A Massachusetts Whale Watch
This article is your ONE STOP MASSACHUSETTS WHALE WATCHING GUIDE!
Vacationers and visitors to Massachusetts often wish to take advantage of our access to the Atlantic and enjoy a scenic whale watch cruise. Who wouldn't? Beautiful breezes, shining sun, blue water and cooling ocean spray makes a whale watch in Massachusetts a memorable excursion for the whole family.
And you have choices. A variety of voyage-ready vessels are available from various ports along our coastline to assist in this aquatic adventure.
HERE ARE YOUR 10 OPTIONS (Starting from the furthest NORTH and moving to SOUTH):
- Newburyport Whale Watch - Newburyport, MA
- Yankee Fleet Whale Watching - Gloucester, MA
- Captain Bill & Sons - Gloucester, MA
- 7 Seas Whale Watch - Gloucester, MA
- Cape Ann Whale Watch - Gloucester, MA
- New England Aquarium Whale Watch - Boston, MA
- Boston Harbor Cruises - Boston, MA
- Captain John Whale Watch - Plymouth, MA
- Hyannis Whale Watch Cruises - Hyannis, MA
- Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch - Provincetown, MA
NOTE: To my knowledge, the above list is COMPREHENSIVE. If you are aware of another whale watch offered along the coast of Massachusetts, please mention it below and I will add it.
WHAT TO WEAR
There will be some differences of opinion here. I can't tell you exactly what YOU will be most comfortable in. However, I can give you some advice based upon my own experience:
Pants/Jeans or bulky shorts (with pockets for carrying things listed below in "stuff to bring") - Skirts and dresses may not be comfortable (think strong winds).
A light shirt or t-shirt - On a hot day, you may not want to have long-sleeves on. So, unless you are especially concerned to avoid sun exposure, I recommend not wearing anything too heavy or long. Below in "what to bring" on your whale watch I will advise bringing a hooded sweatshirt as well.
A hat (if you want to avoid sun exposure on your head) - But beware - a strong breeze may take it off your head.
Sunglasses - For me, this one is a high priority. It can be very bright out on the water.
Rubber soled shoes or sandals - The deck could get a little wet. But more importantly, be aware that the boat will rock and sway, so you will need something comfortable and suited to maintain your balance.
Sunscreen - I will also mention this in "what to bring" but since it is something you "put on" I will mention it here also. This is important, even if the day is somewhat overcast and cloudy.
- The Blue Whale is larger than any mammal that has ever lived (that we know of!). They can be as long as 110 feet and weigh up to 150 tons!
- Whales generally live from 20 to 40 years, but may live longer than 100 years and Bowhead Whales can live to be just over 200 years old.
- A baby whale is called a "calf" and can drink up to 100 gallons of milk per day from its mother
- Whales breathe air, but can hold their breath for an hour or more in some cases
- Commercial whaling (hunting whales for food or oil) has been banned by countries which are voluntary members of IWC (International Whaling Commission) since 1986. Other countries continue to allow whaling and set their own limits (e.g. Japan, Norway, Iceland).
WHAT TO BRING
Once you have decided on WHERE to go (use the above list to help) then you have to decide what to bring.
Most cruises will allow you to bring a little backpack or duffel bag with a few supplies.
So here are the things I recommend:
- A sweatshirt, hooded is preferable: Note, even on warm days it can be significantly colder out on the water. Having access to a warm hooded sweatshirt for your whale watch is a MUST. Tie this around your waist or bring it in a bag.
- Water: Most boats will allow you to bring water bottles on board. Yes, they sell drinks too. And if that is more convenient, then fine. But personally I find I get quite thirsty under the sun for 3.5 to 4 hours or more. I would bring 2 bottles of water per person at least. Alternatively, you can bring other beverages like sports drinks or soda.
- Snacks: Again, they usually allow carry on snacks if you would rather do this than buy food aboard. Snack bars, chips, crackers, cookies, sandwiches, etc.are all options and can conveniently be tucked into your backpack or duffel bag.
- Camera: Don't miss the opportunity to take some great photos. All the pictures in this article are from my own whale watching adventures.
- Money: You may want to buy food, souvenirs or other items for sale on the ship. Having some cash is helpful.
- Sunscreen: Bring along the sunscreen and apply again as necessary.
HOW LONG IS A WHALE WATCH?
3 - 4.5 HOURS:
A typical whale watch cruise will last from 3 to 4.5 hours. So, if you factor in travel time, early boarding (you can usually board 30 minutes before it starts), and maybe a little walk around the area or a local meal...a whale watch can easily be a whole-day adventure.
HOW TO BOOK YOUR CRUISE
Choosing a whale watch cruise will often be determined by your own location, so I am not going to spend any time trying to promote 1 particular vendor over another. They all have great success is sighting whales. They are all safe and experienced, staffed with friendly crew and similar amenities.
BOOK ONLINE IF POSSIBLE: Most of the above-mentioned cruise ships offer on-line booking for a discount. For example, Captain John's Whale Watch out of Plymouth, MA offers $4.00 off per person if you book online. They also have a coupon you can print if you are going to pay in person, but the coupon is still not as good as the online price. By booking online you save money and have a guaranteed spot at the time of your choice. After booking online you will be able to print off your boarding ticket, and thereby save the time involved waiting at the ticket booth on site.
WHEN BOOKING, THINK ABOUT A LOCAL MEAL:
Personally I like to pick a cruise that will end around supper time (6:00PM or so). This way we can walk off the ship and enjoy a good fresh seafood dinner at one of the local establishments. But whatever time you go, you may want to take advantage of trying out one of the local restaurants and enjoy some VERY FRESH seafood. Once you have picked your whale watch cruise, you can begin looking online for a place to eat.
TIP: If you are unfamiliar with the area, ask someone aboard the ship for advice on a local favorite restaurant. Sometimes the best places are the "lesser" known ones.
In Plymouth, MA - be sure to check out the Cabby Shack with a Clam Chowder that is SOOO good it was featured on the Food Network show "The Best Thing I Ever Ate!"
What will it cost to go on this whale watching adventure?
Well, if you have several hundred thousand dollars and know an experienced captain then you could buy a boat and go out looking for whales on your own.
However, most of us will need to purchase a ticket aboard one of the above-mentioned whale watching vessels.
Pricing, as you can imagine, tends to be somewhat similar across the board. In general, you can expect to pay approximately:
ADULT: $44.00 - $48.00 per ticket
SENIOR: $40.00 - $42.00 per ticket
CHILDREN: $28.00 - 35.00 per ticket
TIP: Who actually qualifies as "children" will vary from cruise to cruise. So if you have a lot of young ones coming, it may pay to check that out. Some will allow "children's" pricing up to the age of 16, while others stop at age 12.
PARKING: Don't forget to factor parking into your budget for the whale watch. Most places will have paid parking lots available. Free parking may also be available if you are willing to walk a little ways. Expect to pay around $10.00 to park.