Still thriving after ten successful years, Janet Morris of the San Diego Natural History Museum (SDNHM) and Rebecca Milkey of Hornblower Cruises & Events (HCE) developed a naturalist program partnership so that whaling enthusiasts can come aboard to experience and learn about the marine life off the shores of San Diego.

On each of the Hornblower Cruises & Events Whale Watching Cruises, passengers are treated to a team of naturalist volunteers who have been trained by SDNHM in a series of classroom sessions with marine experts and guest speakers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other organizations as well as an onboard training cruise. Additionally, HCE’s Captain Richard Goben and Captain Eric Gustafson successfully completed the museum’s training program and also have the official naturalist certifications, so they too can educate passengers during the excursions. Both HCE captains have been leading whale watching cruises for a combined 50 years and one of them is on board for each cruise, narrating for passengers and navigating the ship for optimum viewing and safety of the animals.

The team of qualified naturalists, also known as “The Whalers,” is on board to provide a formal presentation of the vessel’s whale exhibit. They are also available to interact with guests, answer questions, share maps of migration patterns and point out intriguing sites while underway. Many of these Whalers have been on board for 10 years, since the program started. The on board exhibit includes a baleen sample, which is the whale’s oral filter-feeder system, barnacles, whale lice and a whale vertebra. Additionally, on loan from the museum, is the film “Oceans Oasis,” which is a fascinating journey into the bountiful seas and pristine deserts of two remarkably different, but inextricably linked worlds — Mexico’s Sea of Cortés and the Baja California desert.

“The museum was excited to partner with Hornblower Cruises & Events ten years ago and we are still excited today,” comments Janet Morris, Director of Volunteer Services for SDNHM. She continues, “The Whalers love the cruises and enjoy interacting with the guests. This mutually-beneficial relationship has allowed the NAT to reach out to over 35,000 each year to educate them about the wonders of the ocean and its inhabitants.”

San Diego is fast becoming a top whale watching destination because the destination’s moderate climate creates an ideal environment for cruising year round.

For a log of current whale watching activity, check out San Diego Whale Watching.

Hornblower Cruises & Event’s Blue Whale Watching Adventures Cruise is available through September 6, 2015. This specialty cruise is designed for those that love whales, dolphins, sea lions and sea birds. Passengers can expect to see gray, blue, minke, fin, sperm, killer and falsekiller whales as well as the common, Pacific white-sided and Risso’s dolphins. Additionally, sightings often include sea birds like the brown booby, blue herons, cormorants and California brown pelicans as well as Mola Mola, and sea lions.

Departing from the convenient location of Embarcadero downtown San Diego 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. After boarding, guests will speed out to sea on one of the fleet’s comfortable yachts and pass 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). Cruises take place on the most luxurious ship in Southern California, the Adventure Hornblower, which features three decks, indoor and outdoor seating, adult snack bar, climate control and views that span three miles.

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