We Tried It: Atlantis Cruises’ Majestic Whale Watch Cruise in Hawai‘i

See whales spout, splash and breach from a safe, kid-friendly vessel.


Photo by Laura Dornbush

What: Whale Watch Cruise on the Majestic by Atlantis Cruises

Who: Two families consisting of four parents and three kids (3, 4 and 5 years old)

When: Sunday at 11:30 a.m.

The last time I went on a whale watching cruise, it was a Valentine’s Day catamaran cruise with my husband before we had our son, Duke. It was thrilling and romantic. When I heard that Atlantis Cruises (same company as the Atlantis Submarines) was offering whale watching cruises on its state-of-the-art vessel, Majestic, I jumped at the opportunity to take the whole family. 

With whale watching season at its peak in Hawai‘i from January to March, how cool would it be to show Duke a humpback whale in its natural habitat? We invited our friends, Matt and Megan, and their two girls, Abigail and Avery, to join us. They decided to leave their 1-year-old home with the grandparents, although we did see quite a few infants onboard.


Photo courtesy of Laura Dornbush

The cruise leaves from Pier 6 at Aloha Tower, and parking was quick and easy right next to the ship (we paid $4 with validation when we left). We felt like we were boarding a cruise ship as we took a professional group photo before checking in and walking the gangplank. The kids were so excited to be on such a big boat, that they ran ahead of us up two flights of stairs to the open-air, shaded top deck. 


Photo courtesy of Atlantis Adventures


Photo by Laura Dornbush

I’ve always been nervous to take Duke on boats, fearing he will tumble over the side. I was relieved to see how safe and sturdy this 150-foot vessel was. With railings and glass windows, there was no way our kids were going overboard. We did have to be careful, though, when they were running around as the boat was rocking. 

After departure, we headed downstairs to the air-conditioned main deck and the lunch buffet. Even the picky eaters in our group enjoyed the sandwich bar, chips, mac salad, fresh fruit and cookies. Beverages are available for purchase. The dads toasted with Bloody Mary’s, and while Abigail eyed the hot chocolate, the kids and moms just stuck with water.


Photo by Laura Dornbush

Soon, we heard an announcement over the loudspeaker that a pod of whales was spotted. I don’t know who was more excited—the kids or the adults! Each adult grabbed a kid to ensure they were looking in the right direction. Sure enough, two whales were surfacing next to the boat. 

“I saw one!,” shouted Abigail. 

Duke, in an enthusiastic laugh, said, “I saw spouting!”


Photo courtesy of Atlantis Adventures

Forever a “mommy’s boy,” Duke smiled and leaned into me when he heard that the pair were a mother and baby (estimated at 1 month old). It was such a sweet moment. But, my sweet boy turned into a typical 3-year-old the next moment saying, “Ewwww. They are pooping underwater!”

Sigh. Everything is about bowel movements these days with him. 

An hour later, we were positioned out toward the airport, and from afar we saw a different baby whale breaching and splashing its tail. The adults were intrigued, but the kids had lost interest by this time and couldn’t see that far. 

On our way back to shore, the adults chatted and listened to the live music onboard. The excitement, music and ocean movement gently rocked Duke to sleep in my lap while the older girls played on the couches beside us.


Photo courtesy of Laura Dornbush

As we disembarked, I felt blessed to have shared such a cool experience with family and friends and thankful that these beautiful creatures come to O‘ahu’s waters each year. 

Our Eight Tips

1. Check in early. Although the ship doesn’t leave until 11:30 a.m., boarding early allows you to take a tour of the boat and get situated before it starts rocking.  

2. Talk to the captain and whale experts. The kids had a chance to meet the Captain and test out the steering wheel before we set off. During the cruise, two naturalists aboard spotted the whales, pointed out where we should look, and answered questions.


Photo by Laura Dornbush

3. Get a prime seat. The Captain told us to sit on starboard side (the right side) to see the most whales. Grab a seat on the top deck along the rail for a front row seat. Another good viewing spot for kids is on the second level all the way forward on the bow.

4. Take a photo. While it was hard to capture the split moment the whales were spouting, breaching or splashing, we did get some iconic O‘ahu shots of the kids with Aloha Tower and Diamond Head in the background. You can also purchase photos of the whales and your group boarding photo from the professional photographers at the end of the cruise. 

5. Avoid seasickness. The Captain advised that if you start to feel seasick, get some fresh air, stare at the horizon and order a ginger ale at the bar. 

6. Go downstairs for the bathroom. While there are bathrooms on each level (thank goodness), the one on the lowest level (downstairs from the main deck) is the largest and has a baby changing table. 

7. Keep kids busy. After seeing a couple of whales, our kiddos lost interest and were getting a little wired from the cookies and their approaching naptime. Check out the whale activity worksheets, coloring, plush whales, kids’ binoculars and whale floor puzzle on the lounge level. 

8. Don’t be disappointed. If the naturalist aboard doesn’t spot a whale during your cruise, you can come back for a complimentary return cruise. 


Whale Watch Cruises are available daily at 11:30 a.m. on the Majestic by Atlantis Cruises through March 31, 2020. Cruises depart from Pier 6 at Aloha Tower. 198 Aloha Tower Dr. Kama‘āina rates are $46.20 for adults and $23.10 for children (3-12 years old) including lunch or $33.60 for adults and $16.80 for children (3-12 years old) without lunch. Children age 2 and under are free. Make a reservation online here or call (808) 973-1311. majestichawaii.com