I've gone on a half dozen cruises all around the world, and have learned through trial and error how to maximize a bird list while still enjoying all the cool things a cruise has to offer! Here are five quick tips for birding on any cruise vacation. If you're interested in more cruise-ship birding posts... let me know in the comments below!
1. GO OUTSIDE!
This may seem obvious, but there's just so much to do on a cruise ship that it is super easy to spend all day inside!
If you want to see the birds, you have to actually go outside and look for the birds! Spend sea days out on deck watching for birds, explore your ship at night when you're less likely to see birds.
2. BRING BINOCULARS!
While there will be amazingly close birds like this royal albatross, a lot of the spectacular rare birds are going to be a bit further away and will require binoculars.
Bring your bins and have them on you at all times, you never know when a cool bird will fly by. Wandering around with bins is a fun conversation starter, and I've gotten lifer birds eating lunch at the top floor buffet!
3. STUDY SEABIRDS!
While you'll see plenty of seabirds that hover off the side of the ship giving plenty of time to flip through a field guide, the vast majority are going to give you brief views as they fly past the ship. Knowing what field marks to watch for can get you some spectacular lifers!
4. GET UP EARLY ON PORT DAYS!
Some of the best birding I've had on a cruise ship is right after sunrise on days we're heading in to a new port. Get up early, and head out on deck! You'll not only get gorgeous views of whatever port you're approaching, but you'll also see plenty of seabirds, shorebirds, gulls, and the occasional confused land bird that will hitch-hike back to shore onboard.
5. GO ASHORE!!
One thing that always baffles me on a cruise trip is the number of people who choose to stay on the ship when it's in port... I'm all about getting off the ship and exploring the area! About 99% of the time I go on a cruise-ship organized excursion - even with the large groups it is possible to see lots of cool birds!