Cruising Alaska – When Is the Best Time to See Whales?

Whale watching in Alaska - when is the best time to visit

Whale-watching is an experience that fills your mind with wondrous images and your heart with experiences not to be forgotten for a lifetime.

Cruising Alaska’s wild and picturesque frontier creates the same feelings. What better way to double the power of this experience than by doing so together?

In order to have this once in a lifetime adventure, timing is everything. Well, not everything, exactly.

Prior to your planning, you may want to consider what types of whales you are looking to catch glimpses of, where the best places in Alaska are to see them, can you catch an excursion from your ship, and what you need to make it as memorable as possible.

When Is The Best Time Of Year To Book An Alaskan Cruise To See Whales?

The answer here is not a simple one.  The technical answer for the best time to cruise and see the magnificent wildlife starts with their summer migration, beginning in the spring.

Planning your perfect Alaskan cruise would be best suited sometime between May and September. The timing for a cruise during these months also works perfectly for your wardrobe – this is the Alaskan spring/summer months, and the weather is just beautiful!

You likely have a favorite of these magnificent creatures that you would be most excited to see in the wild. There is more narrowing down that we can do to have a better chance of you catching that perfect shot of your beloved whale. 

Best Whale watching Alaska
Best Whale watching Alaska

I Want To See A Particular Whale Type. When Do I Go Then?

We all have a type of whale that is our favorite – much like our favorite breed of dog or cat. The best time to capture a closer look at our favorite mammals of the sea varies from species to species.

For example, a gray whale is best seen in April and May, whereas the smaller Minke whale can be seen between June and September. 

The Elusive Blue Whale

As the biggest animal on Earth, you might think that blue whales may be easier to spot than they actually are. These mammoth and gentle beauties prefer deeper waters and are hardly ever seen near the shoreline.

Blue whales aren’t commonly seen in Alaska unless it’s in July and August. Making sure your cruise is going as far north as possible will also help you see the elusive blue whale. They tend to make the northern part of the Gulf of Alaska their summer home.

The Charming Humpback Whale

A true fan favorite of the west coast of North America, these ridged sweethearts of the deep love to frolic in the Alaskan waters. After their migration to the Inside Passage of Alaska, they are most seen in June and July, showing off their cool behaviors.

Humpbacks are known for traveling the world over but do really enjoy the summer waters of Alaska. Here they may be seen vaulting out of the water in a graceful breech or bubble-net feeding, an activity they only do during their summer months.

You may even be fortunate enough to hear the song of a male, looking for his dream girl.

The Apex Predator – Orcas

One of the most common sea creatures to see from the surface in Alaska maybe the killer whale.

Interestingly enough, killer whale may be the wrong term for the orca as it’s in actuality the largest dolphin!

Unlike some of the other whales to be seen in the waters of Alaska, the orca loves to travel in pods and are highly social creatures. This makes them some of the most likely to spot, especially if you cruise to Resurrection Bay Alaska May to June, although it’s possible to catch sight of them through September.

Whale watching Orcas
Whale watching Orcas

What Are The Best Ways To See Them While Cruising?

Enjoying your cruise as its own valuable and wonderful experience is important. Following the timeframes that we have provided, along with the likeliest location, will help up your chance to see these beauties of the deep straight from your ship.

However, some breeds of whale aren’t as social, so may be better experienced on an excursion. Many cruise ship companies offer excursions directly through them and we encourage you to find out what your cruise may offer.

You may choose to contact travel companies within Alaska itself to find some great whale watching tour experts.

If I Go On An Excursion, What Should I Bring?

Although it’s summer during these peak whale watching times in Alaska, one might assume you still must bundle up for an excursion like whale watching. You may be a little off the mark here.

Alaska does get into the 80s quite frequently during its summer months, so lighter clothing would be acceptable.

As those sea breezes may get a little chilly, we would suggest you bring lightweight jackets or sweaters with you. Sunscreen is always a must!

Make sure to check whether your tour company provides food, and if not, whether you are allowed to bring some snacks of your own.

YOUR CAMERA! Bring the best equipment you can so you may capture the breathtaking beauty that a great whale watching excursion may bring.

Make sure your equipment can be transported securely, and that you bring extra batteries and storage – you will hopefully need them with all the gorgeous shots you are going to get!

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