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7 Whale Watching Tips plus Monterey Bay Whale Watching Cruise

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When visiting Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey Bay, we visited all of the whale watching tours and saw that everyone was having great visuals of whales out in the Bay. After discussing it with our family, we decided that for Easter, we were going to wake up early and board the Princess Monterey Whale Watching tour for their 9 am tour. Jump down the page to read the tips!

Front of Princess Cruises in Monterey California

Princess Cruises Monterey Whale Watching is at the end of Fisherman’s Wharf and is a brightly colored building with a super cute sign.

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Dress in Layers

Since we were not prepared for a whale watching tour, our original plan was to go to Pinnacles National Park; we got to the boardwalk extremely early to purchase sweatshirts. Lucky for us, there were sales, and we bought three zippered fleeces that were about $15. At first, we thought that we could go without the extra warmth, but it is so windy and cool on the water you want to make sure you dress in layers.

Princess Monterey Whale Watching Cruises

Princess Monterey Whale Watching Cruises ask that you get to their building 45 minutes before your tour. Arriving early gives you time to purchase tickets, sign in to the coast guard book, and get in line for the safety briefing. I ran ahead before Mom and Ally (letting them buy our super cool fleeces), and I bought our tickets.

At first, I was going to be cheap and not get the seats up top, but after remembering some of my past whale watching trips, I never got a chance to go to the top of the ship and wanted to hang out up there. Tickets for the upper deck cost $65 per person while the lower deck is $45 per person. The boat was not sold out, but we were able to move comfortably from a covered, heated portion of the deck to the open aired area. We also got a $3 off coupon since we were staying locally at the Hofsas House.

One thing I liked about this tour company, is that they noticed we had a wheelchair and allowed us to stash it on land so no one would take it. Also, they let the three of us board first since it takes us extra time to go downstairs (and back up the stairs).

Fisherman's Wharf at Monterey Bay

All the boats hanging out in Fisherman’s Wharf.

Wildlife Photography

I was prepared with my long lens to take as many photos as I could of whales, Seabirds, Sea Lions, Seals and more. Our tour was on April 1, 2018, which was right at the end of the Gray Whale Migration (December – April) and beginning of the Blue and Humpback Whales (April – November). There is a possibility of seeing dolphins and porpoises year round in Monterey Bay. If you do not see a whale or dolphin, Princess Monterey Whale Watching Cruises will offer a rain check for a future trip.

Sea lions sitting on the rock.

The last thing you see when leaving the bay, are these sealions.

What We Saw

Out of my three whale watching trips, I would say that this one was the most successful. Right out of the Bay we saw the sea lions and seals resting on the seawall. My favorite thing is to hear all of the seals and sea lions barking at you as your sail on by. These guys have such great character that I could have photographed them all day, but alas, we had some whales to find.

Sea lion barking at the princes cruise.

Sea Lion barking at the boat as we pass by.

Whale Spotting

Our first whale spotting was just a few minutes into the trip. We saw a whale break the surface to eat and quickly go back down. In fact, he popped up so quickly, most of us just saw him at the corner of our eye. Shortly afterward, we followed a humpback whale for a while and hung out with him.

The next humpback whale we saw because we could see its blow in the distance. After tracking him down, the company only gets within 300 feet of a whale, we stayed with him for a quite a while, in fact, this humpback even got a friend with him, so we were tracking two whales at one time.

We saw a couple of more whales at a distance but they were moving too quickly and were too far from us to track.

We broke away from the pair of whales, to find more whales. Unfortunately, there was a 45-minute lull, where most of the cabin fell asleep. Finally, after a while, I saw the naturalist pointing in the distance to the captain, and he darted towards the shoreline, after traveling, we got close to a gray whale where we got to see a tail flip!

A Whale Blow hole in Monterey Bay

One of the Whales blowholes.

Whate Tale Flip

A whale tale flip for the end of the day.

Seal hanging out

Cute Seal hanging out on our way back to the dock.

Tips for whale watching

If you want to go, whale watching follow these tips to have the best experience.

  1. Take Anti-Nausea Medicinewe like to use Bonine for cruises and other water activities.
  2. Dress in layers – it’s going to be chilly on the water, but if you start to feel sick, you will want to take your layers off. I suggest wearing a fleece jacket that is easy to take off.
  3. Eat and bring snacks – Eat a small breakfast if you have a queasy stomach and bring a bland snack to munch on (or cash to buy something at the snack bar).
  4. Check for whale sightings – chances are if the whales are active the company will post it on their facebook or twitter.
  5. Use the bathroom before getting on the boat – the bathrooms on boats are fine, but it is hard to go to the bathroom in the open sea! Do yourself a favor and use the restroom before getting on the boat.
  6. Ask questions – many times there is a naturalist on board pointing out the whales and other wildlife on board, make sure to ask questions when they come around.
  7. Relax – no two whale tours are the same. Sometimes you will get lucky and see a whale jumping, while at other times you will see a whale sleeping (which is super rare!)
Naturalist on board of the Princess Whale Watching Cruise

Always keep your eye on the naturalist! They are going to see the whales before you do.


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