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When Is The Best Time To Take An Alaskan Cruise To See Whales


by Lotte Biddle



Alaska is truly a breathtaking destination, offering majestic landscapes, pristine wilderness, and incredible wildlife encounters. One of the most sought-after experiences for tourists visiting Alaska is whale watching. The sight of these magnificent creatures breaching the surface of the water leaves travelers in awe.


Embarking on an Alaskan cruise not only allows you to explore the stunning fjords and glaciers but also provides an excellent opportunity to witness the beauty of whales in their natural habitat. However, to maximize your chances of encountering these gentle giants, it is essential to time your cruise correctly and understand the factors that affect whale sightings.


In this article, we will delve into the best time to take an Alaskan cruise to see whales, highlighting the peak whale season, the best months for sightings, and sharing some valuable tips to enhance your whale watching experience. Get ready to embark on a journey of wonder and discovery as we explore the captivating world of Alaskan whale watching.


Factors that Affect Whale Sightings

While Alaska is known as a prime whale watching destination, it’s important to understand that whale sightings are influenced by various factors. These factors can affect the frequency and visibility of whales during your cruise. Here are some key elements to consider:

  1. Time of Year: The time of year plays a significant role in whale sightings. Whales migrate to Alaska during the summer months to feed on the abundant food sources. Therefore, the chances of spotting these majestic creatures are highest during certain months.
  2. Location: The specific location of your cruise route will also impact your likelihood of encountering whales. Some areas, such as the Inside Passage, are known to be hotspots for whale activity due to the presence of rich feeding grounds.
  3. Weather Conditions: Unfavorable weather conditions, such as fog, heavy rain, or rough seas, can hinder whale sightings. It’s advisable to check the weather forecast before your cruise and consider rescheduling if severe weather is predicted.
  4. Time of Day: Whales are generally more active during certain times of the day. Early morning and late afternoon tend to offer better opportunities for sightings as the sunlight enhances visibility and whales may be more active during these times.
  5. Migration Patterns: Understanding the migratory patterns of different whale species can give you insight into their presence in specific areas of Alaska at different times of the year. By researching the migration patterns of humpback, orca, or gray whales, you can plan your cruise accordingly to increase your chances of seeing them.
  6. Natural Cycle: Like any wildlife, whales have their own natural behaviors and feeding patterns. While sightings are common, it’s essential to remember that they are wild animals and may not always be visible. Patience and a little bit of luck are also necessary factors in encountering whales during your cruise.

By considering these factors and choosing the right time and location for your Alaskan cruise, you can significantly increase your chances of witnessing these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.


Peak Whale Season in Alaska

Alaska’s peak whale season is primarily during the summer months, spanning from May to September. During this time, the waters of Alaska become a feeding ground for various species of whales, attracting them in large numbers. This is due to the abundance of food sources, such as krill and small fish, that thrive in the nutrient-rich waters.


One of the most iconic whale species found in Alaska is the humpback whale. These majestic creatures migrate from Hawaii to Alaska during the summer to feed, mate, and give birth. Humpback whales are well known for their acrobatic displays, including breaching, tail slapping, and lunging out of the water, making for a mesmerizing spectacle.


Another common whale species encountered in Alaska is the orca, commonly known as the killer whale. These highly intelligent and social creatures can be seen traveling in pods, hunting and foraging for food. The Inside Passage, a popular route for Alaskan cruises, is a prime location for spotting orcas.


Gray whales are also frequently seen in the coastal waters of Alaska during their migration from Baja California to the Arctic. These gentle giants are known for their long migrations and can often be seen close to the shorelines, making them easier to spot during an Alaskan cruise.


It’s important to note that while the peak whale season is during the summer, sightings are not guaranteed. Whales are wild animals, and their behavior can be influenced by various factors, including weather conditions and availability of food. However, the summer months offer the best opportunities for witnessing these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.


Whether you’re on a large cruise ship, a small expedition vessel, or even sea kayaking, Alaska provides you with a unique opportunity to witness the beauty of whales up close and personal. Keep reading to discover the best months to plan your Alaskan cruise for an unforgettable whale watching experience.


Best Months for Whale Watching

While the peak whale season in Alaska spans from May to September, there are certain months that offer optimal conditions for whale watching. Understanding the best months for sightings can help you plan your Alaskan cruise for the greatest chances of encountering these magnificent creatures. Here are the key months to consider:

  • May: May marks the beginning of whale season in Alaska. As the waters start to warm up, humpback whales start their migration from Hawaii to Alaska’s nutrient-rich waters. This month offers a great opportunity to catch the early arrivals as they feed and prepare for the breeding season.
  • June: June is a prime month for whale watching in Alaska. The waters are bustling with activity as humpback whales continue to arrive in larger numbers. Orcas and gray whales are also commonly spotted during this time. The long daylight hours in June provide ample time to explore and witness these incredible creatures.
  • July: July is considered the peak month for whale sightings in Alaska. The waters are teeming with humpback whales, feeding voraciously to pack on enough blubber for their winter migration. This is also an ideal time to spot orcas, as they travel in search of salmon runs in coastal areas.
  • August: August is another excellent month for whale watching in Alaska. Humpback whales continue to feed and engage in impressive displays, captivating onlookers. The chances of spotting orcas and gray whales are still high, offering a diverse range of whale species to observe.
  • September: September marks the end of the peak whale season in Alaska. While whale numbers may start to decline as some individuals begin their migration back to warmer waters, there are still opportunities to witness their behavior. The added bonus in September is the stunning autumn foliage that provides a breathtaking backdrop for whale sightings.

It’s important to note that while the months highlighted above are considered the best for whale watching, sightings can never be guaranteed. Whales are wild animals, and their behavior can be influenced by various factors. However, by choosing to cruise during these months, you maximize your chances of witnessing these incredible creatures in all their glory.


Now that you have an understanding of the best months for whale watching in Alaska, let’s explore some essential tips to make the most of your whale watching experience during an Alaskan cruise.


Whale Watching Tips during an Alaskan Cruise

Whale watching during an Alaskan cruise is an extraordinary experience that you’ll want to make the most of. Here are some valuable tips to enhance your whale watching adventure:

  1. Bring binoculars: Binoculars are essential for spotting whales in the distance. They allow you to observe their behavior more closely and appreciate their magnificent presence.
  2. Listen to the naturalist: Many Alaskan cruises have onboard naturalists who provide expert commentary and insights about the whales and their behaviors. Listen to their guidance and take advantage of their wealth of knowledge.
  3. Keep your camera ready: Whales can appear and disappear quickly, so make sure your camera is easily accessible and set to capture fast-moving subjects. Be prepared to snap amazing shots when the opportunity presents itself.
  4. Be patient: Whale sightings can require patience. Keep your eyes peeled and stay alert, as whales may surface unexpectedly. Enjoy the journey and embrace the anticipation of a potential encounter.
  5. Observe from the deck: If weather conditions permit, spending time on the open decks of the cruise ship will give you a better vantage point for spotting whales. Take advantage of any observation decks or outdoor areas specifically designated for whale watching.
  6. Respect their space: It’s important to maintain a respectful distance from the whales and not disturb their natural behavior. Follow any guidelines provided by the cruise staff to ensure both your safety and the welfare of the whales.
  7. Stay quiet and lower your voice: Whales are highly sensitive to sound, so it’s crucial to minimize noise and chatter while observing them. Keep conversations to a minimum, allowing for a tranquil and peaceful experience.
  8. Educate yourself: Learn about the different whale species you may encounter during your Alaskan cruise. Research their behaviors, migration patterns, and distinctive characteristics. This knowledge will deepen your appreciation for these incredible creatures.
  9. Enjoy the surroundings: While whale watching is the main focus, take the time to appreciate the stunning landscapes and breathtaking scenery around you. Alaska is known for its awe-inspiring natural beauty, so soak it all in while keeping an eye out for whales.

By following these tips, you’ll be well-prepared to make the most of your whale watching opportunities during your Alaskan cruise.



An Alaskan cruise offers an unparalleled opportunity to witness the awe-inspiring beauty of whales in their natural habitat. By understanding the factors that affect whale sightings, knowing the peak whale season, and following essential tips, you can enhance your whale watching experience and make lasting memories.


Remember that while the peak whale season in Alaska spans from May to September, there are specific months, such as June and July, where the chances of seeing these majestic creatures are at their highest. However, nature is unpredictable, and sightings can never be guaranteed. Patience, a sense of adventure, and a love for the unknown are essential ingredients for a successful whale watching experience.


As you embark on your Alaskan cruise, be sure to bring along binoculars, listen to the guidance of the onboard naturalist, and keep your camera ready for those magical moments. Respect the whales’ space, maintain a peaceful atmosphere, and immerse yourself in the breathtaking landscapes that surround you.


Whether you spot humpback whales breaching, orcas swimming in pods, or gray whales gracefully migrating, witnessing these incredible creatures in their natural habitat is sure to leave you in awe.


So, plan your Alaskan cruise wisely, embrace the best months for whale watching, and savor every moment as you embark on a journey to encounter these magnificent giants of the sea. It’s a voyage filled with wonder, beauty, and a deep appreciation for the natural world.


Prepare to be captivated by the majesty of Alaska’s whales and create lifelong memories that will leave you longing to return to this remarkable destination.