With Seabourn's first-ever expedition vessel, Seabourn Venture, debuting in 2021, the luxury line has been developing active excursion experiences that break the mold of a typical Seabourn tour and appeal to an adventurous audience.
Seabourn is mum on the details of the new ship, but it has been trialing the small-group excursions -- found generally on itineraries sailing Alaska, Iceland and Norway -- on other vessels.
We're live onboard Seabourn Sojourn in Alaska to test out some of the current Ventures offerings. Here are five key things we learned about Ventures by Seabourn excursions.
1. The groups are smaller.
Part of Ventures by Seabourn's commitment to exclusivity involves keeping tour groups small. On our Rainbow Falls hike up Mt. Dewey in Wrangell, there were just 10 passengers, plus four guides (two from the onboard Ventures staff and two from a local tour company).
Not only were the numbers kept small for safety reasons, but it also meant we spent more time learning about nature than waiting for members of a larger group to catch up. Additionally, the high staff-to-cruiser ratio allowed hikers more one-on-one time to ask questions.
Similarly, a catamaran excursion we took to Dawes Glacier in Endicott Arm promised that the vessel, although designed for 150 passengers, wouldn't exceed 75 percent of that capacity in order to provide more space for people to move around and view the glacier.
2. The guides go above and beyond.
Ventures guides, who sail with the ship as members of the onboard Ventures staff, accompany all Ventures by Seabourn excursions, but their work isn't limited to just shore tours. Guides also present onboard lectures about topics -- think John Muir, the Alaska gold rush and the life cycle of salmon -- that are relevant to the area where the ship is sailing and which tangentially relate to each excursion.
Beyond their informative talks, they also offer optional pre-excursion tutorials, such as the one on safety and technique that was given the evening prior to our kayaking adventure.
On that excursion, 16 passengers maneuvered around the Misty Fjords' Rudyerd Bay, spotting seals as two guides gave insight about the local flora and fauna. Unprompted, the guides also snapped photos of us in front of stunning waterfalls with their personal phones and later found ways to get the pictures to each of us -- a nice touch, particularly given how difficult it was for us to take our own photos mid-paddle.
3. The prices are relatively affordable.
As with many things that offer an exclusive element, smaller groups and all-around higher quality, Ventures by Seabourn excursions don't come cheap -- but most won't break the bank, either. We were pleasantly surprised to see that the prices on our sailing started at $99 per person for a 4.5-hour Mendenhall Glacier hike.
Although the costs are higher than what you'd generally see for standard shore excursions – a bear viewing and photography experience in Wrangell goes for $699 per person -- most of the Ventures tours fall somewhere in the $200-300 range, per person.
Given that excursions in Alaska are almost always on the pricey side regardless of cruise line, they aren't unreasonable. This is largely due to the fact that many Ventures excursions utilize Zodiacs and kayaks, which are stored onboard, eliminating the need (and, subsequently, the cost) for the line to rent them from a middleman.
(For context, the most expensive excursion Seabourn offered on our sailing -- $899 per person for a bear viewing and floatplane experience in Ketchikan -- wasn't a Ventures tour.)
4. The physical demands can be high.
While it's not true of all of Seabourn's Ventures excursions, many of the tour options require passengers to be in decent physical shape. For example, cruisers with bad hips and knees will want to stay away from hours-long hikes, and kayaking excursions are best avoided by those with back or shoulder issues.
The shore excursion booklet available online and provided in each cabin does a great job of explaining what is required for each tour. We strongly advise reading the advice given before booking any Ventures excursion and then heeding it on the day of your tour.
5. The experiences are friendly and unpretentious.
As is the general nature of expedition cruising, Ventures by Seabourn excursions are unpretentious. The tours involve a lot of movement, and everyone's attention is on the fascinating animals and stunningly gorgeous surroundings, so passengers tend to leave their jewelry, makeup and fancy clothing and footwear onboard.
Additionally, it's easy to bond with fellow passengers when you've shared an experience as awe-inspiring as, say, climbing a mountain or successfully transferring from a Zodiac to a kayak while in view of a glacier.
Above all, Ventures by Seabourn excursions create ways for passengers to take an active role in exploring the beautiful and often out-of-the-way places Seabourn visits. And from what we’ve seen, we’re even more excited for what Seabourn Venture will bring.