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.
The Star of Honolulu. Photo by Coty Gonzales.
Team Exploration: Hawaii on the Star of Honolulu Premier Whale Watch Cruise. Photo by Coty Gonzales.
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!
One of the Star of Honolulu naturalist giving a brief talking about how to spot whales. Photo by Coty Gonzales.
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.
Whale watchers keep an eye out for humpback whales. Photo by Coty Gonzales.
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!
A humpback whale performs a fluking dive as seen by the arching of the back and raising of the flukes resulting in a dive. Photos by Joel Sabugo.
Above we see two whales spouting, below we see a partial breach. Photos by Joel Sabugo.
A highly active whale breaching. Photo courtesy of Star of Honolulu.