Back to main site

P&O Cruises teams up with ORCA to protect marine life


Marine charity ORCA will be on board four cruises this summer for a programme of activities to help guests discover the diverse array of wildlife in our oceans, including whales, dolphins and porpoises

Spotting a whale, dolphin or porpoise in the wild is an unforgettable experience. UK and European waters are home to a third of the world’s cetacean (whale, dolphin and porpoise) species, with over 23 species living alongside us, and guests on P&O Cruises ships are often lucky enough to spot these beautiful creatures while sailing the high seas.


However, these magnificent animals are vulnerable and in need of protection. Enter ORCA: a charity that’s entirely dedicated to studying and protecting whales, dolphins and porpoises in UK and European waters. ORCA has been working with P&O Cruises since 2015 to deliver a programme of engagement activities to help guests enjoy the diverse array of marine wildlife seen in the different regions the ships visit. These activities are tailored to each cruise to take into account the habitats and species likely to be seen, but typical cruises include lectures on marine conservation and the environment, and deck watches, where guests can spot and identify marine wildlife. There are also wildlife clinics, where guests can ask questions about marine biology, and quizzes and other activities for both children and adults to enjoy.


‘ORCA’s cruise programme is crucial for two key reasons,’ says Anna Bunney, Education Coordinator at ORCA. ‘First of all, it allows us to educate people about the marine environment and the wonderful wildlife that can be seen in the ocean. We can teach people about the threats facing marine animals and the role we can all play in helping to protect them. Secondly, we use our trips to monitor whales, dolphins and porpoises, collecting sightings and data about the animals and where they can be found. This contributes to our scientific research and is used at the highest levels to help drive new protection programmes for the marine environment.’


The experience of seeing a cetacean in its natural environment is thrilling for guests.‘Without a doubt, the biggest response from guests comes from seeing whales and dolphins in the wild,’ says Anna. ‘We see dozens of species, and nothing beats showing someone one of these wonderful animals for the first time – the look on their face is truly unforgettable.’


In addition to the on-board activities for guests, ORCA also involves the ships’ crews in conservation projects. ‘The brilliant P&O Cruises bridge crew take part in a project called ORCA OceanWatch, where during a dedicated nine-day period in the summer, they collect data from the bridge about whales and dolphins sighted, giving us asnapshot of marine wildlife,’ explains Anna. ‘They’re trained up by ORCA in data collection and species ID to take part in this project.’


The team at ORCA enjoy their time spent on board, too. ‘Each voyage is unique, and the different guests we work with and animals we see means every experience is truly special,’ says Anna. ‘We work across so many different sea regions and not knowing what’s coming next makes every trip such a fabulous experience. Our Wildlife Officers really have to be on their toes, because practically anything can (and does!) happen.’


ORCA will be on board Aurora R812, Azura A821, Aurora R817 (from Halifax to Southampton) and Oriana X814

To learn more about ORCA, click here 

For more on P&O Cruises' commitment to the environment, click here

Bridge crew take part in a project called ORCA OceanWatch

P&O Cruises bridge crew take part in ORCA OceanWatch project

ORCA’s top tips for spotting whales and dolphins in the wild

1. Know what to look for. We scan the sea from ship to horizon using the nakede ye, then scan the horizon using binoculars, and there are a number of things to lookout for. When a large whale comes up to the surface to breathe, it exhales water vapour into the air. Birds are a fantastic indicator of cetacean presence – if you see them circling in the air or diving, keep your eyes on that spot as there may be a whale or a pod of dolphins feeding on the same school of fish from below. Dolphins tend to make quite a commotion in the water as they travel, creating splashes. Also, look for dark shapes or anything unusual in the water. And if you see something, make sure you shout so that other guests can enjoy the sight too.


2. Choose your cruise. Where possible, trips that have a lot of daytime sailing and sea days will be an obvious choice. Select holidays where you can be on deck at first light – it's often one of the best times of day to see many species.


3. Make sure you have everything you need. Binoculars are advisable – on cruise ships the horizon can be many miles away so there’s a limit to what you will see with the naked eye. For keen photographers, a telephoto lens (something in the 200mm-300mm range) will maximise your chances of capturing that perfect shot.


4. Work as a team. The more eyes you have on the water, the more chance you have of spotting something. Roping in your travelling companions is a must, but if you see other guests with binoculars or cameras, why not strike up a conversation and see if you can work together to maximise your chance of spotting some of the more elusive animals?


5. Perseverance is key. The more time you spend watching out for wildlife, the more animals you are going to see. Put the hours in – it will pay off in the long run.