The pristine water of the Gulf in southern Alabama is a perfect place to watch dolphins play in their natural environment. One of the most popular areas to book a morning, afternoon or sunset cruise is Orange Beach, a dolphin hotspot. Here, you will find a variety of boats, cruise and activity options to help you plan your perfect dolphin quest.
The Fun Boat
Rave reviews suggest that this boat lives up to its name, especially for children. The Fun Boat has a well-stocked snack bar, a crab trap and, even a water fight; add playful dolphins and a knowledgeable crew and you have a recipe for a winning excursion.
This cruise, by reservation only, is limited to thirty-five people and lasts two hours. The Fun Boat has an upper and lower deck, a large indoor seating area (not air-conditioned) and a bathroom. It is not handicap accessible. A snack bar offers soft drinks, bottled water, sports drinks and an assortment of snacks. The Fun Boat is alcohol free.
Management notes that they have never had a cruise where passengers didn't see dolphins and will offer a voucher to ride for free in the future if these fun loving mammals are not spotted.
Activities and Highlights
The entire length of the two-hour cruise is filled with fun opportunities for the whole family.
- Learn about dolphins, sharks, other sea life and the history of Orange Beach from knowledgeable deckhands.
- Touch a live blue crab that is pulled out of the water by deckhands in a crab trap.
- Take a photo and learn how blue crabs fit into the ecosystem of the Gulf.
- The mega water fight "Water Wars" is staged near the end of the cruise with the upper deck and lower decks competing using water cannons and squirt guns. If you don't want to get wet, the Fun Boat has an off limits dry cabin area.
- For this tour, it is best to wear shorts, t-shirts or bathing suits with a cover up. Don't forget your towels too.
Pricing and Departure Information
The daytime dolphin cruises depart daily at 9 a.m., 12 noon and 3 p.m. Daytime pricing is $20 per person plus tax. Special sunset dolphin cruises are offered at 6 p.m. with pricing set at $25 per person plus tax. Children under the age of two are free. Book via the website or by calling 251-971-1893.
If you've made reservations, and the weather is bad, you will be rescheduled or refunded. The Fun Boat is also available for private rental.
Orange Beach Sailing Charters
If you have always wondered what it would feel like to move across the water propelled only by the wind, then book a tour with award winning Orange Beach Sailing Charters. The Sailob is the only sailing charter that operates out of the Gulf of Mexico; all other area boats are confined to stay north of the Bridge at Alabama Point.
Overview and General Route
Orange Beach Sailing offers two-hour, four-hour, sunset, and all day charters for just six passengers. Forget about fighting the crowds for a view. The private daytime charters provide a nostalgic way to experience the beauty of the Gulf and the wonder of dolphins that are often seen riding the waves.
Normally, the Sailob sets sail toward Perdido Pass then out into the Gulf and beyond. If conditions are too rough, the Sailob will head to protected bay areas. Among the many highlights of the trip, beside dolphin spotting and the lack of crowds, is the opportunity to see the Perdido Pass Bridge from the water. The itinerary and what you see depends on the tour option you choose.
Sailob On-Board Amenities
The private yacht comes well-equipped with modern creature comforts and convenience.
- The Sailob offers complimentary snacks and beverages. If you bring your own, pack items in a soft cooler.
- The boat has a full entertainment system with iPod plugin, a large CD library and Sirius satellite radio.
- If you plan an early morning or lunchtime sail, the company can arrange breakfast or lunch to be brought onboard.
What to Expect on Tour
The adventure begins even before you leave the dock.
- Watch the sails be put up and catch the wind. This is a traditional sailing experience.
- Increase your nautical knowledge about the lore, history and art of sailing.
- Learn about navigation and steer the boat.
- Look for wildlife including cormorants, manatees, bottlenose dolphins and other sea creatures.
- Take a swim in the Gulf.
Available Sailing Packages
All tours are by reservation for a maximum of six people. All daytime trips are private. Book online or call 251-981-SAIL (7245).
Two-Hour Getaway: Priced at $270, this short tour is recommended for young families or for people that just want to get away for a couple of hours to unwind. Passengers have the choice of touring the Gulf or the Bay in search of dolphins and other sea life.
Four-Hour Adventure: If two hours on the water isn't enough, try the four-hour adventure that takes you as far as Florida. This tour departs at 8 a.m. and at 1 p.m. The cost is $460. Snacks and entertainment are available onboard.
All-Day Charter Sail: On this in-depth, thirty-three nautical mile tour, you will depart from Orange Beach and sail to Pensacola. Along the way, you will pass Sand Island, which is only accessible by boat. After passing Ono Island, you will see the famous FloraBama on your way to Pensacola Pass. There is plenty of wildlife from birds to dolphins to keep you entertained. This tour includes a private sunset tour as well, because it returns to the dock after dark. The cost of this trip is $1650.
Sunset Cruises: Choose between a private ($425) or shared cruise ($90 per person) for six people. Private sunset cruises are totally customizable with wine, music and snacks. The trip usually lasts two-and-a-half to three hours depending on the season. If you don't mind celebrating sunset with one or two other couples, the shared sunset cruise is an affordable option.
Dolphins Down Under
This tour offered by Dolphins Down Under not only allows you to see dolphins gliding and dancing on the top of the water, but it also gives you a glimpse of dolphin behavior under the waves. The smooth crystal clear waters of the gulf make down under viewing fun and different.
The Glass Bottom Viewing Experience
Each of the company's two custom-made catamarans have a twin hull, making them very stable vessels. There is a restroom and snack bar that sells soft drinks and alcohol on board. Fitted life vests are available for children and infants.
The big attraction are four glass panels that are mounted at the bottom of the hull. Each glass panel is the size of a door. There are mixed reviews on the size, accessibility and visibility of these panels, so take this trip with an open mind. Most reviews agree that the crew is hospitable and knowledgeable and that the cruise is fun.
Down Under Activities
When you book a dolphin tour with this charter company, you can expect a variety of things to see and do.
- Spot dolphins above and below the water.
- Learn about dolphins, osprey fish eagles, blue herons and other wetland animals from the crew.
- Drive the boat.
- Enjoy a lunch cruise on board.
Tour Schedule and Pricing
Reservations are recommended; call 251-968-4FUN (4386) to book. They suggest that passengers arrive twenty minutes before their scheduled departure. Passengers who don't see a dolphin are offered another trip at no charge.
Cruises are an hour-and-a-half in length and depart daily during the summer at 10 a.m., 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6p.m. Adults are $25, children from 3 to 10 are $15, and infants are free.
The "Cheeseburger in Paradise" lunch cruise is offered on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 1 p.m. and includes a cruise from Sanroc Cay Marina to Perdido Bay where you will eat lunch while looking for dolphins. Adults are $30 and children 2 to 10 are $25. In addition to cheeseburgers, children can choose from a grilled cheese sandwich or hot dog with fries and a drink.
Cruise Orange Beach
If you are looking for a roomy vessel with good deck seating and great views, Cruise Orange Beach might be the cruise to book. This vessel is also one of the few that is allowed to head out into the Gulf of Mexico. Cruise Orange Beach is a family owned business that has been operating cruises since 2010.
This vessel has many amenities that will make this trip a pleasure for young and old alike. There are seats that offer a bird's-eye view, roomy decks, a snack bar, souvenir area and restrooms. An added perk is that there is an indoor, air-conditioned cabin if the sun gets to be too much.
Fun for the Whole Family
Offering a quality experience for every member of your family, Cruise Orange Beach strives to go above and beyond with its activities.
- Deckhands educate passengers on sea birds, dolphins, and other marine life that make these waters their home.
- Touch a live blue crab that is pulled from a crab trap and learn why it is important to the ecosystem.
- Watch for pirates and have your super soaker water gun ready for battle. Don't forget to bring your towel.
Departure Times and Rates
Cruises set sail at 8:45 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. A sunset cruise is available at 6:30 p.m. Adults are $19, children ages 3-12 are $16 and infants under 2 are free. Private charters are also available at $500. A calendar of availability is posted online, making booking easy. You can also call 251-986-6694. If a tour is canceled due to weather, customers receive a full refund.
If you want to avoid the heat and sit indoors on a dolphin cruise, the double-decked Southern Rose with its air-conditioned salon is a good bet. Just be advised that people going in and out of the salon can make it stuffy. There are limited outdoor areas for sitting and viewing. A plus is that the Southern Rose is wheelchair accessible.
This double-decked cruise vessel has indoor seating on the lower deck and air-conditioned salon seating on the upper deck. There are two restrooms. The snack bar serves sandwiches, soft drinks, candy, cotton candy, snow cones, ice cream and other snacks. Beer, wine and mixed drinks are also sold. Passengers are allowed to bring their own coolers of non-alcoholic beverages. The sunset cruise is popular with couples and senior citizens.
Activities with Southern Rose
During your cruise tour along Alabama's Gulf Coast, you can expect a comfortable and informative environment.
- Enjoy a narrative tour of the area's waterways.
- Listen to beach music.
- Look for dolphins and other wildlife.
- Unwind with a mixed or soft drink in air-conditioning as you cruise looking for dolphins.
Departure Times and Rates
Dolphin cruises on the Southern Rose last one-and-a-half to two hours and the time of departure varies. It is best to reserve tickets close to the time you want to take the cruise. There is a 24-hour cancellation notice. Daytime cruises are $15 for adults and kids. Sunset cruise tickets are $22 for adults and $15 for children. Pricing is subject to change.
The Dolphins Are Waiting
Watching wild dolphins as they glide and play effortlessly in the beautiful turquoise waters of the Gulf is an unforgettable experience no matter what vessel you choose. So grab your camera, sunglasses, hat and sunscreen and head out on a grand adventure.