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San Diego Whale Watching Season Off to a Great Start

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Whale Watching Review on Touts Typical Great Experience

great blow from Gray whaleI had to report this great review from Mel C, from Las Vegas, NV from 2/9/14

This review is for their Whale & Dolphin Watching Adventure, not for the awesome dinner cruise.  Thought that I get that out first since the Hornblower is known for their spectacular 3 hour dinner cruises that circle around Coronado. I’ve been to one of those dinners on a previous birthday and I agree with the rest, 5 Stars for the experience.

As for the Whale & Dolphin Watching Adventure, they guarantee whale sightings.  I’ve done this whale sighting tour before and if you don’t see a single whale, you receive what they call a “Whale Check”, which is their form of a rain check.  We just finished the tour this afternoon and Yes, I finally got to see some whales. It started off slow, but after about an hour, I got to see the tail end of a whale’s tail end.  That’s it?  It was for a good 30 minutes, then we found more and even with their babies.  By the end of our tour, we got to experience multiple whale sightings.

What to expect on your tour:
-Whales, of course
-Dolphins and a ton of them.  They’ll put on a show and race side by side with your yacht.
-Sea Lions
-Navy Ships
-Historic Landmarks
-Views of our beautiful city of San Diego
-Views of Mexico’s city of Tijuana
-3 hours on the water
-Wind and Cold:  Come bundled if you’re outside
-Great staff, including the Captain who narrates the tour.
-San Diego’s Natural History Museum Naturalists was also on our tour.  They were available to educate all of us about the whales, why they’re here, what breed they are, etc.  On the way back to port, they give little presentation as well.

I had a great time with my daughter, nephew, and god daughter.  I’m sure that they had a great time too. Keep in mind that this tour is not Sea World.  The whales do not come out and perform at scheduled times. The whales don’t do somersaults.  This is whale watching in their natural habitat, which means you may have to wait and keep looking just to spot one.  Pretty cool to see these beautiful mammals in their own environment. I highly recommend this tour while you’re in San Diego.

Thanks Mel C! We welcome your comments and reviews about the experiences you have aboard Hornblower Cruises and all the products we offer including Whale Watching cruises, Nightly dinner Cruises, Sunday Champagne Brunch, Daily Narrated harbor tours and Sights & Sips Cocktail Cruises! Http://

best female gray tail

San Diego Whale Watching Report For January 30th-February 2nd 2014


Morning Cruise

Afternoon Cruise



11 adult gray whales, 20 pacific white sided dolphins

8 gray whales, including a Mother/ Calf pair

AM: Amazing 1st trip today with 3 different pods of whales, All whales were involved in some sort of mating activity! 2 gray whales from 2 different pods, breaching and spy hopping for a total of 6 breaches, 2 spy hops and a total of 15 gray whales in morning. Captain Rich did an amazing job getting us to all the good stuff!

PM: In the afternoon tour, about 8 total whales, 1 breach, more mating behavior and a mom with her new born calf.


Cancelled due to high seas

3 gray whales

We saw 3 gray whales, one breached 5 times!


4 gray whales

7 gray whales

AM: Followed 2 adult gray whales that were surface snorkeling in a straight and steady course for the Coronado’s. Visible just below the surface, only a few fluking, no deep dives. Definitely on a mission. They didn’t appear bothered by our presence, nor by a sailboat which they passed by quite closely. One whale lifted its head out of the water twice as it swam, apparently looking around as it neared the above sailboat.

PM: When returning and nearing the buoy, a juvenile suddenly and unexpectedly breached at 7 PM behind us. It was lovely weather, most people were outside and everyone shrieked with surprise. The juvenile, appearing gray/black, breached five times in a row, then continued on its way. Super!


18 gray whales

3 gray whales, 3 bottlenose dolphin, 20 common dolphin

AM: 18 southbound whales exhibiting “juvenile” behavior – zigzagging.  There were guests on board from China, Turkey, Mexico, France, Minnesota, Arkansas, Texas and San Diego.  Captain Chad did a great job of taking us to the whales – and, yes, the morning cruise staff believe the whale saw its shadow (Groundhog Day!)

PM: We saw 3 southbound whales. The first whale breached 3 times which was very exciting for our guests to see (and the Whalers too, of course).  We also saw 3 bottlenose dolphins in the bay as we were going out and again as we were coming back in. There were 20 common dolphins out at sea that came to play around the boat.  We had great weather with fairly calm seas and a brisk wind.  Everyone had a good time.  We had a lively group at our presentation who were very interested in the bio facts and had lots of good questions.


5 gray whales

11 gray whales

AM: We saw 4 adult gray whales and one juvenile. It was a beautiful morning out on the water.

PM: We saw 7 adult gray whales and one juvenile. Out of the 7 adults we saw 5 of them were grouped together, with lots of flukes. And we also saw 3 gray whales blowing in the distance.


15 adult gray whales, 1 juvenile

10 gray whales

AM: We had 14 gray whales, plus a baby gray whale

PM: We had 10 gray whales, 3 breaches very close to us. Gave our guests a thrill!


5 gray whales

7 gray whales

AM: We were greeted by a gray whale just outside the harbor at the San Diego Buoy. We stayed with the whale for several rounds of blows and then headed north to find a group of 4 gray whales. We were treated to several flukes.

PM: Captain Nick did a great job of looking for whales. He was able to locate a pair that we stayed with for some time. All of the whales were headed south.

Baby Gray Whale in San Diego Bay and Gray Whale Migration Route

(Video link courtesy of CBS 8 News and reporter Marcella Lee from Jan. 27,2014) A very small and young gray whale has been stuck in the San Diego Bay since January 26th, and according to CBS News 8,  Hornblower Captains and SDNHM Whalers’ daily sightings, the calf is still in San Diego Bay. With the knowledge that a gray whale calf usually nurses for about 7 months, and stays with their mother for up to 9 months, there is definitely a growing concern about the fate of the whale. Everyone hopes this gray whale calf, who is only about 2 weeks old, will find his way back to the migration path.

During the Fall Migration, the pregnant female gray whales take the lead on the southern migration, in a hurry to reach the warm birthing and nursery lagoons. Soon to follow are the males and other adult females. Juveniles, of course join this incredible journey, but some often don’t ever reach Mexico before turning around and heading back north.

Eventually the Northward (Spring) Migration occur. This is usually from January – June. During this migration route, the adult male gray whales and juveniles are the first to head north. The newly pregnant female gray whales, mothers and babies stay in the lagoons a month or two longer than the others so that the babies can gain blubber and strength before making the long journey back north to Alaska.

San Diego Whale Watching Report for January 24 – January 29


Morning Cruise

Afternoon Cruise



3 gray whales

3 gray whales, 1 gray whale calf

AM: 3 gray whales, all adults

PM: Several people asked about the stray gray whale calf that had been seen in the Bay. At the very end of the cruise, when we were already headed for the dock, Captain Bill got a radio message that the calf had been spotted off North Island. He turned around, and we did see the calf, which looked really small. No blow, just sticking its head out a few times, and showing its back.

That was exciting, but many people were concerned whether someone would “rescue” and feed the calf.


7 gray whales, 20 common dolphin, 6 pacific white sided dolphin

7 gray whales, 1 bottlenose dolphin

AM: We followed 3 very active gray whales for some time.  They were slapping, spy hopping, and breached twice!  Also saw 2 rolling around, possibly courtship.  Pacific white-sided dolphins in amongst the whales. Several breaches this morning!

PM: Followed a pod of 5-6 traveling together, heading south – fluking and spouting in sequence.  Saw one rolling at the surface. Awesome!


2 gray whales

3 gray whales

AM: We followed 2 gray whales for most of the trip. A lot of head splashing, fluking, and spy hopping.

PM: We had the opportunity to see 1 gray whale breach up close, which all the guest got to see. Amazing trip!


5 gray whales, 200 common dolphin, 2 pacific white sided dolphin, sea lions

Single gray whale

AM: Hazy weather, calm seas. We saw 2 adult gray whales going south. Flukes and snorkeling. 200 common dolphin and 2 pacific white sides were seen. Occasional sea lions and one swimming with a grey whale. Good passenger patronage.

PM: 3 separate gray whale sightings, all heading south–2 juvenile, 1 adult. Snorkeling, one fluke. Lots of boating activity and a low flying hydroplane making the whales cautious. One reported sighting of a juvenile in the bay as we were heading toward the dock.


11 gray whales

4 gray whales, some pacific bottlenose dolphin

AM: Another fabulous day out on the water, with warm, sunny weather and calm seas. We saw a total of 11 gray whales, including one group of four. Unfortunately we didn’t find any dolphins but everyone had a great time watching our wonderful grays.

PM: The excellent viewing conditions continued into the afternoon. A couple of Pacific bottlenose dolphins escorted us almost to the mouth of the bay, bow-riding on the pressure wave created by the boat’s forward motion. Once we got out on the open ocean, we quickly spotted a group of three adult gray whales traveling together and we spent a considerable amount of time observing them. Turning back to the north, we found a single juvenile gray moving slowly south and watched it for a bit before turning back toward home after another wonderful day out on the water.


3 gray whales

10 gray whales

AM: Sea was in good form. We saw 2 juvenile gray whales going south and one adult gray whale. We followed them for about 40 minutes.

PM: Followed 2 adult gray whales for about 30 minutes that were seen right away at buoy number 1. Soon after, 2 more adult gray whales appeared. Moved about a mile and found two more. Then moved two miles and found a pod of 4 gray whales. Great show and very close!

(2 were really large female whales, one male and one juvenile)

On the way in we saw about two or three whales in the distance that gave us a show of 10 breaches.  Great finale.

San Diego Whale Watching Report: More Newborn Gray Whale Calf Sightings


Photo by Ken Shelby, SDNHM Whaler of Mom and Baby whale tail

baby Whale from Keith Jones

Photo by Keith Jones of Baby Gray Whale Calf

San Diego Whale Watching continues to be successful each day with reports of sightings of tons of whales and dolphins on Hornblower Cruise right off the coast of San Diego. The most exciting reports come directly from the Captains, like Captain Nick Kriesel who has been leading whale watching cruises for years on Hornblower Cruises. Many of his regular crew members say that Captain Nick has excellent “whale karma” since on a majority of his trips he sights spectacular gray whale behaviors. These whale behaviors include breaching and mating.

Here’s Captain Nick’s whale watching report from yesterday 1/22/14:

The a.m. Whale Watching trip on Adventure Hornblower,  we saw three ( 3) gray whales one of them being a newborn gray whale calf, no more than 2-3 days old.  We saw 60 white sided dolphins and common dolphins. It was a great trip.

The afternoon Whale Watching trip on Adventure Hornblower,  we saw seven (7) gray whales, a group of 4 swimming very fast in a south direction at 8 knots! Another great showing!

More info on Gray Whales:

Gray whale breeding occurs mostly in the winter to early spring while near the surface and in warm waters. The gestation period is about 13.5 months and the calf is born head first (unusual for cetaceans) and near the surface of the warm, shallow waters. The newborn instinctively swims to the surface within 10 seconds for its first breath; it is helped by its mother, using her flippers. Within 30 minutes of its birth the baby whale can swim. The newborn calf is about 15 feet long and weighs about 1-1.5 ton. Twins are extremely rare (about 1% of births); there is almost always one calf. The baby is nurtured with its mother’s fatty milk (53% fat) and is weaned in about 7-8 months. The mother and calf may stay together for about a year. Calves drink 50-80 pounds of milk each day. Gray whales reach maturity at 8 years. Growth stops at age 40 years old. Mature females give birth every other year in the warm lagoons off Baja, Mexico.

Gray whales have a life expectancy of 50-60 years.