Pros: Amazing Experience!!
Cons: Watch for rough seas, foggy days. Could get pricey for a family.
This has been updated and moved after my August, 2003 adventure on the Friendship V, Whale Watching, high speed, jet powered catamaran. This review now has a proper home. It was first placed under the title of Maine August 30th of 2002. I have asked that Bar Harbor Whale Watch company be added to the data base of Epinions. It was, and I have added some of our latest experiences in this newer, updated, and properly placed review.
My family visits Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor about every two years.It's a great destination. One thing we have added to our itinerary is whale watching. WOW !!
WHERE TO GO
We have been going on the Friendship V. This is a terrific vessel to whale watch on. It is 112' long and 31' wide
As of this last update the boat is now boarded in Bar Harbor at the bottom of the main strip at the town pier. It is a jet powered catamaran that get to speeds of forty to fifty miles per hour. That is VERY fast on water.
Safety was stressed on our trip out. Kids shouldn't be running about, hold onto rails at all times, no standing on benches, and other common sense, yet often neglected, rules.
We were also warned to wear caps backwards and not to test the theory of the wind possibly blowing them off. It would! We were also warned to hook the doors to the heads so that we wouldn't become one of the "memories" of the outing.
CHECK THE WEATHER
One thing I always do before committing to the trip is check the seas on a weather channel or computer. I am prone to seasickness. I will not go out in seas over three foot. It is suggested you make reservations ahead of time. The problem is you must cancel twenty four hours ahead so you must make a decision about the seas ahead of time. I have used the wrist bands to avoid seasickness every time I went out. Somehow they use pressure points that alleviate sea sickness. They work for me on gentle seas up to three feet. more than that and a percentage of those going out WILL get seasick. They are available at most drug stores and on board the boat for a few dollars
The weather and the seas can be so fickle so it's never a sure thing to take the trip. Just don't put yourself through misery on a bad day. Check the seas!!
Also do be aware that the ocean waters are about 54 degrees. Do bring a few layers of jackets and sweatshirts. We have been fortunate and hit the warmest of days and not needed anything extra, however, be prepared.
I also suggest bringing binoculars. They do rent them on board. I strongly suggest a movie camera. Snap shots are tough to get just right but the film gets it all!!
I mention this now because as of this last year we were able to just walk on in the morning and not have a prior reservation. There is now another high speed jet powered catamaran in town. It's just a couple of piers over in downtown Bar harbor. This has helped get the price down a bit too. More on that in a bit.
The new vessel is a bit larger and boasts underwater cameras and listening devices that project the action onto plasma screen on board and loud speakers. Unfortunately the competition and I never got together so I can't give a first hand account of the new guy in town. I will have a couple of comparisons I noticed from afar that I will share with you in this review.
The cost of the trip is thirty nine dollars per adult, twenty five dollars for children six to fourteen, and eight for all others. Yes, you must pay for everyone. I will be updating this review after a trip out this mid August. I'll give the latest prices. and times if they have changed. Always call ahead for any changes.
Update 8/2003: The prices went up to $43.00 per adult this year. The competition was going at the $39.00 fare. We hit it lucky though. The Friendship V in a competitive move knocked down their price to $25.00 the last week in August. That added up to quite a savings times four of us. The new guy didn't honor the same price when I went to their street corner office to ask.
Please remember seeing whales may be a once in a lifetime experience. The value, no matter what the $$$$$, is priceless. We LOVED it!!
The boat goes out three times per day in July and August 9:00am,1:00pm, and 4:30pm. I have been told the morning is best. We only gone in the morning. This year the boat left at 8:30AM. The afternoon times were the same, however, they were noted as to possible cancellation. I'm not sure if that is due to weather or lack of customers. I would have liked to speak to a spokesman from the company but arrangements could not be made. The crew on board were not up front with answers to these kind of questions.
The boat is very modern and very roomy with a well heated cabin with three rows of tables that seat about six per table. Food is served on board for a price. Nothing special. I suggest eating in nearby Bar Harbor before going on board and maybe purchasing a snack on the ride in or out. Another thought is bring food and eat it on the boat ride back to port. Then you are ready to do more adventuring when you get off the boat. There are fairly comfortable restrooms on board, three of them. One is for wheelchair too! These restrooms are actually better than most you will find on board a boat. I don't know what the competition had.
The boat starts out slowly with a guide telling a bit of the history of Acadia National Park and the islands you pass. I did write a review about Acadia National Park. It is one of my most special places in the world. Once out of the harbor grab your hats. The ride is exhilarating! The boat travels near forty miles per hour. That is very fast on water!! I was told by one of the crew that this boat raced with the competitions boat while coming in one day after a day of whale watching and did travel one knot faster. I never did talk to the crew of the other boat to ask their version of the story.
WHERE TO GET THE BEST VIEW
Many people will be looking to get a spot on one of the front pontoons. It is a good area for viewing. The boat has three levels and a good, yet different, view from all. When we were close to a whale I liked being on the bottom deck. It was more "intimate".
Unfortunately this year the front pontoon area on the Friendship V was not open for viewing the whales. I didn't get a good answer about this either. Maybe it just wasn't a safe place to be? This was a real selling point over the competition though. The new boat doesn't have the same amount of up close railing as the Friendship V had for seeing the whales.
And seeing whales we did!! This boat leaves after some other whale watching boats but soon catches up. All the boats are in radio contact with each other if they see one the others know. Because this boat is so fast it can get to areas quickly. There are no propellers to drive the boat. It is jet propelled so they cannot hurt the whales with those moving and dangerous parts.
"Thar she blows!!" That was the call of long ago at the sighting and hunting of whales. Yes, they do "blow". You see them blowing water out of the tops of their body, known as blow holes, when they come up for air. This is how we sited them in the distance. Remember these are mammals and not fish, they breath like we do. It is really cool seeing them do this. The boats then go in for a closer look. We got to see about ten different whales on our trip. One breached, came out of the water, right in front of us. It looked like he was watching us through it's tiny eyes. It was very ,very cool. The kids and my wife were very excited as I was.
WHAT KIND of WHALES?
The boat searches for Humpback, Finback, and Minky whales. On a very rare occasion you may sight a "Rightwhale". It was given that name because it was the right whale the hunters wanted for their oil etc. On our first trips out we saw all four kinds! This last trip we saw Finback and Minky. As we were calling it a day and started back in the captain spotted a different kind of "blow" in the distance. He steered away from home and we found a couple of Humpbacks. These are awesome creatures.
LEARN AS YOU RIDE
The commentary on the boat was very interesting and informative the whole trip. Every ride out has a naturalist on board. We have had very informative guys each of the three times we have gone out on this boat.
We were told of the coast line, the kinds of fish in the area, what the whales did in the area, and some of their breeding and eating habits.
The guys also defined how they can recognize different whales by markings on their tales and bodies. It was also exciting looking for the whales and listening to others as they spotted them. People would all be so excited as they jockied for position to see the latest finds.
We were also fortunate to find a pod of dolphins feeding on a school of fish. Well at least I believe they called the group of dolphins a pod. Anyways, there were about fifty of them diving in and out of the water! That was very exciting. We happened upon more again later.
The entire ride was about three hours long including the half an hour out and another half back in to port. This last time we were out almost four hours.
This last trip we took an unexpected side trip, to me at least, to see Puffin. These are cute looking northern birds that live off shore. Very cool!
These were great trips for us. How many times to you have your children wanting to share the same experience with you year after year. I hope you are as lucky and as fortunate as we were in both sitings, knowledge of the naturalists, and gentleness of seas.
other reviews in Maine by popsrocks
Bar Harbor What a great seaside town!!
Acadia National Park My favorite place in the world!
Carriage Rides in Acadia National Park
Whale Watching from Bar Harbor
Ocean Drive Motor Court A great place to stay just out sde Bar Harbor
The Jordan Pond House A wonderful restaurant right in Acadia Park
Jordan's Restaurant cheap eats, clean and fast!
MAINE, great coastal towns and so much more.
A Canadian great side trip from Maine's Acadia National Park
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