Juneau Whale Watch Tour - Toursaver 2-fer
I'm trying to plan some excursions for our upcoming trip to Alaska During our port stop in Juneau, there is a "twofer" coupon for two business -
Alaska Whale Watching with whalewatchalaska.com (Cory Mann)
2 hour cruise (website says additional time for travel, so assume 2 hours on water) and
Whale Watching Cruise with akwhalewatching.com (Louis Juergens)
2.5 hour cruse (website says that cruise passengers should allow additional hour for travel time)
Prices are $119 and $159 respectively.
Has anyone been on either of these cruises, and if so, what are your thoughts about them. Numerous Tripadvisor reviews are from people posting one review - on the whale watch sites, so I'm not too sure about their validity....
The thing a bout that is that both cruises will take you to the same place - wherever the whales happen to be that day.
Whales feed in the Juneau area all the time, and there are a few tour companies that specialize in taking people out to see them. They all go to wherever the whales are that day, so you will essentially see the same thing no matter what.
It is a pretty long ride to Auki Bay where the whales feed - about 30 minutes each way, so I would do this....
There are other options as well. If that is the only tour you want to do that day I would try to spend more time on the water, if you see something special you will enjoy it. Optionally, the route to Auki Bay takes you past Mendenhall glacier, so if you can get a whale tour that also offers a stop there it is worth it - especially the bear watch area.
But - if you have plans for Juneau downtown or whatever, then take the shorter whale tour and get back sooner. I recommend you verify how much time they spend ON THE WATER - because as I said travel time is 30-minutes each way, so a "two hour tour" could mean only one hour on the water - don't assume anything.
Juneau Whale Watch
There are a lot of companies offering whale watching in Juneau. As in any port, if you book independently you have to check out your supplier.
Frankly I have never heard of either of those, but that doesn't mean anything much. The two most popular independents in Juneau, and the ones that usually get rave reviews on the message boards, are Orca Enterprises and Harv n Marv.
Now to be honest with you, bouncing over the waves in a small boat wearing a life jacket is not really my preferred way of doing things. I would much rather take the ship's excursions which are done by Allen Marine. They have large spacious boats especially designed for wildlife viewing, including "stealth" engines which are particularly quiet so as not to scare the animals.
As Paul says, all the boats are going the same place -- where the whales are. They have spotters out, and word goes on the marine radio to all the boats.
So my personal feeling is that I would rather be sitting comfortably on a bench watching the whales through large glass windows (which the crew cleans constantly) and listening to the on board naturalist. I can see those other boats, with passengers in life vests crowded on the deck. They certainly seem to be enjoying themselves and write rave reviews. It is just not for me. Which is your style?
The best pictures I have of the Allen Marine boats are from Sitka, but the ones in Juneau are substantially similar. Check out our trip report and pictures at Cruising HAL Volendam to Alaska
Whichever trip you choose, bear in mind that those spectacular pictures of whales bubble feeding and breaching are rare. The vast majority of the time you will see a spout, a back rolling above the water, and the flukes as the whale dives. The video on the site above represents our very best whale watching in eight cruises to Alaska.
There are a lot of those two-fer books for Alaska. My personal opinion is that excursions in Alaska are so important and wonderful that I want to choose the very best, not the cheapest.
Have a GREAT cruise!
Well, I've made reservation with akwhalewatching.com (Louis Juergens) using the twofer coupon. Mendy at Alaska Galore Tours was very helpful on the phone. When I stated we were also looking for Kayaking and ice trekking during our vacation, she emailed me with names of tour groups she recommended. If our excursion is as nice as she was, we are in for a great time! I'll let you know how it went after the cruise :)
FYI - excursion is for 2.5 hours on the water, travel time addtional (they do pick up and deliver back to ship, or would drop off at the kayaking spot if we were interested in it still!)
I have been in Alaska and have watched whales in Zodiacs (rubber pontoon boats) - and the weather was beautiful. Of course, that is not a guarantee.
I am just saying that if the weather is very cold you might appreciate the glassed in boats, but i have been in the open to watch whales and it was just fine. For pictures & just in general I prefer no glass.
There was a very well-known tour company Dolphin Tours which picks up cruisers right at the port area in a bus and shuttles them to Auki Bay. Just as convenient as a ship's tour and much cheaper. As far as I know they are still there.
Independent and ship's excursions -- both have merit
BUT -- independent just as convenient as ship's tours? Very seldom true.
First, the ship's tours have the great advantage of being thoroughly researched by the cruise line and chosen as the best of the best. There is no need to spend many hours on the internet researching to find a well recommended, reliable company.
Second, you can book all your ship's tours in a single place and put them on a single credit card charge. It is quick and simple.
Thirdly, there is a uniform and well stated refund policy for ship's tours. If for some reason the ship is delayed or misses a port. you are automatically protected. With independent companies you have to take on the responsibility of being sure that you clearly understand the cancellation policy.
Fourth, even if an independent company is allowed to meet passengers right at the dock (as they usually are in Alaska, but not in many other places) they may be further away from the ship or parked in inconvenient spots. You have to be sure you have clear contact information. With ship's tours, you have shore excursion personnel right at the end of the gangway checking your tickets and directing you to the right spot.
Fifth, the ship's tours return to that port week after week. They frequently have all the best tours, the best vehicles or vessels, the best admission times, and the best guides tied up. They are the most likely to pay due attention to the needs of handicapped passengers.
As I said, we like independent tours. Most often we choose an independent tour when there is something special we want to do, when the independent offers options or facilities the ship does not, or when mobility limitations need to be taken into account.
And sometimes we save a bit of money by doing that. In other instances the special things we want to do wind up costing more.
Bottom line recommendation from me: Consider the ship's tours first and if they do what you want to do, they are probably a good choice. Going with some other operator because you might save a few bucks can work out, or can create problems.
Here are a couple of Alaska trips showing how we mix ship's tours and independents:
Cruising HAL Volendam to Alaska
In the case of whale watching in Alaska, I still like the ship's excursions on Allen Marine's big comfortable boats.
Also, keep in mind for travel time, once you get to where the whale watching boats are, its another little boat ride out to where the whales are...I've only gone with Capt. Larry and also saw the boats that the cruiseline's use...It is much nicer on the smaller, less crowded boats than with 100 others, IMHO.
Hopefully, you will see some whales and get some goot shots..
Whale watch boats
IMAO, it is much more comfortable during that ride out to the whale sightings to be in a big comfortable enclosed boat, looking out the big glass windows, listening to the on board naturalist, visiting the snack bar, and oh, yes, using the flush toilets. Bouncing over the waves in a small boat is not my idea of comfortable.
We all see the same whales -- it really does not concern me whether 10 or 100 other people are looking at them with me.
Fortunately this is one of those instances when you can choose which you prefer. Enjoy your trip with Capt Larry. As I sail by on Allen Marine, I will feel sorry for you and you can feel sorry for me ;)
Hahaha! Ask 100 people for their opinion, and you will get...100 opinions :p
I really appreciate the view point of each of you. All have a valid point, and each point helps me form an "educated guess" as to what will work out for our family. I'll have to let you all know how it turns out for us - maybe I'll be able to help the next new cruiser after my cruise with a personal account with one more opinion :D
Thanks again - maybe I'll be seeing you in beautiful Alaska soon!!
I wish I had found this forum before we booked our tour and read what MercedMike wrote. We used the Living Social twofer coupon and one reason I did was it stated it as an independent tour by a Tlingit native.
1. No one met us at the dock like it stated on their website. Our phone didn't have service there and after waiting for about 15 minutes, we borrowed another tour guide's phone and called. He acted like he didn't know what was going on and wanted to check with his boss and call back. I explained we had borrowed the phone and it wouldn't be available for a call back. He said he would come in a cab, would be wearing a blue and black shirt and would pick us up.
2. After another 10 minutes or so, he showed up and took us over to the tram where he said he had to meet another couple. After about 10 minutes, he came back without the other couple and said we didn't have enough time to go on the tour and make it back to port. This was not true since it was about 7:45, the tour was 3 hours with traveling time and we didn't need to board until 12:30.
3. We were out our money for the certificate and no tour. After returning home, I looked on the website and the man who met us was Corey Mann, the owner of the company, so it wasn't some employee who messed up, it was the owner. Reading the raving reviews on Tripadvisor, most of them came from people already in Juneau. Makes one just a little suspicious about that. Too bad I didn't notice it when I read them before we left.
I have decided if I ever go on a cruise again, I will book through the ship. Although it might be more expensive, at least you get to go on the tour and have those memories instead of a memory of getting ripped off. Or at the very least, read about some of the independent tours people have taken and posted about here.
OMG, so sorry to hear about your tour and your loss of the expierence and the $....WE've used Capt. Larry a few times and never a problem, their office is right in town, walking distance from the pier....You can find them online, Orca Enterprise, inc.....
Are you planning another Alaska cruise in the future?
Independent vs. ship's excursions
Capt. Larry does indeed have an excellent reputation, although like any operator he has had a few complaints on the boards, too. Donna it is Orca Enterprises, not Orka, for those who want to Google it.
We are going on an Alaskan Cruise in September and spent a lot of time researching whale watching trips out of Juneau. Stories and Legends (Cory Mann) has a really bad rep for not showing up. Check Trip Advisor for those that have great reviews.
We chose Rum Runners with Captain Chris. I'll let you all know how it goes when we get back!!!
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