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Online Reservations

Research Vessel Sea Explorer

A 65-foot floating laboratory with five distinct teaching areas fully equipped with video microscopes, touch tanks, viewing aquariums, and state-of-the-art electronics.

Participants must be accompanied by an adult if under the age of 18. OI members enjoy a 10% discount. Call for reservations and availability.

Programs and Whale Watching Cruises on the R/V Sea Explorer

Blue Whale Discovery Cruise


Bioluminescence Night Cruise

Spring through Fall

Dolphin Discovery Cruise

(formerly Marine Mammal / Marine Wildlife Cruise) Fall, Winter and Spring

Gray Whale Adventure Cruise

March and April

Parade of Lights Holiday Cruise


Mother’s Day, Father’s Day & 4th of July Cruises

May, June, July

Click here to download our R/V Sea Explorer handout (PDF -- 428KB).
R/V Sea Explorer Public Programs Frequently Asked Questions >

About the R/V Sea Explorer

The Ocean Institute is a nationally recognized non-profit, educational facility specializing in marine and environmental science and maritime history. The Ocean Institute operates the 65-foot R/V Sea Explorer, a marine educational vessel with a research component that is dedicated to environmental education.

RV Sea ExplorerAs an educational platform the vessel is ideal. This floating lab is equipped with onboard computers, satellite technology, touch tanks, viewing aquariums, video microscopes, and state of the art electronics. A bowsprit over the water provides students with a breathtaking view of dolphins, whales and sea lions.

Research conducted aboard the vessel becomes a curriculum piece and is included in educational programming to over 15,000 students a year. There is no more unique and poignant learning opportunity for students in grades 5 through college than to participate in authentic statewide research cooperatives. These cooperatives are research projects that involve several organizations working together on geographically large-scale projects. Our research/educational cooperatives include projects with the California Department of Public Health and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

RV Sea ExplorerThe R/V Sea Explorer participates in a phytoplankton productivity project headed by Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Water samples collected off Dana Point are processed and sent to Scripps for analysis. Chlorophyll reflects the total mass of phytoplankton (drifting plants). These plants are at the bottom of the food chain and so an accurate measurement of these critters reflects the well being of all the animals in the area.

The R/V Sea Explorer works with the California Department of Public Health monitoring blooms of plankton that might be dangerous to human populations. Some plankton produce a biotoxin that can be fatal to birds and sea lions if ingested in large concentrations.

In addition we offer exciting programs to the public including educational programs that use oceanographic equipment to sample and examine sea floor sediment and the animals that live there. Other cruises include our Bioluminescence Cruise. Held at night during the new moon--it's darkest then, this trip highlights animals and plants that glow in the dark. During the gray whale migration we offer a marine mammal cruise.

Everyday the R/V Sea Explorer interacts with some part of the marine environment. Each day we chronicle at least one account, one interesting interaction with some organism that lives in the sea.
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At a Glance: Public Hours
Weekends: 10am-3pm
Pilgrim open most Sundays: 11am-3:30pm
$6.50/adult $4.50/child (3-12yrs)
Members and children 2 yrs and under are free.

Cruise Prices*
Members: $22/adult
$22/child (3-12yrs)
Members: $19/child (3-12yrs)

Sail Prices* (Min age 4yrs)
$40/adult (Members: $36/adult) $23/child (Members: $21/child)

*Includes weekend admission.

A processing fee is added to all credit card, phone, and internet reservations

programs ocean institute
ocean institute programs
California Travel Expert
View video clip of the R/V Sea Explorer as seen on California Travel Expert with Veronica Hill.
View Now >
programs ocean institute
ocean institute programs
California Travel Expert
View video clip of Marine Wildlife Cruise as seen on California Travel Expert with Veronica Hill
View Now >