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Shark cage diving & whale watching: Most incredible animals to see on Princess Cruises excursions

Author: Harriet Mallinson

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Wildlife encounters are an exciting part of many cruise holidays, with shore excursions bringing you up close to some of the most fascinating animals on the planet. Check out what you can meet on a Princess Cruises sailing.

Princess Cruises offers a plethora of thrilling cruise excursions at ports of call all around the world.

From discovering historic treasures to eating traditional delicacies with locals, holidays with Princess can be an eye-opening experience both on and off the ship.

Animal lovers will love the shore excursions recommended by two of the most trusted names in exploration – Discovery and Animal Planet.

These unique tours are only available through Princess Cruises and see guests getting up close to a host of intriguing animals.

We've rounded up just a few of the amazing creatures you can meet on a Princess cruise excursion.

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Sharks

Ever fancied a spot of shark cage diving? Here's your chance. Shark Encounter is an exclusive Animal Planet tour in Honolulu, Hawaii and is guaranteed to impress mates back home.

Provided with a mask and a snorkel, you'll descend in the ocean surrounded by a safety cage so you can get right up to circling sharks without any danger.

There are a whopping 40 species of sharks in Hawaii's waters, ranging in length from eight inches to over 50 feet, eight of which can be observed near shore, including the reef whitetip, sandbar, scalloped hammerhead and tiger shark.

Two of the most common are Galapagos and sandbar sharks. The former grows up to 12 feet and has 14 rows of serrated teeth that are triangular on the top and sharper on the bottom. Say cheese!

Galapagos sharks - a species of requiem shark - mainly eat fish, and, alarmingly, sometimes each other - so young pups steer clear of the adults.

- READ MORE: Best Princess excursions for food and drink -

Fun fact - if a shark can't digest something it consumes, it pushes its stomach out through its mouth, expels the object and then pulls the organ back into its proper place. Not one for the dinner table, we reckon.

Meanwhile, sandbar sharks are considered one of the safest sharks to swim with and are distinguishable by their very high first dorsal fin. In fact, they're often fished for their fins to make shark fin soup.

Sandbar sharks grow up to 6ft in length and eat bony fishes, smaller sharks, rays, cephalopods, gastropods, crabs and shrimp.

On the excursion, you'll travel with an experienced and knowledgeable captain and crew who are trained by marine biologists, so you can learn all about shark biology and behaviour, ocean life, conservation issues and the significance of sharks in Hawaiian culture and mythology.

You might also see dolphins, with both bottlenose and spinners common in the area.

Sandbar sharks are considered one of the safest sharks to swim with. Credit: Shutterstock

Whales

For slightly less, well, toothy, encounters, head to Alaska to admire magnificent humpback whales.

Princess offers a range of excursions including whale encounters, with the Inside Passage waters near Juneau supporting a very healthy humpback whale population thanks to the nutrient-rich waters.

These mammals can grow up to a staggering 48 to 62.5ft and weigh 40 tons. Their giant pectoral fins alone can grow up to 16ft long.

Humpback whales are not just famed for their size, their magical songs can travel extraordinary distances through water and are subject of fascination to scientists. It's thought the songs are used to attract mates.

- READ MORE: What to do, see and & eat on Alaska holidays with Princess -

Despite their heft, these guys are no threat to humans - whales eat tiny shrimp-like krill, plankton and small fish.

They can easily be seen when they slap the water with their fins and leap out of the water - propelled by their huge tail fins.

Go whale spotting on Animal Planet excursion Local Connections: Discover Alaska's Whales - A Small-Group Experience Created By Alaskan Captain. You'll head to Auke Bay to watch for whales in a ship equipped with a hydrophone so you can hear the whales' haunting underwater songs if the opportunity arises.

As you cruise through the island-spotted waters of Stephens Passage, look out for orcas, sea lions, harbour seals and porpoises, too!

Humpback whales can grow up to a staggering 48 to 62.5ft and weigh 40 tons. Credit: Shutterstock

Bears

Alaska is also the perfect place for black bears - with Tongass National Forest the ideal spot to see them at large.

It might be confusing but black bears are actually not always black; they can range from white to cinnamon to brown to black - although most are pretty dark.

Black bears have a short, stubby tail, longish ears, a relatively straight profile from nose to forehead and small, dark eyes. They are, on average, three feet at the shoulder, with males weighing in at 600 pounds compared to smaller females at 200 pounds.

- READ MORE: Perks of going all-inclusive with Princess Cruises -

Able to climb trees thanks to their short claws and swim well, black bears eat roots, berries, meat, fish, insects, larvae, grass and other succulent plants. They can kill young deer, elk, moose and other hoofed animals as well as livestock such as sheep. And, yes, much like Winnie the Pooh, black bears are also partial to honey, but no, they don't wear jumpers.

Head out on the Alaska Bear Adventure & Flight, recommended by Animal Planet. Guests get to fly in an Alaska floatplane with a guaranteed window seat before spending almost an hour watching black bears fishing for and feeding on salmon heading upstream to spawn. Keep an eye out for eagles in surrounding trees waiting for scraps as well.

Alternatively, if you don't wish to fly, check out the Animal Planet Exclusive: Bear Country & Wildlife Expedition.

Black bears eat roots, berries, meat, fish, insects, larvae, grass and other succulent plants. Credit: Shutterstock

Sloths

Over in Costa Rica, you get to meet the world's slowest mammal - and no it's not your teenage son. The three-toed sloth is so sedate that algae grow on its fur (although this does prove useful for camouflage in the rainforest).

These slow creatures spend nearly all their time up in the trees using their long claws for grip. Fun fact, this hold is so powerful it can stay fast even if a sloth dies while suspended from a branch.

Much like teens wish they could (and us too for that matter), sloths sleep 12-15 hours a day and remain pretty motionless when awake. Despite this famed lethargy, the mammals are surprisingly good at swimming thanks to their long arms.

- READ MORE: What's cruising onboard Regal Princess like? -

Another quirk of this creature is its ability to turn its head 270 degrees thanks to an extra neck vertebra. Creepy.

Sloths consume leaves, shoots and fruit from the trees while getting almost all their water from juicy plants.

Princess guests can meet this intriguing animal on the shore excursion Animal Planet Exclusive - Meet the Sloths at the Aviarios del Caribe/Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica, a rescue centre established in 1997. Learn about their habitat, the dangers they face and how they are being protected.

Sloths spend nearly all their time up in the trees using their long claws for grip. Credit: Shutterstock

Marine life

To encounter a vast array of submarine fauna, try the Animal Planet Recommended Snorkel & Scenic Coastal Cruise on a St Lucia excursion.

You'll visit the island's protected marine park where there are plentiful designated dive and snorkel sites.

- READ MORE: What you didn't know about dining on Princess Cruises -

Don't forget to bring an underwater camera on this cruise excursion, St. Lucia's immaculate coral reefs bristle with sea life. Expect coral reefs encrusted with a vibrant colourful seascape home to sea fans, finger corals and sponges as well as tropical fish, eels, sea horses, sea turtles and stingrays.

Fun fact, seahorses are the ultimate romantics and mate for life, engaging in ritualistic dances for each other every morning as a greeting and to strengthen their bond.

Perhaps one to suggest next time you're looking to reignite the spark with your other half?

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