Should you spend your money of a cruise, or on a photography trip you plan yourself?
An excellent photographer, and my first photography instructor, Jim Henderson, once posed the question: “What do you want to do, go on a cruise, or go take photos?” I think that is a perfectly valid question everyone should ask themselves.
I love a good cruise. The food is great! I do not have to worry about anything, other than sleeping and eating, and going wherever I am told to go. If I want to dress up for dinner, I can. Or, if I want to eat a burger or pizza I can do that too. I can schedule and pay for shore excursions, be where I am supposed to be, and get driven around with a guide and delivered back to the ship on time. The itinerary is all planned out before I even begin. I can attend lectures, musical or humorous skits, gamble my money away in a casino, and meet a lot of people I might never meet otherwise. But I cannot go somewhere, set up and wait for the light, and take photos. In fact, on some shore excursions I have been on I could not take photos at all, except for those taken through a moving bus window! One thing I will say about cruises is that the offer a means of scouting areas where you want to come back on your own and do some photography.
If I want to go and take photos, I will arrange my own transportation and lodging, plan the trip myself, and ensure I have all the time available for taking photos. I may not eat as well as I would on a cruise. I may not have room in my luggage for a suit or a tuxedo; and there may not even be a restaurant available above one or two stars on the travel guides. I will not have someone telling me I have to be on Deck 4 at 7:18 AM with excursion tickets; but I can be up and on location before sunrise to take photos. If I want to come back that afternoon or the next day, I can do that too. Or, I can go to my next location. The itinerary is totally up to me. For me, these two activities are diametrically opposed.
If you want to chill out, let someone else do the planning and driving, while eating and relaxing, then by all means schedule yourself a cruise. However, do not expect to get a lot of snapshots of anything other than people doing the same thing you are doing. To me, there is a huge difference between a snapshot and a photograph.
If, on the other hand, you want to go take photographs, then sit down and plan a trip to whatever location you are interested in. Put some time into the pre-planning and planning phases. Research the location for where the best locations are for sunrises, sunsets, wildlife, or whatever your interests are.
In the end, you will probably spend about the same amount on either trip, so if your goal is to do photography, skip the cruise and do your own trip planning.