Frequently Asked Questions

Are children allowed on trips?

Yes! We love kids! Please note that we defer to your cruise line’s regulations on age limits for specific tours. Also, most of our commercial vehicles (per federal law) do not have seatbelts, so we do not typically accept car seats without advance notice. Collapsible strollers are welcome, as are baby backpacks (even on the strenuous hikes!).

Are the boats and buses wheelchair accessible?

No. None of Gastineau Guiding’s vehicles or boats are equipped with a wheel chair lift. However, we can accept collapsible walkers and wheelchairs; guests must simply be able to independently navigate the three steps on and off the bus and one three-foot step onto the boat (assisted by the captain).

Are your guides really the best in Alaska?

It's our guides who give us our outstanding reputation as a personable and knowledgeable tour operator! We provide you with the top guides in the business, known for their knowledge of the area's nature, culture, and history. Our photo guides come with a strong background in photography and are also trained as naturalists! Our mission is to provide a high quality experience with accurate interpretation and interesting stories from a local's perspective, all the while creating a fun and memorable adventure. 

Do you guarantee whales?

Yes! If you don’t see a whale, you get $100 cash back upon arrival back to the dock.

How close to the whales do you get?


We follow the federal whale watching guidelines, which dictate that we stop the boat at least 100 yards (328 ft) away from whales. Whales have their own rules, however, and may approach the boat as they wish. We also voluntarily participate in WhaleSENSE, so that our captains and guides are trained to be extremely mindful of the whale’s natural behaviors, taking special care to ensure that we do not cut off their natural path of movement. Close encounters with the whales must be on their terms, not ours.


How many people go on a tour and where do we meet?

Group size is limited from 14 to 20 with 14 guests or fewer per guide. We believe that this preserves the quality of the experience, allowing for a connection to this beautiful natural area and ease of interaction with your guide. All Gastineau Guiding shore excursions will meet at the bottom of the cruise ship’s pier. If you have arranged an exclusive private tour with Gastineau Guiding, we will meet the group at prearranged pickup location.

I have a multiple lenses for my camera, which lens do you recommend that I bring?

If you are bringing a DSLR, we recommend having both wide angle and telephoto lenses, or a single zoom lens that covers a broad range. For the whale watching portion of the tour, a longer lens anywhere in the 200-600 range is recommended—preferably one with VR (Vibration Reduction). On the trail, a lens in the 24-80mm range would be ideal. If you have a macro lens, bring that along! There is no need to invest in top of the line lenses, but being able to cover a broad range of focal lengths is advantageous. A single “super zoom” (i.e. - 28mm -300mm) will work just fine for both portions of the tour. If you have several lenses, put them in your pack. Your guide will help you make selections along the way. Of course, how you use what you have is more important than what you have, and your guide will be happy to work with you one-on-one to help you get the best out of whatever camera/lens combination you bring!

Is smoking allowed on tour?

Smoking is permitted within designated areas during bathroom breaks – one at our boat harbor, and another at the Mendenhall Glacier. No smoking or vaping is allowed while on the buses, the boats or on the trails.

Is the boat safe? What if I’m worried about seasickness?

Our boat is certified and inspected annually by the U.S. Coast Guard. We carry all the necessary items required by the USCG to insure your safety, including life rafts, life jackets, fire extinguishers, EPIRB, etc. We also custom designed our boats specifically for their stability on the water: our low-to-the-water solid hull design, coupled with an large inflatable edge, ensures that the boat stays stable, regardless of passenger weight distribution (aka when everyone runs to one side of the boat to view a whale!). Seasickness is therefore uncommon. But, just in case, we also carry seasickness remedies onboard.

Is the tour narrated?

Yes! ALL Gastineau Guiding tours are fully guided, meaning your guide will meet you at the dock 20 minutes before the tour starts, and will accompany you on every single step – onto the bus, onto the boat, to the glacier, wherever. It’s the same face with you the whole time, plus your amazing drivers and captains who are also there to assist and provide commentary.

Is there shade or protection from the elements on the boat? On the trail?

All Gastineau Guiding whale watching boats have covered, heated cabins to protect our guests from the elements. For our trail hikes and walks, we are truly out in the thick of the Tongass National Rainforest without manmade protection from the weather; however, the rainforest canopy is so thick that it does offer some protection from rain and wind.

What can I expect from Alaskan weather?

As a temperate rainforest, our summer temperatures are a steady 55-65 degrees F, with a few weeks of 65+ degree weather in June & July. Most of all, you can expect a little bit of rain almost every day. Waterproof shoes and jackets are a great thing to have for your entire Alaska trip!

What is the best time to see whales and other wildlife?

Wildlife is wild, and therefore very unpredictable. There’s a common misconception that the whales prefer either calm or rough waters. Even if there was truth to one or the other, the Alaskan weather changes so quickly, you’d probably get both on a single tour. So, morning or evening – it doesn’t matter! There are plenty of whales in our area and they’re active all the time!

What is the difference between Gastineau Guiding and other companies?

Gastineau Guiding is Juneau’s premier whale watching and hiking company. Simply put, we offer a superior small group experience with a certified professional naturalist guide – all with our fleet of custom designed safari vessels and multimedia equipped shuttles. Unlike other whale watching or hiking tours, your professional guide will be there for you every step of the way: from your cruise ship dock, to sea, to the secluded glacier trails away from the crowds, and back to the dock. As a locally owned and operated business for 25 years, our priority is facilitating a personalized and authentic Alaskan experience for each one of our guests.

What kind of food & drink is available?

All Gastineau Guiding tours provide bottled water and a snack (which varies based on type of tour). Food is not available for purchase, but guests are welcome to bring their own food or drink on any tour. Please note that alcohol is not permitted.

What should I bring with me on tour?

All Gastineau Guiding tours provide water, snacks, walking sticks and a waterproof rain poncho. We ask guests to dress in warm layers, wear waterproof shoes, and bring a camera.

Why do your “safari vessel” boats look so different?

Our boats have been custom designed for our company to provide the best, eye-to-eye wildlife viewing possible. When we first started our photography tours almost 15 years ago, we realized that most boats were so big and far out of the water that guests were forced to look down at the animal, thereby missing out on capturing the amazing Alaskan landscape behind the action – plus, there was likely a pane of glass separating them from all of it. So we designed our low-to-the-water safari vessels with their open deck plan and windows that open upward to give all passengers to unobstructed views. Now you can experience 360 degree visibility and a desirable vantage point so you can take the best photos possible.