ Wilderness Adventurer is in the background. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

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.

Beset by ice…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…Seabourn Sojourn comes to a stop. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

I can’t recall seeing this kind of ice here on past visits, particularly not in July. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

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.

What’s a little ice? Let’s go kayaking! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Seabourn really knocked it out of the park with these kayaking excursions, which ran all day from the ship. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

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.

All kayaks aboard Seabourn Sojourn are doubles, and all kayak expeditions…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…are led by one of Seabourn’s fully-qualified Ventures expedition team members. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

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.

Up close, it’s apparent just how large some of these bits of ice really are! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

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.

Among the ice. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The best part of kayaking: drifting along, paddles up, listening to the soundtrack of mother nature. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The waterfall that looked small from the ship…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…is massive when viewed from the kayaks. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Maybe it was the endless array of ice that surrounded us, or the few brief rays of sunshine that poked through the clouds, or the ever-changing nature of Endicott Arm, but this was one of the most interesting kayak excursions I’ve taken. We even managed to spot a brown bear, ambling along the shoreline not far from our position. He eventually went back into the trees, disturbed by the excited voices coming from the kayaks.

The real joy, though, was pulling your paddle from the water, leaving the kayak to drift, silently, among the wilderness. When you really stop and concentrate, all you can hear are the sounds of distant streams, the idle lapping of water against the shoreline, and the beating of your own heart.

Back onboard the warm and cozy Seabourn Sojourn…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…it’s time for a hot coffee…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…and a good book in Seabourn Square, Deck 7. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Back onboard the warm Seabourn Sojourn, I wandered through Seabourn Square and realized I’d never been to this part of the ship in the evening before. It’s even more welcoming and inviting at night, and it’s a great place to escape the noise of the other lounges if you’re looking for a quiet moment with a book.

Tonight, I watched my first production show of the cruise: An Evening with Sir Tim Rice. Put on exclusively for Seabourn, this production show featuring the Seabourn Cast includes video interviews with Rice interspersed throughout 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.

Tonight, I took in my first production show on Seabourn Sojourn: An Evening with Sir Tim Rice. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Accompanying all of this was a real, live band. My biggest complaint on cruise ships are shows that are sung to prerecorded music. It always looks like an elaborate karaoke night to me. Having real, live musical accompaniment throughout the entire show helped push this one over the top.

I’ll be going back tomorrow night to check out the rest of the Seabourn evening entertainment; so good was the show that I came out of the lounge feeling like I’d missed out over the past six days. And it’s always nice to be pleasantly surprised.

Held in the Grand Salon on Deck 6 aft….Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…it was a spectacular show, with extremely high-quality production values. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Our Voyage Report from Seabourn Sojourn’s Ultimate Alaska voyage continues tomorrow as we arrive in the town of Haines. 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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