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Whale watching....a little nervous about being on a small boat

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We are sailing HAL Koningsdam mid June. We've booked an aft facing balcony thanks to some great insight from kind folks on these boards. I'm considering a whale watching excursion in Juneau, but am fearful of small boats/seasickness. Can anyone share their experiences with me? I've read great reviews about small boats (6-8 people), and not so great reviews about being on larger boats (100 people). How much will we actually be able to see from our aft facing balcony with a great pair of binoculars?

 

HAL also offers a small boat excursion (22 passengers). Will a slighter bigger boat make much of a difference? I'd hate to miss such an opportunity, but remain uncertain.

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We whale watch in Hawaii in 25-30 pax rigid hulled inflatables every Spring. It is an awesome way to see the whales as close as is legal. I can tell you whales have very bad breath.

 

Whether or not you get sea sick depends on you, and we have no way to tell how you will handle it. I have never gotten sea sick on one, and DW takes half of a mecilizine, and enjoys the heck out of the trip. In smaller boats, the seas control everything...the size of the boat matters very little between 8 pax, 20 pax or 30 pax. Yes, over 100, the vessel is much larger.

 

What you see from your aft balcony is not predictable...it is whatever happens to be there at the time. Taking an excursion, on the other hand is better because the vendors know where the whales are, communicate this info amongst themselves, and all the vendors head for those spots. You have a FAR better chance of seeing whales on an excursion than from the ship. 

 

 

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If you’re prone to seasickness why risk it with a small boat?

 

Of numerous whale watch trips we’ve only had one that was bad. It was with Jayleen with 8 passengers and the water was pretty rough. Several got sick and we transferred to a larger boat as it was difficult to make it back to the dock safely.  They canceled the next trip after ours.

 

We didn’t get close to the whales as we were being tossed around and had to keep our distance from the other boats. The larger boats had better viewing.

 

We will continue to go out on the smaller boats although there is a risk.  You will hear from many that will say don’t worry about it as they had great trips. You don’t usually hear from the folks who had a miserable time. They just don’t come back in here to post but it happens.

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Thanks very much. I hate to risk it....but also hate to miss it.

 

Is a larger boat (100 passengers operated directly through the cruise line) worth it?

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"Worth it" is something only you can decide. Again, from our Hawaii whale watch experience, no, a larger vessel is not worth it.

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We booked late last season and went on the larger boat as that was the only thing available. It was worth it for us. I can't imagine not going out because I only wanted a smaller boat. Any boat will give you a much superior chance at sightings than from the cruise ship.

 

Allen Marine operates the larger boats that are booked through the cruise lines. They have a very good operation and have been in the business for a long time.  You can check TripAdvisor for reviews of each of the vendors. Here is one thread for Allen Marine.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g31020-d1783381-Reviews-Allen_Marine_Tours-Juneau_Alaska.html

 

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I have been on smaller and larger boats for whale watching.   I didn't notice any significant difference in seeing the whales as far as the size of the boat.  Besides motion, the sun/elements bothered me in a small boat and this isn't an issue with larger boat that has inside enclosure. 

 

I wouldn't count on seeing whales from your ship if I were you. 

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Not nearly as nervous as the whale, with 100,000 tonnes of deafening steel careening towards it.

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We took the large boat (Allen Marine) thru Princess on our first cruise to Alaska 15 years ago and loved it. We saw many humpback whales, saw them bubble feeding and got to hear them “sing” through the aqua microphone. Amazing. We were also lucky to see Orca’s. We liked the larger boat because we were able to walk around and spent time both inside and out watching the whales. We did not have any problem with sea sickness. We’re going back to Alaska next summer and just booked the same excursion.

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Used to take a small (20') boat away from the ship in Glacier Bay every week and we had the same boat out in Juneau multiple times. No motion issues.

 

Have handled numerous zodiacs in good seaways and provided they have sufficient horsepower to get up on the plane the ride is reasonably comfortable. However, it is definitely different movement to that experienced on the ship.

 

The perspective of whale watching & glaciers is totally different on a small boat and in my experience, is vastly superior from being on the ship. Sign up for the tour and if concerned about motion take remedies that work for you. 

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We did the small boat tour on the HAL Oosterdam last year. The provider was Gastineau Guiding and there were 20 of us on the boat. I didn't notice anything untoward in the way of motion. We got close to whales and enjoyed the time on the water. It was a gorgeous day which helped immensely. The crew was wonderful, very knowledgeable and knew where to go to see the whales. I would have liked to have seen more but that could be said any time. We were in the same area as the larger vessels and we had great views. One advantage of the smaller boat is the totally unobstructed views. When we got to a viewing area the windows were opened up and we had nothing obstructing our views including the heads of our fellow passengers. 


Karen

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We have done both - large boat and small.  Our first excursion was on a larger boat in Juneau and we loved it - saw bubble net feeding and lots of whales - we thought we had had the experience of a life time UNTIL we went on the small boat.  The experience was very different - you just feel so much closer in the small boats.  My husband gets terribly seasick - in fact I often joke that he gets sick on the wharf whilst buying the ticket 🙂 - but he was fine on both boats.  I guess we had so many whales around us that he was so focused on everything going on that he didn't have time to think about the seasickness!!  And we also had relatively calm days for all of the whale watching excursions we have been on but we would not go back to the larger tours - small boats for us!!  You will LOVE it - we are heading back again in 2020 and have already booked 2 small boat whale excursions - can't wait!!

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Could someone use a zoom lens on a dslr, or is the contact with the whales to close? 200MM length.

 

Brian

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