I got my whalewatching for free with my TravelPass, otherwise I wouldn't have paid up for it, I suspect. It's indeed a pretty hefty cost. But to see whales (we saw three, plus a pod of dolphins) in the wild like that... I don't know - it definitely didn't leave me unmoved, and if I think at how we humans are busy fucking up this planet, I fear that in years to come I'll be very grateful yet that I had that chance, before it was too late.
No idea what time is best - I took my trip late in the morning, if I recall correctly. (I do suspect that the very first trip of the day is a bad one to be one, as the whales still need to be spotted at that point, while later trips benefit from the earlier ones having seen whales dive at such and such location, meaning that x minutes later, they're likely to come back up not too far off.)