I’ve written about my past experience at the Star of Honolulu’s five-star dinner cruise.

I’ve also made an article about whale watching which, if you’ve read it, explains that whales migrate to Hawaii every winter, making for some excellent whale watching adventures in the months of December to April.

This time, I’m putting the two together since we got invited to the Star of Honolulu’s afternoon whale watch cruise!


Being the Star of Honolulu, they had much more to do than stare at the deep blue.

The cruise included a buffet lunch, entertainment, and fun activities for when no whales were around.


As you know (since you’ve read my last blog post on the ship, of course), the Star of Honolulu is a four-level cruise ship and the largest vessel that operates out of Hawaii.

Their sunset dinner cruise, which I had the pleasure of experiencing earlier this month, is one of the most popular attractions in Honolulu.

During the winter months when the whales are in, the boat also goes out in the morning and afternoon for whale watching cruises.

In the Star’s signature tradition of giving you everything in one cruise, there was much more to do than just search the Pacific Ocean for the visiting leviathans.



We were invited to the afternoon whale watching cruise, so we embarked at noon.

The cruise started with an introduction and greeting by the captain, followed by a short briefing about whales by the on-board naturalist.

The introduction was friendly and informative, not only on the humpback whales we hoped to spot, but also on Hawaii’s marine life in general.

Everything about the Star of Honolulu is professionally done, and this whale watch, though more casual than the dinner cruise, is no exception.

Even after the briefing on whales, the crew and naturalists were always around to offer help, advice, or information on whales, watching, and anything else.


The morning and afternoon tours can be upgrades to include a breakfast or lunch buffet, depending on what time of departure you’ve chosen.

We went out on the afternoon cruise, so we had a lunch buffet served right on the ship.

We got a sneak peek to check out the buffet set up before the lines opened up around 12:30 p.m.

The line started with sweet bread and taro bread rolls.


It continued with the salad bar, which included greens, lomi salmon, and tofu poke, entrees such as seasoned rice, fried noodles, chicken, and white fish.


Following that was the prime rib station, warm and freshly cut. The carver was quite generous, and condiments for the meat were nearby.


Last—and certainly not least—was the dessert station, featuring freshly made brownies and coconut cake…


…and finished with fresh papaya and pineapple.


All-you-can-eat dessert stations are truly the pinnacle of human civilization.

Drinks were also available for purchase, but I was there on professional capacity, after all.



After taking pictures, I was late to get back in line, so it took a while for me to grab my food and return to my seat.

Almost as soon as I left the buffet line, I heard gasps of my fellow passengers and the naturalist got on the mic to announce our first whale sighting of the day!

By the time I had gotten back to my seat to set down my (very, very full) plate, the whale had disappeared.


Anyone going to see a natural phenomenon has to, at one point, contend with the fact that nature isn’t dedicated to pleasing you.

Sometimes lava just doesn’t flow, clouds obscure your sunset view, or it literally rains on our parade.

Pictured: Whale watching, sans whales.

It’s like that with whale (and dolphin) watching: sometimes you get a spectacular once-in-a-lifetime experience, other times, well—it’s called once-in-a-lifetime for a reason.


On our cruise we were lucky that a mother and a calf were hanging around where we decided to stop and watch.

When I say “we” I mean “the ship as a whole” rather than me specifically, because I saw nothing but a ghost of a wisp of a blowhole spray. And I was too slow to catch it on camera, too.

whale spotted
Pictured: the only whale I could get a shot of.


On the one hand, the fact that I couldn’t see whales was disappointing. On the other hand, the cruise itself was pleasant enough that I didn’t really mind at all.

In addition to the buffet lunch (which was amazing, by the way), there were also activities for passengers to take part in during the cruise back to the harbor.


People could learn how to play the ukulele, dance hula, or string a flower haku lei (worn on the head rather than the shoulders).


The most fun part of the cruise was when all the people who took part in the activities then performed for the rest of the ship: the hula dancers dancing to the impromptu ukulele band while wearing the haku made by everyone else!


It was a good time for everyone, whales or no.


For those of you who really want to see whales, peak season is in February every year.

While the biggest concentration of whales is in the shallow water between Maui, Lanai, and Molokai, you can generally spot them on any island. Kauai visitors should try the West and South coasts including Kalalau and Poipu areas, those on Oahu should try the West side, and Big Island guests should stick to the North and Eastern shorelines (Kohala to Hilo).

If you’re on Oahu and want a fun day activity, especially with a group that isn’t completely jazzed about seeing wild marine life, you should definitely book a whale watching cruise with the Star of Honolulu.

Read on for more pictures of our fun morning cruise!