We are not big cruise ship people.....put us on a boat with 1,000 other people and we recoil. In addition, we dont travel to go to fancy restaurants or visit theme park like amenities. We travel to experience and learn about unique places. The Sea Bird and this itinerary beautifully met our goals. The ship is intimate...we easily got to know our fellow travelers as well as the Nat Geo naturalists and photographers, as we stood together on the deck watching and photographing the wildlife, and then mingling at happy hour and during meals. The crew (stewards, deck hands, bar tender etc) were also a wonderful part of the trip....they were as excited as we were to see this part of Alaska....and I loved that they were given the opportunity to do so. Many of the crew and staff told us that they love working on the Sea Bird and its sister ship, the Sea Lion, because of this intimacy. We all enjoyed the trip together. Be aware there is no elevator here...and you will be going up and down to the lounge and dining room, or to board zodiacs, several times a day. Also, the smaller size of the ship may mean that you will feel the rock and roll of rough seas more than in a larger ship.
The learning experiences from the naturalists and photograpers were exceptional. I think the ratio of staff to passengers was very high. There were wonderful presentations at the daily recap, or after dinner, as well as on hikes and while exploring on zodiacs. Many of the staff seemed to love this part of Alaska, and loved sharing their expertise. The photography focus was great. There was always someone to help, there were interesting photography talks, and the passenger slide show at the end was great fun.
The food was spectacular. We are vegan/vegetarian, and I was worried our dietary needs would not be met. Too often, "vegetarian" just means lots of cheese dishes. Not on the Sea Bird. There was always an alternative protein at dinner, and it was plated as beautifully and carefully as the meat or fish options. The lunch buffet carried an amazing array of fresh produce, as well as options like vegetarian chili, or a vegan soup. There was terrific fresh fruit everday at breakfast.. How they turned out this fresh, innovative fare in that crowded kitchen is beyond me.
We chose this itinerary to travel with friends who were very interested in Haida Gwai.....this is one of the very few ways to visit the island. I loved it that the small size of the ship allowed us to go where the big ships cannot. We hope to travel on this ship, or its sister ship, again.
The cabin was cosy and clean. Crystal kept it neat for us, and there was plenty of storage under the beds for our two huge suitcases, large rolling carry on, backpacks etc. We spent little time in the room (cabin 200) and it met our needs. I was worried about the bath/toilet cubicle being too small (we are large people) but it wasnt a problem once we got the hang of it. I loved having a room so close to the bow.....when the call came that whales had been spotted, all I had to do was step outside my door. I could pop back in to change to a longer lens on my camera, or grab my raincoat. The only downside was that the anchor chain ran up and down right next to our room.....noisy!