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Ace5614

Whale watching boat in Juneau

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Will be on a Holland cruise next summer and want to book a whale excursion. Have looked at Holland's and Alaska Shore Excursions. Open to others. We don't want a large boat and want to hear from anyone that has taken one and who you used. 

Is it better to book in advance or just walk off the ship and book something?

Any advise would be helpful.

 

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HAL has a small boat whale watching excursion (22 passengers) but you need to read some of the reviews to determine which one.  If there are other ships in port before you arrive, all of the private excursions could be filled.  Book online for the small boat that you want.  The one boat that I enjoyed was part of Southwest Alaska University science project retrieving a few experiments on the way to whale watching.

 

Small boats have few amenities, no hot food, tiny marine heads (bathrooms), hard benches, and more rolling while stopped to take photographs.  Larger boats have hot food, hot coffee, comfy cushions, large windows, amazing bathrooms, provided binoculars, and more outside viewing areas (many passengers never leave the warm interior seating), and less rolling while stopped.

 

The excursion boats all go to the same Auke Bay and swarm to the whales whenever one of the boat captains calls his fellow tour opertors so boat size means nothing to seeing whales.

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I would check reviews on TripAdvisor.  Some people on here recommended Jayleen's, which has real small boats (6 people).  I checked with her and she's closing up for the season the week before I get there (mid September) so I went with Harv and Marv (who also got great reviews).  

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The main disadvantage to a large boat is the number of passengers.  There is limited prime viewing space on a large boat and when the captain announces there's a whale on the port side, everyone will rush to that side.  If you are a woman five feet tall and you were on the starboard side when the sighting was announced you probably will have two or three passengers in front of you blocking the view on the port side.  Don't expect anyone to see a short person and make room for them...unless a tall person wants to use your head as a tripod.  Then they might let you up front.

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Oakman58 - This is the main reason I want a small boat. I have heard that the viewing is not great on a larger one. Don't really care about hot food....get enough of that on the ship. Only going to be on the boat about 2 hours. Just want to be able to view the whales as good as possible. The boat doesn't have to be for 8-10. I would like 25-50. Unless some of you think that's to big. Just don't want 100-150 people.

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We have gone with Jayleen's Alaska (good small independent boat company) several times with two more trips scheduled for May 2020.  Jayleen has received lots of good reviews on this thread and TripAdvisor so be sure to check them out if you are intersted.  Here is the link to her website"

https://jayleensalaska.com/

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4 hours ago, Crew News said:

HAL has a small boat whale watching excursion (22 passengers) but you need to read some of the reviews to determine which one.  If there are other ships in port before you arrive, all of the private excursions could be filled.  Book online for the small boat that you want.  The one boat that I enjoyed was part of Southwest Alaska University science project retrieving a few experiments on the way to whale watching.

 

Small boats have few amenities, no hot food, tiny marine heads (bathrooms), hard benches, and more rolling while stopped to take photographs.  Larger boats have hot food, hot coffee, comfy cushions, large windows, amazing bathrooms, provided binoculars, and more outside viewing areas (many passengers never leave the warm interior seating), and less rolling while stopped.

 

The excursion boats all go to the same Auke Bay and swarm to the whales whenever one of the boat captains calls his fellow tour opertors so boat size means nothing to seeing whales.

So how can you tell what size boat HAL uses for its whale watching excursion? I like the idea of 22 passengers (I guess that's considered small).

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1 hour ago, Kfrech said:

So how can you tell what size boat HAL uses for its whale watching excursion? I like the idea of 22 passengers (I guess that's considered small).

 

I reviewed the availalble whale watching excursions for my Alaska cruise next May and noted that two of them say "small group" in the title.  In addition the photography excursion with whale watching and Mendenhall Glacier are also small group (22).

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I recommend Alaska Humpback Adventures. Max of 6 people. A friend used them last year and had great things to say, easy to book, very accomodating. 

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I'll second the recommendation for Jayleen. She was very understanding and cancelled/refunded our planned excursion in May when the cruise ship arrived in port very late due to propulsion problems. We were able to cruise again in July, and that time the excursion with Jayleen went without a hitch. I highly recommend the small boat approach; not only is there no problem with fighting for viewing space, but it's also easy to have a real conversation with Jayleen and pick up her knowledge (of both whales and the area around Juneau), rather than straining to make out more of a canned talk over a PA system. Another big advantage of Jayleen is that her tour runs longer than most others, so you have about an hour of additional time on the water to watch and follow whales.

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This last May, we went with Harv & Marv's. Excellent 3+ hr trip. Very personal experience on their 6 passenger 28' custom Bolton whale watching boat. DW spent the entire excursion in the co-pilot seat for a warm great view. I spent the full time on the starboard viewing deck and took well over 150 photographs. One sequence was a very lucky 10 exposure burst in one second capturing an attack by an Orca on a Sea Lion trying to hide near a full grown Humpback. We were fortunate to have stunning weather but several of the passengers enjoyed the views from inside the cabin. We all had up close and personal conversations with Captain Graham who did a great job maneuvering the boat for good views. I highly recommend getting reservations early for a small boat experience.

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Smaller boats are more nimble so they can get closer within the regulations (300 feet, stay behind whales, don't approach whales). They can also coast in to get closer. That said all boats need to follow the same rules

 

https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/alaska/marine-life-viewing-guidelines/alaska-marine-mammal-viewing-guidelines-and-regulations#keep-your-distance

 

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On 11/25/2019 at 6:40 PM, Italy52 said:

We have gone with Jayleen's Alaska (good small independent boat company) several times with two more trips scheduled for May 2020.  Jayleen has received lots of good reviews on this thread and TripAdvisor so be sure to check them out if you are intersted.  Here is the link to her website"

https://jayleensalaska.com/

Italy52 - Do you know the size of their boats?

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7 minutes ago, Ace5614 said:

Italy52 - Do you know the size of their boats?

Both vessels take 6 passengers.  Click on her website link https://jayleensalaska.com/

for more information.  We have never had a problem with crowding on our trips.

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22 minutes ago, Italy52 said:

Both vessels take 6 passengers.  Click on her website link https://jayleensalaska.com/

for more information.  We have never had a problem with crowding on our trips.

Looks good but I can't find out what times the boats leave. We don't get into port until 1:00 PM.

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6 minutes ago, Ace5614 said:

Looks good but I can't find out what times the boats leave. We don't get into port until 1:00 PM.

Contact Jayleen directly with the name of your ship and what time you will be docking.  Jayleen will then advise you what times she has available.  When I book, I do exactly that and have never had a problem securing a reservation.   

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13 minutes ago, Ace5614 said:

Looks good but I can't find out what times the boats leave. We don't get into port until 1:00 PM.

 

Because they're such small boats, and a small operation overall, they don't have a fixed schedule. Instead, they work (within limits) with whoever books them first. Arriving at 1:00 is not a problem; that's when we were due to arrive in July, and Jayleen booked us for a 2:00 tour. As it turned out, during the cruise the ship warned us that we would be a little late in arriving, possibly not until 2:00; I contacted Jayleen and she shifted our tour to 2:30. Great customer service and flexibility!

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On 11/25/2019 at 2:54 PM, Crew News said:

 

 

Small boats have few amenities, no hot food, tiny marine heads (bathrooms), hard benches, and more rolling while stopped to take photographs.  Larger boats have hot food, hot coffee, comfy cushions, large windows, amazing bathrooms, provided binoculars, and more outside viewing areas (many passengers never leave the warm interior seating), and less rolling while stopped.

 

 

 

 

All of this is true. However, I would never ever ever (ever) take a large boat. We went on a small, 6 passenger boat, and all around us were these giant boats, with people standing at the railing 5 people deep to be able to see into the water. In our little boat, I didn't even have to move out of my seat, but if I wanted to, I could move to the little platform on the back of the boat to get a better view. We had snacks and a bathroom. If you need hot food on a 3 hour boat trip, you should have probably eaten a bigger breakfast. Pack your own binoculars and camera, bring your own coffee, and you're good to go.

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We ended up booking with Jayleen. Couldn't get the time we wanted (she already had one boat full and the other had 4 seats left but the two that had already booked wanted a later time.) She was very prompt with her return phone calls and emails and sounds very pleasant. Looking forward to meeting her and spending the afternoon and evening with her. Thanks to everyone that helped us make a decision.

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14 hours ago, Ace5614 said:

We ended up booking with Jayleen. Couldn't get the time we wanted (she already had one boat full and the other had 4 seats left but the two that had already booked wanted a later time.) She was very prompt with her return phone calls and emails and sounds very pleasant. Looking forward to meeting her and spending the afternoon and evening with her. Thanks to everyone that helped us make a decision.

Glad to hear it worked out for you with Jayleen.  We are looking forward to seeing her again for our two trips in May.

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