Find Out the Best Place to See Orcas During a Cruise
Did you know the best place to see Orcas can be from a cruise ship? That’s right – not only can you see orca whales right from the cruise ship on certain destinations, many itineraries take you to destinations that are known for orca sightings off its shores. We offer a number of shore excursions in those destinations with reputable providers who will take you on a sightseeing boat out into the open water to find these beautiful creatures.
Transient vs. Resident Orcas
One thing to know is that on the west coast there are two different types of orcas: transient orcas and resident orcas.
Transient orcas typically travel in small groups of only two to six. They’re often found in the waters around the west coast of Canada and the U.S. hunting for seals, sea lions, porpoises, and even gray whales since their diet consists of mammals. Transient orcas move up and own the west coast searching for food and turn up in various parts of the ocean at different times of year.
Resident orcas, on the other hand, often live in pods that operate as family units and feast on salmon. Pods are known to have multiple generations of the same orca line all traveling together as they hunt around the region they call home, which for some Orca pods is the Puget Sound and the waters between Vancouver Island and Southeast Alaska.
This means that if you’re looking for the best place to see orcas, your safest bet to see one in the wild is to go where resident orcas are known to hang out, which just so happen to be close to numerous ports of call on an Alaska cruise.
So where exactly are some of these best places to see orcas during a cruise? We’ve compiled a detailed list for you so you can pick the perfect whale watching itinerary. Read on to learn more about the locations orcas frequently are found.
The Puget Sound: Best Place to See Orcas in the PNW
If your cruise starts and ends in Seattle, you’re in a great location to explore the Puget Sound area and hopefully see an orca.
Seattle is close to the San Juan Islands, which are known for being one of the best places in the world to consistently see orcas in the wild. For a truly fantastic orca vacation, make plans to get to Seattle several days before your cruise (or stay for a few days after) and visit the San Juan Islands to do some whale watching. It’s about a 90-minute drive from Seattle to Anacortes, where it’s a short ferry ride across the sound to Friday Harbor, the main commercial center for the San Juan Islands. Many whale watching outfitters leave from Friday Harbor on daily excursions.
You can also embark on whale watching tours from downtown Seattle, but your best bet for seeing orcas is among the San Juan Islands.
British Columbia: The Canadian Gateway to Orca Experiences
Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and is located on the southern end of Vancouver Island. It is a great gateway to orca whale watching adventures since it provides easy access to the Salish Sea, where orca pods are known to frequent. Transient orcas often travel to the Salish Sea to hunt as well.
Victoria even has orca sculptures and topiary you may spot around the city, showcasing just how special the orca is to this region.
From Victoria, you can go on whale watching shore excursions that take you out to sea for a few hours with knowledgeable crew who know just where to look for orcas if they’re nearby and can answer any questions you have about them.
Across the Salish sea from Vancouver Island is the city of Vancouver, another British Columbia city that has whale watching expeditions into the Salish Sea. Vancouver is a common embarkation port for Alaska cruises and is a great place to add on a whale watching adventure before or after your cruise.
Seward: See Alaska’s Resident Orca Pods
Cruises that travel north beyond southeast Alaska from the Pacific Northwest typically end in Seward, Alaska. Before you head to the airport to catch your flight we offer shore excursions that pick you up from the ship on your final day and take you to Kenai Fjords National Park where you can board a boat for a whale watching expedition.
Orca pods reside in the nearby Resurrection Bay and can sometimes be seen by visitors to Kenai Fjords National Park. After your whale watching adventure is done, your shore excursion concludes with a transfer to Anchorage International Airport where you’ll collect your luggage and board your flight home.
Best Place to See Orcas: Your Private Veranda Stateroom
The best place to see orcas may even be from your cruise ship and a great way to increase your chances of seeing them from the ship is to stay in a veranda stateroom. Plus, seeing an orca from your very own piece of outdoor space is a peaceful way to spot one that will make you feel like it’s just you and the orca sharing a moment on the wide open ocean.
Keep an especially close eye out for orcas when sailing Alaska’s Inside Passage, which is a common route on our Alaska itineraries.
Best Way to See Orcas? With Managed Expectations – Remember, They’re Wild Animals!
Keep in mind, orcas are wild animals (hence wanting to see them in the wild!) and orca sightings can never be completely guaranteed; whale sightings may be, but the orca can be an elusive creature. Still, embarking on one of these shore excursions or keeping an eye out from your veranda stateroom is usually your best bet for ways to see orcas in their natural habitat.
To increase your chances, time your cruise to be in Resurrection Bay between mid-May to early-June or the Puget Sound and Salish Sea area anytime between June and September (which conveniently is right around the length of the Alaska cruise season!).
You can search for an Alaska cruise sailing with the perfect itinerary to increase your chances of orcas with our easy-to-use cruise planning platform; book your veranda stateroom and then get ready to search the waters for those magnificent orcas.