An Alaska cruise isn’t complete without taking a trip out to the harbor and viewing whales swimming along the coast. There is nothing more breathtaking than seeing these giant creatures in their natural habitat; complement that with an experienced tour guide, and you have the ultimate Alaska whale watching excursions experience. Whales travel in groups, and it’s not unusual to see dozens of orca and humpback whales during a whale watching tour.
Recently, I had a chance to take an Exclusive Whale Watching Cruise in Juneau, Alaska. After disembarking the cruise ship, we went out to Auke Bay, boarded a 16-passenger boat and headed out to the open waters in search of orca and humpback whales. Most whale watching boats allow you to go inside and out; if you prefer watching from the outside, you can. Doing so makes for better photography.
I’ll never forget the first time I experienced seeing a humpback whale in the wild. Actually, you can sometimes hear them before you see them because of their blowhole. These giant beast-like creatures slowly come up out of the water, shoot water out of their blowhole and submerge again. This is one of those excursions that have your adrenaline pumping the whole time, waiting to see the next whale resurface so you can take another photo.
The exciting part happens when the whale comes mostly out of the water. Our tour guide told us it’s not exactly known why the whales emerge from the water like they do, but scientists think it’s a way of communication to other pods (groups) of whales.
There are rules and regulations for viewing whales, so you have to take advantage of it while you can. The Marine Mammal Protection Act will only let so many boats near a pod of whales at any given time and does not allow boats to make any fast movements when a whale is in view. This gives you an excellent photo opportunity.
Alaska whale watching excursions boats typically can’t stay in one spot for more than 30 minutes. We were told it’s because the whales get stressed easily.
Overall, the whale-watching cruise was a great experience. The company picked us up right at the pier, delivered what was promised on the tour and had us back to the ship with over an hour of free time left to experience the shops in Juneau!
Cruise passengers of all ages can take part in this whale watching cruise. On my whale watching shore excursion, there were families with young children all the way up to multigenerational groups.
Alaska Whale Watching Tips:
- Bring something warm to wear. The weather in Alaska is very unpredictable and can get very chilly very fast
- Carry a backpack or a waterproof bag. Depending on the winds, mist can blow onto the boat
- You will be in a small boat so think about motion sickness patches or pills if you’re prone to seasickness
- Most importantly, bring your camera and a back-up battery. These giant mammals are unbelievable in size