Sightings Every Day

San Diego Whale Watching Season Starts December 13th

Purchase Tickets

Whale Press Releases

Amazing Whale Watching Sightings Reported On Hornblower Cruises

By Rebecca Milkey, Southern California Director of Marketing

Successful Sightings and Statistics from Hornblower Captains, Crew and Volunteer Whalers from San Diego Natural History Museum

Percentage of  Cruises that Hornblower successfully spotted  whales* this summer  Season : 99%

173 Blue Whales

9 Blue: Cow and Calf Pairs

29 Humpback Whales  and 3 Breaches (photographed*)

12 Fin Whales

7 Minke Whales

20,750 Common Dolphin

47 Risso Dolphins

13 Hammerhead Sharks

5 Mola Mola or Ocean Sunfish

5 Flying Fish

 1 Squid

3 Brown Booby, Blue-Footed Booby and 1 Masked Nazca Booby (rare)

*Hornblower guarantees that you see a whale, of any kind on seasonal whale cruises.

*Many more nonphotographed Humpback whale breaches.

Miscellaneous sightings on Whale Watching– Bottlenose Dolphins, Pacific White Sided Dolphins, Marlin, Sea turtle, school of Tuna, Elephant Seal, Cormorants, sea lions, Brown Boobies, sea lions, and seals

The San Diego whale watching scene is robust and exciting and each year it gets more fabulous as whale populations increase and variety of whales species show up. The nuances that have come with our climate change too have affected whale watching success and diversity.

Add up the experience of just four of our whale watching captains for 100 years of professional whale watching experience. Their passion for this cruise experience is exciting to watch. I read their Official Events reports and Customer Service surveys to see how much fun they have out there with our guests from all over the world.

Guests come from all over the world to visit San Diego. Hornblower  hosts over 250,000 customers a year on all their cruises with about 65,000 on whale watching each year. Europeans from Italy, England, Germany, Ireland and Spain have been aboard, Canadians. (see whale reports for lists of international visitors)

Our volunteer docents called “whalers”  from the San Diego Natural History Museum are dedicated professionals, setting our experience apart from other whale watching companies. Whalers dressed in yellow slickers cruise aboard each of the Hornblower whale watching cruise to interact with all our guests and show off reference materials, maps and even whale baleen to the families and children make the experience more educational and interesting.  Some of the whalers have been volunteering on Hornblower for 10 years with the museum. We are lucky to share their wisdom, time and experience.

Hornblower Respects Marine Life:

Hornblower have developed a  set of best practices for safe whale watching. We also have similar guidelines for operation near dolphin, and migratory birds. Our Captains are trained to operate properly with all of the different species we encounter, as they all behave differently.

Blue Whales are unique in that they often stay in one spot and sound for lengthy periods, usually coming up in the same area.  But since they are not on a steady and predictable course like the Gray Whales, the usual technique is to get in the area and sit still.  Often, they are curious, so if they do approach the boat, we make a point to stay out of gear until they are safely away. In all cases, we do not condone harassment of the whales, including chasing them or trying to get too close.  We will reinforce this policy with all of our Captains.

Hornblower Cruises just completed a pilot program with NOAA and National Marine Fisheries.  They selected our company  to help based upon our love and respect for the whales and the data that we could supply them. 

Thoughts on the Season From the Captain

Captain Chads passion for whales drove him to write a successful presentation to hce managers which eventually caused SD hce to start watching blue whales. Prior to this the only season we offered cruises was winter gray whale watching.

Captain Chad:  My impression is that it seemed as though the whales were a little closer to shore this year.  6 miles vs. 9 miles last year.  The quantity of whales was a little higher this year, plus we seem to have seen more humpbacks.  There is no way to confirm this, but it also seems like when we go out we see the same whales each day, but like I said there is no way to confirm.

Comparing Blue Whale Watching  to Gray whales is hard to do because they are two differnt styles of whale watch.  Gray whales are quite literally “migrating” south or north, so we are able to position the boat behind the whale and pretty much match its course and speed to get good views.  During Blue Whale Watching, all you can do is position the boat near the spot the whale took its deep dive and hope it pops up next to the boat.  Fortunately, it seems like the whales are unaffected by our boat and do pop up fairly closely.  Weather is definitely warmer during blues and it seems on average the seas are calm.  I like the extra half hour needed to go out and explore and see what else is in the area (Dolphins, sharks, etc)

The Adventure Hornblower is the perfect ship for whale watching. I wouldn’t want to do whales on any other boat.

I love the whalers from the San Diego Natural History Museum.  Some of the volunteers really go out of their way to make the experience memorable for the guests.  I provide the guest with a lot of info at the very beginning as we are leaving the bay.  After I give the info, I go out to the wing station and drive from there.  I let everyone know they can ask me anything when I’m out there as well as ask the whalers.  It’s interactive and enjoyable for everyone. I’m glad we are Blue Whale watching in summer and it that is successful.  I feel like I have a vested interest in this and I really want it to succeed.

Captain Chads passion for whales drove him to present a successful report to Hornblower managers which eventually caused  the company to add summer blue whale watching as an annual cruise product.

A note from the blogger: I have lived in San Diego since 1985 and worked in the charter boat industry since 1987, which gives me  almost 30 years experience on the water.  The last 20 has been with Hornblower whose goal is to create amazing experiences for our guests. I’m proud to say I monitor our customer service surveys and we achieve our  goals! There’s a great deal to brag about when it comes to our cruise products and things to do on the waterfront. My favorite thing to do is whale watching. I go whale watching whenever I can yes, even on my personal vacations. I’ve had the good fortune to enjoy whale watching in New Zealand, Puerta Vallarta, Oahu and Maui, Hawaii and San Diego many times. Yep, I’m hooked on whales , dolphins and sea lions! I started a whale blog and Hornblower’s Whale Report about 5 years ago.

For more information about Hornblower Cruises visit

For more information about whale watching in San Diego, read the whale watching blog at

Blue Whale Watching Season Begins With Daily Cruises on Hornblower in San Diego

(San Diego, CA – June 23, 2015) — Hornblower Cruises & Events’ San Diego port is launching their seasonal Blue Whale Watching Adventures cruises on Sat., June 27th

Departing from the convenient location Downtown, San Diego, on the Embarcadero at 970 North Harbor Drive, daily tours start boarding at 8:45 a.m. for the 9:00 a.m. – 1:00

p.m. daily excursion. Price is $75. per person ($40 for children 4-12), with the addition of tax, service charge and landing fee.

For a limited time, Hornblower Cruises & Events is featuring a “Splash Sale,” which is priced at $99 for two people. 

This specialty cruise is designed for those that love whales, dolphins, sea lions and sea birds. After boarding, guests will speed out to sea on one of the

fleet’s comfortable yachts and pass barking sea lions and pods of leaping dolphins in search of the legendary blue whales. During the four-hour tour, passengers will be treated to a live narration by an experienced

captain and an on-board naturalist (from the San Diego Natural History Museum). The accommodations are designed so that guests can enjoy both the outdoor and indoor environments along with the amenities of a

snack bar, featuring hot food, a full bar and souvenirs.

o For general interest information and the Captain’s Log of Marine Life Sightings, check out:

o To book this excursion or for more information, please visit:

# # #

Hornblower Cruises & Events has been the leading charter yacht and public dining cruise operator headquartered in California for 35 years. The company operates over 70 vessels, including the three

largest dining yachts on the West Coast and has ports in San Francisco, Berkeley, Sacramento, Long Beach, Newport Beach, Marina del Rey, San Diego and New York City. Two Hornblower subsidiary

businesses, Alcatraz Cruises and Statue Cruises, are National Park Service ferry concessioners to  Alcatraz Island, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. In 2014, Hornblower Cruises & Events began

operating the third subsidiary, Hornblower Niagara Cruises, out of Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. For more information visit: or


Starting December 14th, Whale Watching Tours Depart Twice Daily From Downtown San Diego

San Diego, California (Dec. 13, 2014) – Starting December 14th, Hornblower Cruises & Events will once again offer San Diego visitors and residents the epic experience of getting up close and personal with some of the most magnificent creatures on earth – guaranteed.  For nearly 25 years, Hornblower’s Captains have introduced thousands of passengers to the wonder and excitement of whale watching.  There is no better, safer and drier way to witness the whale migration as thousands of grays, finbacks and humpbacks migrate off the coast.  As Hornblower’s yacht heads out to the Pacific, passengers will also enjoy 360-views of the San Diego skyline, as well as sightings of sea lions, dolphins and sea birds.  Throw in the fresh salty air and the feeling of freedom that comes with gliding across the ocean — and passengers will make memories to last a lifetime.

Highlights include:

Interaction with Trained Docents from theNat (San Diego Natural History Museum): To make Hornblower’s cruise truly educational, volunteer naturalists from theNat provide ongoing commentary for spotting spouts, flukes, and massive whale tails, as well as information about whale behaviors.

A Comfortable (and Dry) Experience:  Unlike traditional small boat whale watching trips (where foul weather gear is a   necessary accessory), Hornblower provides the ability to view these beautiful creatures from large yachts, which provide unparalleled stability through the ocean waves. With top-level outdoor sundecks rising 30 ft. above the water and climate-controlled indoor levels, Hornblower yachts ensure optimal comfort and panoramic views for everyone.

Whale Sighting Guarantee:  If a whale is not sighted during a cruise, passengers will receive a pass good for a choice to return for another Whale Watching Cruise or a tour of the harbor instead.  Hornblower guarantees that every passenger will experience the exhilaration of seeing a whale break the surface of the water for the first time.

Food Service and Full Bar:  Passengers can purchase delicious snacks and lunch, complimented by a full bar service.

Reservations are now being accepted:

Times:  With two 3½hour cruises offered daily starting at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., everyone can find the perfect day for their adventure. Cruises leave from the San Diego Navy Pier at 970 N. Harbor Drive.

Tickets:  Weekend (Saturday and Sunday) costs are $44 for adults, $22 for children ages 4 to 12 and $42 for seniors and the military.  Weekday costs are $39 for adults, $19.50 for children ages 4 to 12 and $37 for seniors and the military.  Tax, service charge and landing fees are additional.  Children under 3 are free.  Discounts for groups of 20 or more and Hornblower Whale Club Card season passes are also available.  For more information and to make reservations, please visit or call 800-ON-THE-BAY

.San Diego Whale Watching Infographic

# # #

Hornblower Cruises & Events has been the leading charter yacht and public dining cruise operator headquartered in California for over 32 years. The company operates over 70 vessels, including the three largest dining yachts on the West Coast, and has ports in San Francisco, Berkeley, Sacramento, Long Beach, Newport Beach, Marina del Rey, San Diego, and New York City. Two Hornblower subsidiary businesses, Alcatraz Cruises and Statue Cruises, are National Park Service ferry concessioners to Alcatraz Island and the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, respectively. In 2014, Hornblower began operating the third subsidiary, Hornblower Niagara Cruises, out of Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. For more information visit:





Hornblower to Launch New Blue Whale Watching Cruises this Summer!

Blue Whale Watching Adventures to begin on July 5, 2014
Catalina Londono_blue whale

For the first time ever, Hornblower Cruises & Events will embark on Blue Whale Watching Adventure Cruises this summer.  In the last five years, the blue whale migration has grown in San Diego, with over a thousand whales being spotted in a single previous season. Passengers can now experience of the wonder of watching the largest mammal on earth as it migrates through the waters off the San Diego coast.

Hornblower Cruises & Events is offering a 4-hour Blue Whale Watching Adventure, with an opportunity to spot whales, sea lions, and dolphins, as well as all the sights of San Diego Bay.  Included in the adventure is live narration on marine life by Hornblower’s experienced captains and volunteer naturalists from the San Diego Natural History Museum (theNat).  Snack bars on board feature hot food, a full bar and souvenirs.

Hornblower Cruises’ experienced captains and crew know the best places to find whales and the tours head directly to the prime viewing areas off of San Diego’s coast.  Blue whales migrate along the California coast from July through early September.  They are often accompanied by the second largest whale, the finback.  The size of the two whales makes for some great whale watching experiences.  Also spotted is the California favorite, the humpback whale.  Passengers will see massive whale tails, along with the whales feeding on huge quantities of krill.

Cruise Details & How to Buy Tickets: For reservations call 619-686-8715 or visit the website,

Hornblower Cruises & Events’ Blue Whale Watching Adventure will sail every Saturday and Sunday from July 5 to August 31.  Passengers will board at 8:45am and sail from 9:00am to 1:00pm. Reservations are now open and tickets cost $75 for adults, $40 for children ages 4 to 12 and $73 for seniors.  Children under four are free.  Groups of 20 or more can arrange outings at a discount.  To follow whale watching season and to purchase tickets, visit the San Diego Whale Report at


Hornblower Cruises & Events has been the leading charter yacht and public dining cruise company for over 32 years.  The company has operates 32 vessels in San Francisco, Berkeley, Sacramento, Long Beach, Newport Beach, Marina Del Rey, San Diego and New York City.  In addition, Hornblower San Diego offers seasonal Whale and Dolphin Watching Adventures and year round Harbor Cruises.  For more information visit,