Sunday, 27 July 2014

Thoughts on cruising

I have been asked would I recommend a cruise as a birding option, after reading the previous instalment of the blog you might ask if I would ever go on a cruise again !!!
The answer to the first part is in many ways the same as the answer to cruising in general. They are a great way of sampling taster visits to a variety of destinations all in one go and without the hassle of unpacking you get with land based touring. Maybe I chose too long a trip for my introduction to cruising, maybe the schedule was not the right one with too much time spent at sea.
From a birding prospective much will depend on where you visit and at what time of year. Sailing the Bay of Biscay during migration periods might be more rewarding than the depths of winter, however, we had been to sunnier climes and still not seen that much activity out at sea. The bigger the ship you are on the further you are from the water too and I imagine photography will certainly be more challenging too. A big ship limits the ports of destination as well, and of course whatever the ship, unless you are tendered ashore, the port of call is possibly not exactly a birding paradise.You might find yourself in a city centre !
Having a non birding partner, I do have to consider her needs too. In actual fact, cruising is certainly an attractive proposition to Claire. She enjoys getting dressed up for dinner, nice restaurants whatever. I'm happy staying in a mud hut surrounded by wildlife and dressed in shorts and t-shirt.Being more interested in capturing decent images in camera I am probably happier to stake out the same patch on a regular basis , trying to find species and their territories and watching their habits. A bird lister might be happy to see a bird, tick it off their list and move on.
In actual fact we have already booked our next cruise trip. This time to the Far East and visiting major cities in a variety of countries we have never been to before. I don't expect it will be very birding friendly and have decided to take less camera gear than I would have on other trips. This time we are avoiding more than one day spent totally at sea, and we are boarding a huge vessel with far more choice and sophistication than the Marco Polo had to offer. That said, I wouldn't dismiss a return on the old boat. It has a certain charm of a previous age and it size makes for a much more intimate experience. With far fewer passengers the chance of bumping in to people on a daily basis is almost certain. 
Our Amazon Cruise is something we will remember for the rest of our lives and hopefully some of the friendships we made will stay with us too.
The Marco Polo is due to sail the same trip again next January. I won't be on it, neither hopefully will some of the obnoxious management on board the vessel. Hope my report will give prospective passengers a sense of what to expect.

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