Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Our Dana Wharf Whale Watching Cruise Review and Giveaway

We live in beautiful Southern California. Our backyard is the desert and our front yard is the ocean. Maybe since my husband and I didn't grow up here, we haven't been out in the ocean a whole lot and are just now starting to explore all it has to offer with our three year old son. This weekend, we were invited on a whale watching cruise by Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching and I was so excited because it was something that I had always wanted to do!

What do you see on a whale watching cruise?

Dana Wharf Whale Watching has been operating since 1971 and was the first whale watching cruise in Orange County, so these guys are experts in the industry. They see over 1000 Gray whales migrating in the winter, 90 foot Blue whales are more common in summer, and whales, dolphins, sea lions, birds, and even sharks are seen year round in the waters among the beautiful scenic backdrops of the ocean and shores. They operate both larger boat trips as well as smaller Catamarin cruises for 2-2.5 hour trips daily with adults and childrens' pricing on each. Sightings of marine life is guaranteed or you will be given your ticket back for a cruise at a later date.

Will whales be jumping out of the water for us like this??? This is one of Dana Wharf's photos, so we will see....

We booked a Whale Watching Adventure Cruise that departed on Saturday morning at 10am and were advised to check in at 9:15 am. We were on time and the line grew very long behind us, so I would highly recommend sticking to this timing to get a good spot in line. After checking in, you will be lining up for the boat. We got on a really great looking boat called the "Dana Pride".

Being one of the first ones on the board, we chose to go right to the front. It was such a beautiful day to be out on the water. It was sunny and warm, even in January, and a sweatshirt or light jacket was more than enough to keep us comfortable. As we left the dock, we got a close look at all the sea lions on the jetty and turned to head north along the coast.

One of the crew members came up front to give us a little information and show us pictures of the different whale species we might see on our trip. My son is three and was particularly curious about this.

We cruised for about an hour, enjoying the scenery, when we finally saw a small group of bottle-nosed dolphins that had a little bit of fun coming right up to the boat and treating us to a closer look.


Luckily, we were in just the right spot to get a few photos before they went on their way.


Did we see any whales??

I was beginning to think that we may not see whales that day. The captain commented that he had never had to go this far. Of course, this is nature. This is not the Shamu show, kids. My three year old was still entertained by the sights and sounds and posing for photos when our boat finally had to make the turn around.

Just when I thought whales were not in the cards for us that day, the captain spotted something moving in the water and pointed us in the direction to see.

To our delight, we saw a mother gray whale and her calf, a newborn baby that could have been 1 to 3 days old. They slowly moved parallel to the shoreline between us and land, taking turns bobbing slightly up and down. My zoom lens was just long enough to get some nice photos as they ducked under and popped up again.

The baby is popping up near the momma's tail end, here.

Our boat followed them for as long as they could until we had to high tail it back to keep the boat on schedule.

That's the baby up in front of the momma.

The Dana Wharf website shows how many whales and dolphins were sighted each day and it states 60 whales total and 1 calf. I think that even though we only saw two whales on our trip, we had an incredibly special experience seeing the precious baby and I will never forget it. It was so incredibly exciting, my husband and I vowed to come back very soon and do it again!

Now baby is swimming closer to Momma's tail.

Once back on land, there are a bunch of restaurants and shops to round out your day. We took in a lunch at one of the waterside eateries before we headed home.

Was it worth the trip?

I highly recommend a whale watching trip through Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching for both locals, and tourists alike. My son had just recently turned 3 and even though he is a high energy little dude, he stayed engaged and enjoyed it. I was 8 months pregnant at the time of this cruise and I was just fine as well.

Some insider tips we learned on our trip:
- We were on the larger boat tour so if you would prefer a smaller group and more intimate experience you can check out the Catamarin tours.
- Get your tickets online, or by phone in advance to secure your preferred time. Our cruise was sold out so walk ups were buying tickets to afternoon departures while I was there.
- Check in 45 minutes prior to your cruise and get yourself right in line to get on the boat for your preferred spot.
- Be prepared to be on your feet for the entire 2 hour cruise. There is not a lot of seating outside so head up top if you are one of the first on the boat if you want to sit and have a little more of a bird's eye view. The front of the boat has a bench and I found that it stayed pretty open as most folks preferred to stand. This was perfect for me (being pregnant) or if you are elderly, but again, there is no guarantee that this is going to be available. There is seating inside, but I feel it will diminish your experience and you may miss cool opportunities like seeing dolphins coming right up to the boat and such.
- There is a galley with snacks and drinks, including alcoholic beverages.
- One thing that surprised me is that the boat doesn't go very far from shore and civilization. This is great for people who are afraid of being out in open water because you are relatively close to land at all times.

NOW for the GIVEAWAY!!!

How would you like to go on a Dana Wharf Whale Watching Cruise?

We are giving away TWO tickets for one winner and a guest to go on a whale watching cruise.
Giveaway is open to US Residents who are 18+ years or older.
(ARV $90)
Enter using the Rafflecopter form, below.
Ends on 2/11 at 11:59 PM PST

a Rafflecopter giveaway will be picking the giveaway winner randomly and using the email you used to sign into Rafflecopter to contact the winner. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to the email notifying them that they won or another winner will be chosen. Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching will be responsible for awarding the prize.

* We were provided with complimentary passes to a whale watching tour to facilitate our review, however, all thoughts and opinions are our own.


  1. Whale watching is such fun. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I have never been whale watching and it seems like it would be a lot of fun. I love whales/. :)

  3. I'd love to be on a whale cruise. I've never seen one before.

  4. Wow! This sounds awesome(: Those pics of the whales are amazing(:

  5. I've never been whale watching before, so this would be amazing! Thank you SO much for sharing this!

  6. Great giveaway, thanks again for hosting.

  7. OMG How cool! I've always wanted to go whale watching! All your photos look great; I think you might've just inspired me to finally go! :)

  8. A morning spent out on the water watching sea lions, dolphins, and whales sounds lovely!

  9. Love all these giveaways! Thank you!

  10. I would so love this. It would be an epic adventure. Whales are so amazing.

  11. Whale watching is on my list of to do, I would so love to win this experience. Thanks.

  12. As an outdoor photography professional, this is on my bucket list as a must do.

  13. I think the ocean and ocean animals are so kewl I would love to be able to see them close

  14. I think the ocean and ocean animals are so kewl I would love to be able to see them close

  15. Whale watching has always been on my bucket list!

  16. Never been on a cruise and my daughter loves whales, this would be a dream come true for us both!
    Thank you for the chance!

  17. Iv been whale warching a few times its really awesome I luv it

  18. We are going to be in Southern CA for vacation in March. My girls are 4 and 7 and I know they would just love to go whale watching.

  19. I have been to Hornblower in San Diego but never this one! The one we went on was soooo crowded and kind of horrible! So I would love to try one that was a better experience!

  20. Pro photographer who is always up for capturing something new. Hope there is much to see when I go out.

  21. How lucky for your family to live to close to the whales. We've had dolphins under and next to our sailboat but never see whales in the gulf of Mexico.


Thanks for the comment!

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