Celebrity Cruises has reached out to guests booked on two Celebrity Eclipse cruises this fall to let them know about slight itinerary modifications that are part of protective measures for local whales.
Two ports of call are being shifted to ensure safe cruising, which impacts the times spent in port but will otherwise not change the itineraries.
Port Times Changed for Celebrity Eclipse
Guests booked on the October 8 and October 15, 2023 departures of Celebrity Eclipse will have slightly adjusted port times for two ports of call.
The identical sailings are 7-night Pacific Coastal cruises, roundtrip from Los Angeles and calling on Catalina, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, San Diego, and Ensenada.
The calls to Santa Barbara and San Francisco are slightly modified with different times in port, but for a very worthwhile reason.
“Annually, whales travel in their migration patterns along the Pacific Northwest Coastline,” the email from Celebrity Cruises explained. “For years, we have followed NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) best practices for protecting their journey and now, as an additional measure to keep these majestic animals safe, we have joined a voluntary program to adjust cruising speeds in this area.”
The visit to Santa Barbara was to have been from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., but Celebrity Eclipse will now depart two hours earlier, at 2 p.m. The next day’s arrival to San Francisco was originally set for 11 a.m., but will now be at 1:30 p.m. instead.
While the loss of a total of 4.5 hours in port may be disappointing to some travelers, the effort to protect migrating whales is well worthwhile. Many guests enjoy whale watching tours or just the chance to spot these amazing mammals right from their cruise ships.
Celebrity Cruises made similar itinerary adjustments with Celebrity Millennium in May 2023, also to protect migrating whales.
Celebrity Eclipse is currently homeported from Vancouver for the Alaska sailing season, but will reposition to Los Angeles at the end of September to offer Pacific Coastal, Cabo San Lucas, and Mexican Riviera itineraries through early December. The 121,878-gross ton, Solstice-class ship will then spend the winter sailing South American and Antarctic voyages.
Shore Tours Also Adjusted
Celebrity Cruises is already adjusting any impacted shore excursions for both Santa Barbara and San Francisco as needed.
Guests who have pre-booked tours for either destination do not need to take any action, and adjustments will be shown on the cruise line’s website or in the app once complete.
Travelers who may have booked independent shore excursions or private tours in either Santa Barbara or San Francisco should contact their tour operators as quickly as possible to make any necessary changes to tour length, pickup time, or time to return to the ship.
Protecting the Whales
The notification from Celebrity Cruises is not specific about which whales are most impacted by marine traffic in the Pacific Northwest, but several species of cetaceans are known to migrate through the area.
Gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) have a lengthy migration from Alaska to Baja California, and they tend to stay in shallower waters closer to the coastline, just where cruise ships may be active. The whales only move at about 5 miles per hour (8 kilometers per hour) while migrating.
Blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) are another species likely migrating in the Pacific coastal region, from California to Mexico and as far south as Costa Rica.
At nearly 100 feet long and weighing up to 200 tons, these endangered whales are the largest animals on earth. Though they generally live in deeper waters, they could be seen closer to shore.
Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) may also encounter cruise ships. These large whales are seen worldwide but prefer coastal waters, making them more vulnerable to marine traffic. In the northern Pacific, they range from the Aleutian Islands of Alaska south to California.
Fin whales, sei whales, and Bryde’s whales are other species that might also be encountered along the Pacific coast, though much more rarely.
By cruising at slower speeds, cruise ships can more easily keep a lookout for whales and have adequate time to adjust course to avoid interfering with whales’ activity. Similarly, slow-moving whales will have more time to move away from approaching cruise ships without any risk of collisions or injuries.