Ambassador Cruises Set Sail Towards Protecting Whales, Dolphins & Porpoise

By Steve Jones - Director of Fundraising & Operations ORCA

At the end of January, we interviewed Steve Jones, Director of Fundraising and Operations for the charity Orca, just days before he was heading to do a whale and dolphin monitoring programme around South Georgia, in the Southern Ocean. His travels taking him via Chile, the Falklands, Georgia and finally Antarctica, before heading home, though not before attending a conference in Italy. Some day job!

We wanted to find out more about their relationship with Ambassador Cruises, in particular, the Ambassador & ORCA pledge, dedicated to studying and protecting whales, dolphins and porpoises in UK and European waters and the creation of the first ever cruise “Anti-Whaling” campaign.

Q: For Good – Steve, tell us a little about Orca and the work it does,

A: Steve – Officially, Orca has been around since 2001, but our work stretches back to the mid 90s. We exist because a band of whale and dolphin enthusiasts started jumping on the ferry between the UK and Spain, crossing the Bay of Biscay. While aboard, they started to spot and record the many different Whale and Dolphin species that the waters are home to.

“Ambassador are the first in the cruise industry to develop an  anti-whaling pledge, which clearly voices their opposition to commercial whaling”

Over time, those records became more sophisticated and more complex and eventually led to Orca, as we know it today.

At our core, we’re a citizen science charity. And we’re about giving people who care about whales and dolphins an active role in safeguarding them. This involves training up people from all walks of lives, so that they can collect scientific data about whales and dolphins around the world. We then feed that data into policymaking, help create protected areas, promote research projects, and to try to give the world a better understanding of these animals and how we can further protect them.

Q: For Good – How did the partnership between Orca and Ambassador Cruises come about?

A: Steve – So, we started talking to Ambassador in the early part of 2022, just before they launched as a brand. They initially came to us because they had some questions about the Faroe Islands. The Faroe Islands are one of the parts of the world where sadly, whales and dolphins are still hunted and killed for their meat. Pilot whales are driven into coves and forced to beach. The sight of hundreds of beached animals and the waters red with blood is shocking in the extreme.

The ambassador team were aware of this and weren’t sure how address the idea of the Faroe Islands and if they should they go there, removing it from their itineraries. Over time, by talking to them, we were able help them understand the role that they, as a new cruise brand could actually play in educating and protecting whales more generally and the positive impact they could have. So, that’s where the partnership started. Their concern was genuine. They sort advice, and it’s just flourished from there.

“As I speak, we have people on both of their ships at the moment, with one on a world cruise.”

Q: For Good – In what way does Orca anticipate the partnership with Ambassador cruises contributing to the long-term study and protection of whales, dolphins, and porpoises?

A: Steve – Ambassador Cruises commitment has really impressed us over the past two years. For a start, Ambassador are the first in the cruise industry to develop an anti-whaling pledge, which clearly voices their opposition to commercial whaling. As well, they have an anti-captivity pledge to not offer shore excursions, where there are captive whales and dolphins.

For the 2024/25 season, the Orca team has been given 585 nights aboard Ambassador ships. This will enable us to create 23 itineraries for our monitoring.

As a result, this year alone, we will be visiting six continents and four oceans with Ambassador. So, it’s very much gone global, taking us further and further than I think any of us could have possibly imagined.

As I speak, we have people on both of their ships at the moment, with one on a world cruise. I believe they are in the French Polynesia at the moment, whilst the second ship is heading down to the Amazon in South America to sail up it.

They have also been very good at fundraising events, promoting our campaigns, and offering special deals to our members and supporters.

Q: For Good – Are Ambassador Cruises guests able to take part in your studies while onboard?

A: Steve – Yeah, there’s a big educational component to it for sure. And, when we do programmes that have a public facing element to it, we’re inviting them to take part in wildlife watches out on deck. We also hold lectures, workshops, and other activities to engage the guests on board. We’re very much trying to close the loop by not only studying the animals but actually engaging the guests on board in studies as well and inspiring them to become citizen scientists.

In fact, we find a lot of people who come to us as volunteers, first came across our work onboard an Ambassador Cruise. Having loved the experience, they ask to volunteer and from there, they start monitoring themselves, feeding back their data.

To that end, last year alone, we saw 808,062 marine animals, including 1100, common dolphins. This is something to really celebrate.

“The only way that you can solve some of the issue facing whales and dolphins is by collaborating and collaborating with the shipping industry is vital”

The last word:

A: Steve – The only way that you can solve some of the issue facing whales and dolphins is by collaborating and collaborating with the shipping industry is vital, because the shipping industry are the people that are using the ocean more than anyone else.

There are a lot of threats facing whales and dolphins. People do want to address it. And often it’s just a case of people understanding how they can make a positive difference and finding common ground to move people on a journey towards a safer ocean for these amazing animals.

We are definitely moving in the right direction and the brands we work are too. There’s always going to be things that we can do better but it’s only by working together, can help get to that point quicker, rather than just turning our back and saying, “No! We’re going to live by principle alone!”, and then you know, nothing changes.

Ambassador Cruises genuinely care about the seas and the animals that live within them, both in words and their actions. We wouldn’t work with them otherwise.

It’s also incredibly rewarding to witness first-hand, the other dimension our work brings to the onboard experience.

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