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Dolphins jump for joy on Japonica cruise

Get a stunning view of Corpus Christi Bay and the chance to see dolphins playing in the water on a Japonica cruise. Staff photo by Suzanne Freeman

When the Captain jokes that he’s about to turn on the air conditioning as you pull out from the marina on the Japonica, he’s not kidding. The cool breeze provides refreshing relief from intense summer heat and prepares you for a spectacular look at Corpus Christ from the water.

Enjoy the cool breeze on a boat ride through Corpus Christi Bay. Staff photo by Suzanne Freeman


The Japonica is a 50-foot open-air touring boat that takes passengers from Harrison’s Landing at the Peoples Street T-Head on a 1-hour cruise of Corpus Christi Bay. As you cruise the bay, the deckhand points out the sites such as the Texas State Aquarium, USS Lexington aircraft carrier, North Beach, the Harbor Bridge and the downtown skyline. You’ll also learn insider info about some of the more unusual boats in the marina.

On many days, you just might get an extra special surprise.

Keep a sharp eye out for dolphins. Photo by Carrie Robertson Meyer


On one recent day, the captain spotted a shrimp boat in the bay and headed straight for it. Passengers were treated to the sight of about eight dolphins, including a few calves, feeding on fish and shrimp stirred up by the shrimp boat’s wake. The animals showed no fear of the Japonica as it slowly cruised in for a better look. The shrimp boat didn’t seem to mind either.

Dolphins are abundant in Corpus Christi Bay. Photo by Carrie Robertson Meyer


The two small boats were soon overshadowed by the arrival of cargo ships, one coming, one going. With the help of tugs, both were carefully passing each other in the port’s narrow ship channel. In front of both ships, dolphins played in the water spraying up from the bow.

It is against federal law (Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972) to interfere with the natural behavior of a marine mammal. Neither the Japonica nor the shrimp boat were interacting with the dolphins or feeding the dolphins, instead, passengers were brought close enough to observe the animals' natural behavior in the wild. They're not chasing the dolphins and these are not captive dolphins, which makes the experience special. The dolphins can leave if they want, but since neither boat is a threat to them they stay. It's Corpus Christi's version of whale watching.

One warning before taking a Japonica cruise: you will get a little wet if you are in the front, similar to the splash zone at the Texas State Aquarium’s dolphin show. The passengers sure didn’t seem to mind however — it just added to the air conditioning effect.

The Japonica runs daily from May through Labor Day weekend. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children aged 10 and under. Passengers under 12 are not allowed on the evening cruises indicated below by an asterick.

Hours are:

Monday – Thursday: 10:15, 11:30, 12:45, 2:00, 3:15, 4:30, 5:45, 7:00, 8:15*

Friday: 10:15, 11:30, 12:45, 2:00, 3:15, 4:30, 5:45, 7:00, 8:15*, 9:30*

Saturday: 9:00. 10:15, 11:30, 12:45, 2:00, 3:15, 4:30, 5:45, 7:00, 8:15*, 9:30*

Sunday: 9:00 10:15, 11:30, 12:45, 2:00, 3:15, 4:30, 5:45, 7:00, 8:15*

For information on full moon, sunset, Harbor Bridge light show and private party cruises, visit the web site at harrisonslanding.net.

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