If you’re looking to do a whale cruise in Hawaii then look no further than the Star of Honolulu Premier Whale Watching Cruise. I had the opportunity to experience the Star of Honolulu last week and I was thoroughly impressed and had an excellent time. Before I continue I should disclose that this opportunity was a complimentary offer provided to Exploration: Hawaii by Star of Honolulu as part of their media tour.
I was allowed to bring along one other Exploration: Hawaii staff member with me, and that person was Joel. We both arrived at Pier 8 at Aloha Tower Marketplace at around 11:00am. Check in was set for 11:15am, so we were both a little early. We went straight to the Star of Honolulu ticket office, easily located at Pier 8 and adjacent to where the Star of Honolulu is docked. There were ample staff, about 5 total, and because of this there was no line. I simply went straight to an agent, told her that I was a part of the media tour and was immediately given an event badge. Under my name read Exploration Hawaii. How cool is that.
We waited outside of Pier 8 for about 10 minutes and then I was loaded on to the Star of Honolulu. Everything was orderly and went very smoothly. The media was sent to the bottom deck while the paying customers were ushered to the upper decks. A short line formed as each group posed for the standard tourist photo. We held up a Star of Honolulu life preserver and struck a pose with the Falls of Clyde restoration ship in the background. At this point, I really felt like I was on a mini vacation. After the quick photo session, we entered the bottom deck, was greeted by a very friendly crew member and then given the menu for the day. We were told that we could sit where we pleased, of course, everyone gravitated to the tables situated next to the windows. After all, we were here to see whales!
Joel and I chose a seat near 9 o’clock. See, the boat is broken down into the very universal measurement of time. In effect, the boat was a large clock, with the stern as 12 o’clock. As we later would find out, 9 o’clock was a wise selection. As soon as everyone was seated, the crew began a short 10 minute familiarization talk about the Star of Honolulu Premier Whale Watch Cruse. Paka Smith, a popular local entertainer did the initial introductions. A member of the marketing term spoke briefly and then the Captain greeted us all. The team of naturalist then took over once the Captain finished his brief talk. The naturalists discussed with us how to spot whales and the different behaviors that they would be displaying. There were both English and Japanese speaking naturalists. This is the type of information that the North Shore Catamaran Charters lacked during their catamaran whale watching tour. Of course, not everyone on board was a zoologist, so all of this whale specific information was very much welcomed.
Within 10 minutes or so of the familiarization session, the amazing happened. We saw our first humpback whale. Actually, it was a pod of humpback whales! I say this is amazing because of our previous failed whale watching experience with the North Shore Catamaran Charters. I was stoked! In fact, everyone on board was excited. All of this went down at 9 o’clock on the bottom deck. You see, I love to explore. And so while everyone was inside mingling, talking and drinking coffee, I decided to venture outside. We were all free to roam, so why not roam outside and start looking for whales! Indeed, after I left the cabin a bunch of people followed. It’s a good thing that they did because Joel spotted the first whale at 9 o’clock. As soon as Joel mentioned the whale, the naturalist then repeated this information over his headset which was connected to the ships speaker system. Once the passengers heard the words “we have a pod of whales at 9 o’clock” the excitement hit a new level. Passengers began to leave the cabins to sneak a peak of the whales. At this point, Joel and I decided to leave the bottom deck and venture to the to deck. After all, the captain said that the top deck was the best view on the ship.
As soon as we reached the top deck, we once again heard that the naturalist announce that more whales were being spotted, this time, right ahead of us at 12 o’clock and also at 3 o’clock. There were whales everywhere! And not just single whales but pods of whales. And let me remind you that this was all within 20 minutes of the familiarization session finishing. I was pleasantly overwhelmed. Throughout the 2.5 hour cruise, we spotted many whales. The whale sightings were constant and came from all sides of the ship. It’s safe to say that everyone on board saw whales. I believe that I saw around 10-15 different whales. At one point, a pod of whales were playing with each other and cruising alongside the ship.
The whale spotting lasted throughout the duration of the cruise. Even during lunch, you could hear people yelling from their seats whenever a whale was spotted. Some, myself included, would even run out to sneak a peak while eating lunch. Whales first, lunch second!
Of course, the whale sightings weren’t the only photograph worthy moments. The view from the Star of Honolulu was amazing. We had awesome views of Waikiki and Diamond Head. Aboard the Star of Honolulu you get excellent views of the makai (ocean) side of Diamond Head. As you cruise further down the whale watching route you also get some unique views of Makapuu Point, the easternmost point of the island. Abundant whales coupled with an amazing backdrop of Oahu and you understand why camera shutter clicks are heard throughout the duration of the cruise. The entire Star of Honolulu Premier Whale Watch experience is a photo worthy opportunity. Don’t forget your camera at home.
During the whale watching frenzy, I was introduced to my contact from the marketing team at the Star of Honolulu. We talked a bit about the Star of Honolulu and then she told me that if I wanted, I could go ahead and take some photographs of the buffet before the passengers had at it. In any case, I was excited to get a behind-the-scenes look at the buffet preparation.
The lunch buffet featured a nice spread of breads, hot and cold vegetables, and entrees. They also had a small carving station which was a pleasant surprise. Of course, I tend to gravitate to the deserts. Their desert table included both fresh fruits (papayas and pineapples), cakes (chocolate and haupia), and cookies.
I’ve put together an entirely separate post for the Star of Honolulu Whale Watching Lunch Buffet, also known as the Taste of Hawaii Buffet Lunch, which you can check out here [link will be posted soon].
Hawaiian Culture Classes.
The Hawaiian Culture Classes area nice bonus to the whale watching cruise. These classes are free and take place after lunch, once everyone has had their fill of whale watching. The Star of Honolulu offers three different classes, lei making, hula lessons, and ukuklele lessons. Joel gravitated to the ukulele lessons, while I jumped back and forth between all three. I noticed that the younger crowd gravitated to the ukulele lessons, the ladies decided on the hula lessons, and the older crowd took a seat at the lei making table. There’s definitely a class for everyone aboard the Star of Honolulu. The Hawaiian culture classes takes place on the return trip and culminates in a small show featuring what the passengers learned from the different classes.
The Overall Experience.
I had a great time aboard the Star of Honolulu. The crew was very friendly and informative, the ship was open for exploration, the food was excellent, and there were a ton of whales for viewing. The Hawaiian Culture Classes were also a very pleasant surprise. When not whale watching or eating, you can always learn something new, like how to strum a ukulele or how to make a lei.
This 2.5 hour Premiere Whale Watching Cruise is offered daily through April 15, 2012. Whale sightings are GUARANTEED and if no whales are sighted then a free return cruise voucher is issued.
Suggested retail prices for the Premier Whale Watch Cruise (12:00pm-2:30pm) are $63 for adults and $38 for children (ages 3-11). This price includes the Taste of Hawaii buffet lunch. Transportation from the Waikiki area is an additional $11 per person. The Star of Honolulu also offers an Early Bird Whale Watch (8:45am-10:45am) priced at $29.95 for adults and $18 for children (ages 3-11). A continental breakfast option is an additional cost.
If you’re looking to see whales while visiting Oahu, Hawaii, then the Star of Honolulu Premier Whale Watch Cruise should be at the top of your list.