Seabourn Sojourn in Alaska – Part V (Seabourn Ventures: Inian Islands, Icy Strait and College Fjord)
With my Alaska experience on the Seabourn Sojourn unfortunately coming to its end, I wanted to write an article about something very special: The Seabourn Ventures Program. I have watched the program develop and grow, not only from offerings, but to the quality of its scientists and naturalists and its integration into an otherwise “normal” cruise experience. During my last days of this cruise I was able to truly engage in the Seabourn Ventures program and experience how it literally transforms a cruise into a journey.
|Seabourn Sojourn in College Fjord|
Impressive and haunting view from my zodiac after kayaking
with the Seabourn Ventures program
I have experienced Seabourn Ventures from it’s infancy on the Seabourn Quest when cruising the fjords of Norway, then kayaking in Indonesia on the Seabourn Encore, then its purpose-built/well-honed integrated Antarctica experience, and now Alaska on the Seabourn Sojourn. Three ships. Four distinct parts of the world. One amazing program.
The most important aspect of the Seabourn Ventures program is its team of individuals that make what is new and exciting, yet unfamiliar and uncomfortable to most, a truly wonderful experience that starts with entertaining and informative lectures and completes itself with truly memorable land and water immersion. (Did I just say that? I mean safe, secure, experiential moments that are unforgettable.)
|Eric Goldring manning the stern of the kayak|
during a Seabourn Ventures experience in College Fjord, Alaska
It is one thing to take a boat ride or snap some photos, but it another to learn about the environment, culture, science and intertwining of them through relevant and approachable lectures. It is a totally different experience when you can physically be in those things and before, during and/or after, those lectures. That is what Seabourn Ventures does so well.
Another important thing it to place the ship in the best locations to have worthwhile nature experiences. As I previously mentioned, I have experienced Alaska on three different luxury cruise lines: Seabourn, Silversea and Regent Seven Seas on the ships that each still sails there. Without regard to hotel services and cuisine, the latter two offer a more traditional cruise, generally over seven days (traveling north or south) and with standard ports and tours that, for the most part, any cruise line from Royal Caribbean on up can provide. Seabourn, however, has created itineraries that focus on more time in ports and ports that really aren’t set up for the average cruise tours…because they are pretty much Seabourn Ventures locations (some not even involving a dock or town).
During my Alaska cruise, the Seabourn Sojourn journeyed deep into Tracy Arm and College Fjord (among others) where those guests not engaged in hiking, zodiacs or kayaking could still have quite an immersive experience from their own balconies. I believe the Penthouse Spa Suites provide the best of this with their huge balconies and 180+ degree views.
|The view from inside a Seabourn Penthouse Spa Suite.|
Not bad, right?
By the way, most of the photos taken from the ship in my Alaska articles were taken from my Penthouse Spa Suite balcony!
|Alaskan Glacier seen from a Seabourn Penthouse Spa Suite|
Expedition experience without leaving the ship!
On the Seabourn Sojourn in Alaska I experienced the Seabourn Ventures program hiking on Wrangell Island, kayaking around the Inian Islands and both taking a zodiac tour and kayaking in College Fjord. I supplemented the Seabourn Ventures program with two private experiences in Ketchikan hiking in the Tongass National Rainforest and heading inland in Haines fresh water lake kayaking on Chilkoot Lake. Clearly my experience was not “standard” or filled with off-the-shelf tours. I truly feel like I experienced more Alaska in these eleven days than I did in my prior Alaska cruises combined…and then some.
But let me not get too far into that and talk about my Seabourn Ventures experiences!
I was up very early for about two hours of kayaking around the Inian Islands. As I got ready humpback whales were spouting off the stern of the Seabourn Sojourn, which continued as we traveled in the zodiac to the spot where our kayaking would begin. (Seabourn Ventures makes sure the kayaking is enjoyable rather than a survival sport, so it takes you in zodiacs to the best areas rather than having you kayak a mile or more to get there.)
|Kayaking in the Inian Islands|
While kayaking we saw more whales, a Dall porpoise, sea otters and a few sea lions (which popped up next to the zodiac as we were finishing up). But we also met some local wildlife: A woman recluse who kept shouting “Go Away!” over the howl of her two dogs…before she started howling with them. And we were nowhere near her tiny homestead. (I later learned that she is legendary and supposedly “visited” with another expedition ship about 20 years ago…with a shotgun!)
As our kayaking in the Inian Islands came to an end,
the Seabourn Sojourn sailed around the point and a zodiac
came to pick us – making the journey “home” that much easier.
The only day of disappointment was our visit to Icy Strait; a made up village akin to the private islands one can visit in the Caribbean. There is a zipline, a “nature trail” that, after our Wrangell Island hike, seemed more like a short path to nowhere, and a made-up village with fishing displays, shops and restaurants. There were those that liked it, but for me there was nothing…other than when I got back on the ship and watched two bald eagles bonding in flight as I had High Tea in the Observation Lounge. (Not a bad consolation prize!)
The diversity of Alaska and the Seabourn Ventures program’s opportunities really showed itself when we then visited College Fjord with all of its glaciers. This was Seabourn’s first visit to College Fjord and the only one of this season. I am very confident it will be on future itineraries as it delivered a number of WOW moments ranging from its number of glaciers to many calving to hundreds of sea otters. (See the first photograph in this article!)
College Fjord, Alaska
One thing that I was glad to finally experience was cool weather. It had been extraordinarily warm throughout our journey, but today it was cold enough that those complimentary blue Seabourn parkas would come in handy and the Seabourn Sojourn guests actually experienced more typical Alaska weather.
In the morning I took a zodiac ride that brought us close to a huge waterfall and the face of a glacier. Sitting in silence listening to the floating ice that had broken off from the glacier “pop” releasing air that has been trapped for hundreds of years (long before the Industrial Revolution) was mesmerizing.
Sitting quietly in a zodiac also allowed us to get close up to seals and sea otters and watch hundreds of sea birds.
Sea Otters are naturally curious…and cute.
Seabourn Ventures zodiac experience
College Fjord, Alaska
For me, I enjoyed that afternoon’s kayaking in College Fjord, Alaska even more. As Seabourn had never been to College Fjord before and the Seabourn Ventures team did not have a chance to investigate before our experience made it even better, as we discovered the area together….of course being investigated ourselves!
|Who is checking out who??|
|As I said, “Who is checking out who??”|
With flat calm water and the deep intensity of the greens, blues and whites with the gray skies overhead, there was both a peacefulness and joy that was quite fulfilling.
|Kayaking near a glacier gives you a better perspective as to its power,|
but you really lose perspective as to its size…
and how close (or far away) you are
|Catching a nap on floating ice|
It was sad that College Fjord, Alaska was our last “port”, but what a last day! And what a last vision as we cruised back to the ship in a zodiac: The Seabourn Sojourn seemingly cuddled up to a glacier with another one right off its stern.
It was, unfortunately, time to pack as we were departing the Seabourn Sojourn the next morning in Seward, Alaska before taking the 2.5 hour transfer to Anchorage to await our flight home. Seabourn, however, was not done with our experience. In order to watch my weight (at least a little) for dessert I have gotten into the habit of ordering the souffle of the day and then just eating the chewy more intensely flavored top. As a going away presentation when I ordered the souffle Meghan and Mora brought me out three souffle tops!
One thing is for sure, this was the conclusion of “Not Your Ordinary Alaska Cruise”. And it stands a testament to what I have always said about Seabourn: It is the Software; not the Hardware. It is, alas, about the people: And while other luxury cruise lines can offer you some things, one thing they cannot offer you is the Seabourn Ventures team. From truly knowledgeable and entertaining lectures, to wildlife spotting from the Observation Lounge or Deck 7 aft, to zodiac rides, to kayaking, to hiking, this outstanding team gave every guest what they wanted and on the level they wanted: Alaska!
Interested in a Seabourn Alaska or other Seabourn Ventures experience? Give me a call, drop me an email or send me a Facebook message!
US: (877) 2GO-LUXURY (877-246-5898)
UK: 020 8133 3450
AUS: (07) 3102 4685
Everywhere Else: +1 530 562 9232