Ultimate Alaska: Cruising Glaciers and Fjords Aboard The Seabourn Sojourn
Ready Set Jet Set – August 3, 2018
Cruising Alaska has always been on my bucket list, so when I was given the opportunity to sail on the Seabourn Sojourn for the 14-Day Ultimate Alaska Glacier and Fjord Adventure in late June, I snatched it up. The itinerary took us on a two week journey from Anchorage to Vancouver through some of the best spots in Southeast Alaska, like Tracy Arm and the Misty Fjords. We were able to do excursions such as a helicopter flight up to a dogsledding camp, kayaking up to a glacier with the Ventures by Seabourn team, and taking my very first seaplane flight over the Misty Fjords. I think during the entire time we sailed, we only had two days of rain, so we were very lucky that the good weather followed us all the way to Canada. The whole experience was magical and luxurious.
The capacity of the Seabourn Sojourn is only 450 passengers, so while the cruise was sold out, I never felt crowded onboard. It probably helped that our Veranda Suite was amazingly spacious for being on a ship, with everything from a walk-in closet to a private balcony and the biggest bathroom I've ever had on a cruise, complete with a separate shower and tub.
One of my favorite features of the Sojourn were the multiple pool and hot tub options. With the good weather we had, I spent a lot of time watching the Alaskan scenery from the hot tub. There is one hot tub at the bow of the ship, two on the back deck with a small pool, and two on the patio in the middle of the ship, along with a larger heated pool. And since there were only 450 passengers, I never had to fight for space at the pool or for a deck chair. There was even two times when we were onboard that I was able to sit in the hot tub and watch for the glacier to calve. How cool is that?
The Sojourn has three restaurants onboard: The Restaurant, The Colonnade, and The Grill By Thomas Keller, the latter of which required advanced reservations (I recommend making a few for throughout your cruise before you even board). There was also The Patio, which served food by the pool if weather permitted. One night towards the end of our cruise, we made a special request to have a crab feast at The Restaurant the next night. What's great about Seabourn is their level of customer service. As long as you give them 24 hours advanced notice, they're happy to accommodate meal requests, especially for special occasions. There's also 24 hour room service, which is fantastic if you want to just have a night in and watch a movie (we did this quite a few times, actually). During main dinner hours, you can even order the menu from The Restaurant straight to your room. I had my fill of amazing halibut and salmon throughout the week (I'm pescatarian), and the lobster thermidor at The Grill was a must-have. One last tip: if you like caviar, you actually can ask for it whenever you want, even if it's not officially on the menu. I didn't actually try this, but some friends we made onboard told us about how they ordered room service one night and were able to request caviar and champagne to their room. Now that's how you do in-room dining!
There were several other onboard amenities I love on the Sojourn. First of all, there was the spa. During one of our scenic cruising days, it was rainy, so I used that time to go have a fabulous spa day. They offer plenty of different treatments (I just stuck to a Swedish massage), from specialty massages to hair and nails. And, if you just want to relax, you can purchase a day pass to use a private relaxation room and sauna. Second, there were always daily activities onboard, from nature talks with specialists to nightly entertainment and live music. There is even a small casino, and they even hosted poker and blackjack tournaments there a few times.
It's hard to say what my favorite stops on the trip were. From the very first day it was spectacular. My first morning onboard, we sailed up to Holgate Glacier. It was raining, so we decided to enjoy the scenery from the hot tubs at the rear of the ship. In my opinion, there's no better way to enjoy a hot tub than in the rain, and we got to see a huge calving while we were there relaxing. So that started off the trip with a bang!
After that, some of our next stops included the Inian Islands (apparently the best chance to see puffins is on a zodiac excursion here), Icy Straight Point aka Hoonah, and Haines. We stayed onboard until we got to Hoonah, which is where we did our first excursion of the trip - a whale and bear watching combination tour. While the bears were a bit disappointing (we did see two, but they were from quite a great distance away), the whale watching was a bit more exciting - we saw a pod of about 10 orcas that we followed around for most of the time. That was the closest I had ever gotten to orcas in the wild, so it was pretty exciting for me. In Haines, we did a boat tour of the eagle preservation. The Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve is one of the best places to spot eagles in Alaska, with 400 resident eagles year-round and up to 3500 at their peak in autumn. That said, I found eagles to be like pigeons in Alaska - they were everywhere! In fact, I probably saw more eagles flying around than any other type of bird. So while I enjoyed the excursion and taking in the scenery of the preserve, I didn't find it to be too much more exciting than all of the eagles we were seeing on a daily basis anyways.
Juneau was definitely one of my favorite ports on the cruise. I easily could have spent several days there, if only because there were so many options of things to do. We ended up picking a helicopter tour to the dogsledding camp on Mendenhall Glacier. This was a real highlight for me, and not too badly priced all things considered. It was about a 15 minute scenic ride up, over the stunning views of Mendenhall Glacier, until we landed at the dogsledding camp. There, we got to go for a 20 minute or so ride around the glacier, meet some of the husky puppies, and then a short helicopter ride back down to Juneau. It was a fabulous experience, and my only critiques would be that I wish the helicopter ride was a bit longer and that not everyone gets a window seat on the helicopter. Overall though, A+ do recommend. And even if you don't want to do dogsledding, at least take a helicopter or seaplane flight to one of the other glaciers near Juneau, like Taku Glacier.
Our next destination was another favorite of mine, Tracy Arm Fjord. The cruise either does Tracy or Endicott Arm based on ice conditions in the water, and for this trip we did Tracy Arm. If there's one time to do a zodiac or kayak tour with the Ventures by Seabourn team on this cruise, this is the place. I actually did both. We started off in early afternoon by taking a zodiac out to South Sawyer Glacier. There's something magical about getting that close to a glacier from water level and watching it calve. Since it was a particularly hot week, South Sawyer was a minefield of icebergs, which made for an exciting zodiac ride and photography experience. We even found a small chunk of clear ice to take back with us to put in our drinks later. Right after our zodiac tour, we took a kayak out to North Sawyer Glacier. I'm not going to lie - this was the toughest kayaking I've personally done, but it was definitely worth it. We had to paddle hard against the glacial wind and current, but we were able to get so much closer to the icebergs and seals. We even paddled through a waterfall! And the cherry on top was right when we arrived, a huge iceberg calved off the glacier - the largest one I saw on the whole cruise. We were very lucky!
Sitka is a town known for its Russian heritage - meaning you can find a lot of Russian souvenirs in the gift shops! I spent this day taking a break from guided activities and decided to take a walk over to the Totem Park on the edge of town - a great place to see a collection of authentic Native totem poles scattered along a beautiful walk through the forest. Also, if you've ever seen the movie The Proposal, that takes place in Sitka!
In Wrangell, as we weren't able to secure a tour to see the Anan bears (they have limited permits and they sell out fast, so this is an excursion you need to book as soon as you can), we had a stroll though the town, checked out the local stores, and visited a local Tlingit house. If you're looking for something to do here besides the bears, you can book a jet boat tour out to the Sitkine River for another chance to get up close and personal with a glacier on the water.
I'm going to combine Ketchikan and the Misty Fjords, because together they were one of my favorite stops on the cruise. Ketchikan is really the gateway to the Misty Fjords, and also our last port stop in Alaska. From there, we took a scenic seaplane flight from town over the Misty Fjords and landed at a restaurant outside of Ketchikan for a dungeness crab feast. The flight was stunning and the crab was delicious, so overall I give this excursion an A+!
The next day, we sailed to the Misty Fjords. I remember waking up to an absolute stillness outside that was breathtaking. I stepped outside onto my balcony and the water was a perfect mirror, the only noise being the ship breaking waves. Even then, it barely disturbed the stillness. That day was full of excitement, from the bear we saw on shore from the ship to the kayaking through the serene scenery (and we also saw a mama bear and cub while kayaking!). This is another location where I would highly recommend booking a kayaking excursion with the Ventures by Seabourn team. I feel like the best way to spend your time in the Misty Fjords is by air via a seaplane flight and water level via kayaking.
The last few days of the cruise were spent stopping in ports in British Columbia as we sailed towards Vancouver, including Prince Rupert, Klemtu, and Alert Bay. In Prince Rupert, I ate lunch off the ship, checked out the local shopping (there are lots of locally made artist goods there), and strolled through the town. Prince Rupert is a pretty cute town to walk around in, and probably was my favorite of our B.C. port stops. In Klemtu everyone onboard had an included excursion to visit a Native lodge and see a traditional singing and dancing performance. Since these were our last few days onboard, I spent most of that time enjoying the onboard amenities and getting my last soaks in at the hot tub. Arriving in Vancouver came too soon!
Overall, I highly recommend sailing with Seabourn to Alaska if you are looking for a longer itinerary with less passengers and more luxury amenities. The Seabourn Sojourn made me feel right at home!