The ORCA cruise experience

Ben Gibson

Cruising is many things to many people. But when your journey takes you towards the top of the world, it’s Mother Nature who’s the real star of the show...



Glamorous, exciting, colourful… cruising is many things to many people. But when your journey takes you towards the top of the world, it’s Mother Nature who’s the real star of the show… with a little help from the experts from ORCA.

For insights into spellbinding marine animals such as whales and dolphins, Saga often invite experts aboard from marine charity ORCA aboard their small ships. Formed in 1996, they’re dedicated to learning more about sealife and protecting it for future generations.

What animals could you see?

So what are you likely to see on a small-ship adventure? Dolphins are one of the most loved creatures of our seas. They are extremely sociable animals, living and travelling in groups or ‘pods’ of between 20 and 40. Known for their playful and intelligent nature, they love to leap and jump as they swim through the water – pure joy to see.

Cruise wildlife: the many animals you can see while on a cruise.

Internet ‘blogger’ Cruise Miss, who sailed with Saga in 2015 says “There’s nothing quite like standing out on deck and seeing dolphins break the water, swimming in front of the ship’s bow. I saw my first dolphin back in 2007 and I still never bore of their affectionate and playful nature. During my last cruise on Saga Sapphire we spotted various species, and even a few fin whales. The calmer the ocean, the more chance you have of spotting them.”

Another popular sight, the killer whale, or orca, is not a whale at all! It’s actually the largest member of the dolphin family. With a distinctive black and white pattern, it’s sociable and inquisitive, seemingly enjoying leaping, breaching, crashing and spy-hopping. Despite its name, this whale is not known to be aggressive to humans or to other orcas.

There’s also the chance of seeing humpback whales, with their long pectoral fins. Very graceful and acrobatic, they travel in groups of one to three, and occasionally in much larger groups when feeding.

Deck watches, a programme of talks and optional wildlife excursions

During just five previous cruises, the marine experts from ORCA sighted a stunning 2,890 whales, dolphins and porpoises from 15 different species – to the delight of the stunned passengers! This included harbour porpoises, common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, striped dolphins, white-beaked dolphins, Atlantic white-sided dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, pilot whales, minke whales, sei and fin whales, the rarely-seen Cuvier’s and Sowerby’s beaked whales and a sperm whale with its calf. Other sea mammals included grey, harbour and ringed seals, while fish species included enigmatic basking sharks, ocean sunfish, flying fish and tuna.

When ORCA are on board, you can look forward to deck watches, a programme of talks and optional wildlife excursions, so you can get up close to many of these amazing animals.

Of course, that’s just the watery wildlife. And many more amazing animals are waiting to be spotted on terra firma… on previous visits to Svalbard, Saga cruisers even saw the elusive polar bear in its natural habitat. While birdwatchers will relish the chance to see many captivating avians – up to 160 species have been recorded on previous trips. This has included the white-tailed sea eagle, although puffins, kittiwakes and razorbills are a much more common sight.

Just one tip – remember to grab the binoculars from your cabin!

Saga look forward to welcoming ORCA on-board during some of there upcoming cruises.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.