Whale Watching Cruises in New York: A Guide

New York is known for many things, but one of them isn’t whale watching. However, thousands of people take whale watching cruises from New York every year, and in fact whale watching has become increasingly popular in New York thanks to a rising whale population off the coast. There is, as far as we can tell, only one whale watching company that operates out of New York – American Princess Cruises, which offers the “Whale and Dolphin Watching Adventure Cruise” – and they only operate out of one part of New York City: Riis Landing, which is on the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens. However, they operate for a good portion of the year, from late Spring to late Fall, and they generally offer multiple cruises a week on a large vessel, so there are plenty of whale watching cruises to be taken. Below we cover all the relevant details about these whale watching cruises in New York, giving you a guide to consult if you are interested in a largely unknown New York activity.

It is first necessary to explain exactly who is offering these whale watching cruises, as a simple search for “whale watching in New York” will turn up lots of information, much of which is confusing. As mentioned, there appears to be only one whale watching cruise company – American Princess Cruises – but this company offers more than just whale watching cruises. It also isn’t a standalone company, but rather a part of New York Beach Ferry, which is owned and operated by TWFM Ferry Service, Inc. Moreover, American Princess Cruises has a partnership with Gotham Whale, a not-for-profit project that studies whales and other marine mammals in NYC, and who uses the American Princess whale watching vessel for some of their research efforts. The details of each of these companies are of course not terribly important – the point is that when searching for whale watching in New York, you are liable to come across all of these entities, and they are all intertwined. The entity that actually offers the cruises, and the company with whom you will be booking a trip, is American Princess Cruises, so that is ultimately who you will be dealing with. (For the record, American Princess Cruises is not related to the large cruise company Princess Cruises.)

Based on last year’s cruise schedule, the whale watching cruises are offered somewhat sporadically throughout the season. (Indeed, the exact season isn’t even precisely defined, but by the start of summer, and potentially a month or two earlier, whale watching cruises are underway.) Early in the season and through the summer, cruises are fairly consistently offered on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, although in June some trips are offered on the weekends as well. However, come September, the schedule shifts forward two days, with the cruises being offered on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and then in October and the first part of November, when the season closes, they are offered only on the weekends. Again, though, this is based on last year’s schedule, and it is advisable to simply look at American Cruise Princess’ schedule to figure out what is offered.

Regardless of the day on which the cruise is offered, it will begin at noon and last about four hours. Boarding begins 45 minutes before departure, though, so it is necessary to arrive at the departure point well before the ship is set to sail. At present, an adult ticket costs $45, a senior ticket $35, and a children’s ticket $25 (but children under five sail free). A number of whale species can be seen off the New York coast, including humpback, fin, minke, blue, and sperm whales – some of these whales are merely passing through as part of a migration, whereas others are there to feed for a more extended period. In addition to whales, you can also see dolphins, seals, and number of seabirds on a whale watching cruise.

If you are in New York and feel like getting out of the city, a whale watching cruise might be just what you are looking for. For about half of the year, American Princess Cruises offers them, and the price per passenger isn’t too bad for four hours of entertainment.

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