Take the Whale watching tour! Think about hoe large a cruise ship is - so you will be so far away for good views! We went with Orca Ent. and saw more whales than we could count along with eagles, stellar sea lions, etc.
From my research, everyone always recommends to take a whale watching tour.
Some good advice above, also from my research for our forthcoming trip. The legal minimum distance to approach these majestic animals is 100m (I think), and obviously the big ships cannot get close like the specialised whale watch boats can.
Also, from what I have read, there is almost a 100% chance of seeing humpbacks from Juneau operators, as they are all communicating with each other to keep tabs on the pods.
I have chosen to book with a small operator, carrying only about 6 passengers, for a personalised trip. Both Harv & marv trip and Alaskan Marine Adventures provide such trips.
There were some very disturbing shots on Australian TV tonight showing the activities of the current killing of whales in Antarctic waters for "scientific" research by another nation. These were filmed by Australian officials, not Greenpeace or the other protest group presently down there. Quite sickening.
Great advice above!
You could whales from your ship, especially if you spend hours and hours sitting looking out into the ocean. But the views will be only fleeting, a minute or two, as your ship will keep on going, and humpbacks seldom go anywhere near a moving ship.
The whale-watching tours, on the other hand, go out actively looking for whales. As was stated above, the captains keep in touch by radio so they know who has spotted whales, so all can enjoy. Not uncommon to see half a dozen or more boats in a large circle around two or more humpbacks.
And while the boat operators are not permitted to approach within 100 yards, the whales can go where they want to. I've had humpbacks come as close as 50 feet to my boat, and have seen them as close as 20 feet to another boat. And I've had orcas come right alongside the boat, so close we could have leaned over and touched them.
Not too likely to see orcas in Juneau, though, about 1 in 4 trips sees them. Better chance of seeing them in Seward on a Kenai Fjords tour, and a nearly 100% chance of seeing them on a whalewatchikng tour near Vancouver, where there are 3 resident pods.
Actually less than 25% of the whale watch trips see orcas. But I have poor odd with about 25 trips out of Juneau and only seeing orcas - once. :) It is rare. I spent 5 days last year on Vancouver Island and better than Victoria (whale watched here many times too) is the northern resident pods- went on 3 whale watches, which can go to Robson Bight. :)
Juneau trips are 100% humpbacks. As already stated, these tours are for close up extended viewing
I always see whales from a cruiseships- but you will always see me on tours. I spend most of my sailing time out on deck, I know likely whale areas, which most do not. It requires a great deal of time, in proper attire, out on a front deck. Forget balcony viewing with any seriousness- you've cut your sighting potential by over 50%. :) Necessary is a good pair of wide angle binoculars.
You just weren't in Juneau at the right times last season. ;-) There were weeks in July when it seemed like we were encountering orcas every day. A few boats averaged orca encounters on over 60% of trips in May, June and July out of Juneau. Those were, however, all extended trips, and not the 2-3 hour excursions. Orcas move fast, and prefer open ocean to our inside waters (unless the big schools of King salmon are moving in the area!) People need to remember that you need to cover some serious miles, tour in an area where there are resident pods, or get lucky.
@morris80: outside Glacier Bay, you'll be in some of the best humpback viewing territory around. Pt. Adolphus in Icy Strait is a major feeding and gathering area. If you've got the good binoculars, warm clothing, and a willingness to spend hours in the wind (and probably rain)... you'll be rewarded with some great views. If you don't have the time or patience for shipboard viewing, definitely go with an excursion out of Juneau or ISP (Hoonah).
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