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Whale watching on Alaskan cruises


Bgarr
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We saw orcas returning to Vancouver through the Inside Passage a few years ago.  Other than that, it’s always been humpbacks.

 

The place we saw the most whales, both orcas and humpbacks, was Seward in the Kenai Fjord.

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Posted (edited)

We saw Orcas while leaving Seattle (fairly common) and in Tracy Arm Fjord (uncommon). The best option for humpbacks is a tour from Juneau or Icy Strait Point. For Orcas, take a tour from Seattle, Vancouver or Seward (depending on your itinerary) before or after your cruise.

Edited by JT1962
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On 7/16/2022 at 5:35 AM, Bgarr said:

Hi

just wondering if anyone has seen Orcas whilst on the ship? Or is it better do do a whale watching shore tour.?

 

Our last Alaska cruise while in Ketchikan a shop owner told us that Orcas were in the river adjacent to the downtown area a week before. Also a pod passed by our OV window somewhere in the Inside Passage. My answer would be, you might see them anywhere.

Edited by skrufy
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If orcas are a priority, hands-down your best probability is a tour down here in Vancouver if on a typical one-way cruise, or out of Victoria or Seattle area if you're doing an RT (assuming the port time allows it in Vic!)

 

We have very reliable sightings of the resident orca pods - while they do travel fast and far, most companies across the season (April-October) average 90%+ orca sightings. Choose a fast boat - zodiac if you like an open, spray-in-your-face, exciting experience or one of the enclosed jetboats to maximise the chance of reaching the nearest pod on any given trip (all companies share info, so everybody knows where the are, the question is can the boat you are in get to that location and back within the tour duration?)

 

If you have enough pre/post cruise time such that a 'free trip if you see no whales' guarantee is worthwhile for you, you can keep repeating trips with all the local providers in Vic/Van - but do note that orcas are not guaranteed although they are the 'bread and butter' cetacean of the local operators, so if you see a humpie or gray then you'd need to pay for additional tours.

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3 hours ago, nini said:

We saw resident Orcas when on a whale watching shore excursion in Juneau.

I have no doubt you did - but the Southern Alaskan Residents, while a large population of two full clans, coers a significantly larger area than our local Southern Resident group, so the odds of a sighting out of any AK port in their territory is not as high as down here. I believe the in-between population, Northern Residents, have the highest sighting % of all but that requires a visit to seriously out-of-the-way places like Telegraph Cove on Vancouver Island which doesn't fit conveniently with a cruise, except in the sense of 'get on deck during any daylight hours available if your ship is using the BC inside passage' - but sightings from a cruise ship under way don't last long, still definitely better to take a small boat tour.

 

If memory serves there's a surge in Transient orcas as well as AK Residents near Seward (salmon hatchery runs, young seals, lots of food for all!) in May/early June, so companies run Orca-focused tours for about a month from early May, but outside of that period sightings drop a lot. The much-missed BudgetQueen used to spent almost the entire season in AK and took more whalewatching trips in every port offering them then anyone else I've ever come across - IIRC she used to say she'd see orca maybe 1 in 10 to 1 in 5 trips out of Juneau/ISP, and the sheer volume of them she had under her belt means I trusted her opinion frankly more than I do my own!

 

Not that I'm slamming a Juneau whale watch - but since OP specifically flagged Orca as what they're interested in, their chances are greatly increased down here as well as significantly cheaper (AK tours look to be running from US$150 to almost $200pp this season - down here it's CAD$140-180 for adult fares so with the exchange rate almost 30% less).

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23 minutes ago, martincath said:

I have no doubt you did - but the Southern Alaskan Residents, while a large population of two full clans, coers a significantly larger area than our local Southern Resident group, so the odds of a sighting out of any AK port in their territory is not as high as down here. I believe the in-between population, Northern Residents, have the highest sighting % of all but that requires a visit to seriously out-of-the-way places like Telegraph Cove on Vancouver Island which doesn't fit conveniently with a cruise, except in the sense of 'get on deck during any daylight hours available if your ship is using the BC inside passage' - but sightings from a cruise ship under way don't last long, still definitely better to take a small boat tour.

 

If memory serves there's a surge in Transient orcas as well as AK Residents near Seward (salmon hatchery runs, young seals, lots of food for all!) in May/early June, so companies run Orca-focused tours for about a month from early May, but outside of that period sightings drop a lot. The much-missed BudgetQueen used to spent almost the entire season in AK and took more whalewatching trips in every port offering them then anyone else I've ever come across - IIRC she used to say she'd see orca maybe 1 in 10 to 1 in 5 trips out of Juneau/ISP, and the sheer volume of them she had under her belt means I trusted her opinion frankly more than I do my own!

 

Not that I'm slamming a Juneau whale watch - but since OP specifically flagged Orca as what they're interested in, their chances are greatly increased down here as well as significantly cheaper (AK tours look to be running from US$150 to almost $200pp this season - down here it's CAD$140-180 for adult fares so with the exchange rate almost 30% less).

All I did was answer the question of the OP.

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2 minutes ago, nini said:

All I did was answer the question of the OP.

Sorry, I thought you were replying to my post #6! I think I'm too late to edit now, and the info is still relevant as a comparison of Orca-focused options, so I won't ask mods to kill it.

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4 hours ago, martincath said:

Sorry, I thought you were replying to my post #6! I think I'm too late to edit now, and the info is still relevant as a comparison of Orca-focused options, so I won't ask mods to kill it.

No problem. Your information was very informative.

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On 7/16/2022 at 5:35 AM, Bgarr said:

Hi

just wondering if anyone has seen Orcas whilst on the ship? Or is it better do do a whale watching shore tour.?

 

 

On 7/18/2022 at 8:10 PM, nini said:

No problem. Your information was very informative.

We saw orcas on a whale watching tour out of Juneau. It was last year with Harv & Marv. They will pick you up at the cruise pier & deliver you back when done. We’ve used them several times -book online or call.

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