Frequently Asked Questions
Do you really see whales?
Of course, the answer is yes we see Whales and Dolphins! Primarily we see Gray whales in the December-April season. However, we often spot Fin, Blue, Humpback, and Minke whales during our summer Whale Watching season. Additionally, we often see pods of Dolphins including: Risso’s, Common, Pacific White-Sided, and Bottlenose Dolphins. Our captains will also highlight other wildlife such as Sea Lions, various fish like Mola Mola (Sunfish), and a variety of marine birds such as Herons, Terns, Pelicans and Gulls.
Which cruise is better, the morning or the afternoon?
Your chances of seeing whales are the same on the morning or afternoon cruise. However, the afternoon cruise almost always has more passengers aboard. If you want to cruise with less people, choose the morning trip.
What day of the week is better to whale watch?
Weekends are always busier than weekdays. There are also less whale watching boats out in the ocean on weekdays.
How far will we cruise into the ocean to see whales?
In the beginning of the season, the southbound whales swim closer to the coast, so the maximum distance we cruise is about 3-6 miles. Toward the end of the Gray Whale season or in summer, we can cruise up to 9-12 miles off the coast.
Should I make reservations for whale watching in San Diego?
Reservations are highly recommended since we often sell out, but are not required. Reservations can be made online at Hornblower.com or by phone at (800) ON THE BAY (1-800-668-4322) with a credit card. Seats cannot be held without payment. If you would like to pay in cash, reservations can be made at our ticket booth located at 970 North Harbor Drive, in downtown San Diego. The ticket booth is open everyday from 8:30am-7pm.
Is the yacht handicap accessible?
Hornblower does have accessible yachts in the fleet. However, not all yachts and decks are accessible. Please call (800) ON THE BAY (1-800-668-4322) to ensure handicap accessibility for the date you are planning to cruise.
Are there any age restrictions on the cruises?
All ages are welcome. Minors require adult supervision.
Is smoking allowed?
Smoking is not allowed on Whale Watching or Harbor Cruises.
How should I dress?
We suggest dressing in layers as the temperature and winds are often unpredictable.
Where should I park?
Due to the popularity of the San Diego Bay we recommend allowing a little extra time for parking. The closest parking lot available on a first come, first served basis is the USS Midway Parking Lot located on Navy Pier. Hornblower does not validate. DO NOT park at the meters!
What time should I be there?
Allow enough time for traffic and to find parking. The Summer Whale Waytching cruise boards at 8:45 am. Seating is on a first come, first served basis. If you prefer a specific seating area, be early so you can be the first in line.
Can I bring food or drink on board the whale watching tour?
No. However, for your convenience, we have a fully stocked snack bar and full beverage bar available on board.
How much experience does Hornblower have in whale watching?
We have been offering whale watching cruises since 1990. Captain Eric Gustafson and Captain Chad Cummings each have over 20 years of whale watching experience. Even our first officers and on board bartenders and stewards have been doing this for years!
What makes your boat better than the competition?
- Enjoy narration by our highly experienced captains.
- Our partnership with the San Diego Natural History Museum. With our program, the museum has trained hundreds of volunteer naturalists who assist our expert captains with narration, answer guest’s questions and point out facts about some of the specimens we carry on board from our whale exhibit.
What happens if I don’t see whales on my cruise?
You will be issued a “whale check” that is good for another whale watching cruise. Or, if you prefer, you may use the whale check for a 1 or 2 hour narrated Harbor Cruise.
What happens if it rains?
Our cruises are cancelled due to overall weather conditions (including wind and sea conditions) and not just rain. Many times, we will still cruise when it rains. If we cancel the cruise due to weather conditions, you have the option to reschedule your cruise or receive a full refund. Decisions to cancel are made by our captain on the morning of the scheduled cruise. We will make every attempt to contact you ahead of time at the phone number(s) we have on file for you.
Will I get seasick on the whale watching cruise?
If you tend to have a problem with motion sickness, you may experience seasickness. However, many of our guests experience no discomfort at all. You can pick up over-the-counter motion sickness medicine at any drug store- be sure to take it before boarding the cruise so that the medicine has time to work.
Are there life preservers on board?
Each vessel is 100% Coast Guard certified with life preservers and all life saving equipment, including child life vests.
Is there a phone on board that receives calls?
Hornblower does not have phone service on board. You may be able to receive cell service depending on your carrier.
Is there anything else I need to know before whale watching in San Diego?
The U.S. Coast Guard requires all passengers over 18 years of age to have valid photo identification. Please make sure to have your photo id available at boarding.