Why Your Next Photo Trip Should Be a Cruise

Why Your Next Photo Trip Should Be a Cruise

Now more than ever, there are a variety of exciting photo destinations. When you’re planning your next trip, you should consider a cruise.

I love to take trips to practice photography. I find inspiration in shooting in a new environment, and some of my favorite images were created while traveling. However, not every trip I’ve taken has been 100 percent focused on photography, and if I’m traveling with others, there can be relatively fewer opportunities for photography. Throughout the years, I’ve gone a number of cruises, and I think they offer one of the best opportunities for combining photography and an itinerary that is acceptable to everyone in the group.

The cruise industry will be the first to tell you that they are no longer the floating retirement homes that many would think of. New ships offer exciting architecture and dozens of activities across mammoth open decks. New ships are also offering a greater variety of adventurous excursions and new ports of call.

My number one priority in a photography trip is location. While some of my favorite places to shoot aren’t accessible on a cruise, a great number of places are, including Alaska, Europe, and Hawaii. Many traditional trips are limited to one or two locations, and typically have a flight out, hotel stay, and a flight back, with maybe one additional location if you’re willing to fly or rent a car to get around. Cruises can allow you to visit a number of locations in one trip with greater convenience. Unfortunately, you’ll have less time and flexibility in choosing when you visit the locations, as the ship often leaves before sunset. For some locations, particularly Europe, this is a greater compromise than some may be willing to make.

Beyond just the ports, the ships themselves offer a number of opportunities to shoot. Alaskan itineraries cruise close to the coastline and allow for scenic views of glaciers and fjords, right from the deck of the ship. Newer ships feature unique architecture and can create an interesting subject even in the middle of the sea.

Having a floating hotel to return to each night is also a big help on the more exotic itineraries. Staterooms typically have U.S. standard outlets and make for a great place to store and recharge gear. Only having to transfer gear once onto the ship is also convenient, versus multiple transfers if you are moving between destinations via another method.

A number of excursions, the tours booked through the cruise line for a port, are focused on photography, and can be a great value compared to a more dedicated workshop or photography tour. If you are traveling with others, excursions offer a great way to personalize everyone’s experience on the trip as they will have options beyond photography-centric tours.

In my experience, Alaskan and Hawaiian cruises are some of the best ways to get an introduction to the photographic opportunities in each area. While a typical Hawaiian trip focuses on one island, such as Oahu, NCL’s cruise in Hawaii covers four islands, including two overnight stays at the islands. Alaskan cruises offer a great variety of opportunities, from Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, to scenic cruising in Glacier, to seeing brown bears in Sitka.

If you’re looking to create a variety of exciting images in new locations while on a trip, a cruise is a great option. The variety doesn’t just stop at locations, as the plethora of activities and options also makes the trip an easier sell to anyone traveling with you. I’ve discovered a number of destinations via cruising that I’d like to return to and have a more in-depth opportunity to explore.

Cover image by Katarzyna Ostrowska via Unsplash.

Alex Coleman's picture

Alex Coleman is a travel and landscape photographer. He teaches workshops in the American Southwest, with an emphasis on blending the artistic and technical sides of photography.

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I've already been on a cruise, it's so cool, My pics https://www.fabianpulido.com/travel/

I've been on a couple of cruises and they are a great way to get a taste of a destination without committing to a full trip there. It can be frustrating leaving port before sunset but I did manage to get this shot in Lisbon taken from the deck before sailing away.

Nice shot! Timing can always be tricky, so cruises can be a tradeoff between volume of places seen and the amount of time spent in each one. I think they are a great way to explore a new region- there are a number of ports where I was satisfied after the day there, while there are others I definitely want to return to.

I'd be cautious before running out to book a cruise for photography. Yes, the destinations are numerous and you get access to several (depending on the length of your cruise) towns and multiple countries in one trip. The drawback is that cruise excursions are usually large groups of other cruise passengers. Time is often limited and you end up getting shuffled around en masse when you often want/need more to follow the light. You won't often be able to take time to capture those special moments and you'll end up with Gigs of images that are similar to everyone else who booked those same excursions. I've been on several cruises around Europe and New Zealand/Australia and the best aspect of taking a cruise is that it gives you an introduction to specific areas that you can later arrange your own private excursions or shorter vacations. When you go back to places you discovered from the cruise you can wander and create art at your own pace and even get beyond the tourist destinations to find those truly memorable and unique vistas and scenes.

Good point- excursions definitely dictate a large part of the experience.

Almost always, there is a "Port of Call On Your Own" style excursion. I favor these as I only need transport into the city center, and can then pursue my own interests in the port. I've had great experiences with the flexibility this offers- both in timing and choice of activities.

How ironic ... travelling on one of the most polluting transportation system to shoot the beauty of nature and landscapes ...
How about being a bit less schizophrenic and bring a bit of ethic in our way to show the world trough our work ?
Seriously guys, don't you feel that there is something wrong in this approach ?

Many people love cruises and swear by them. I however view a cruise as a very superficial and uninteresting way to travel. Not that you have to be an adventurer in peak physical form, trekking through an isolated wilderness to have a great photo vacation, but cruises generally only highlight the most touristy aspects of a port. It's a great way to travel with hundreds or thousands of "ugly Americans" who don't really want to spend the time to explore or learn about the area they're visiting. Also, aren't cruises one of the best ways to guarantee a Norovirus infection and days of uncontrollable diarrhea. Can't get many great photos from the bathroom!