If there is one thing that almost everybody treasures from a cruise at some stage, it is one or more of the professional souvenir photos taken at events such as embarkation, or the formal night meet and greet with the captain. And, as such a cruise might be a once in a lifetime experience for some people, these can be great memories; milestones that chart the story of their lives. So far, so good.
But I fear it has now gone way beyond that. Way, way, beyond that.
At lifeboat drill on a recent cruise- an event that should be carried through with at least a certain amount of attentive sobriety- I was gobsmacked to find a squad of on board photographers, taking people’s pictures as they stood at their boats stations, clad in their orange life jackets.
This, after loudspeaker instructions from the bridge had specifically asked passengers not to take food or drink to their lifeboats stations. This, after the same message had been repeated three times….
If lifeboat drill-the most serious and important exercise conducted on board any ship- is to become yet another excuse for photographers to ply their trade yet again, then what else on board is actually sacrosanct these days? If this can be dumbed down to just yet another glorified photo opportunity, then whatever next?
And-I have to emphasize- this is far from the only time that I have seen this ghastly, banal business in operation.
I mean, can you imagine the passengers of the Titanic being refused passage to the boats until they had posed for a ‘celebratory’ picture portrait? Maybe with a canvas backdrop featuring a large iceberg, perhaps.
Over the top? Maybe. But, for sure, it’s a pointed nod to the direction in which we are heading.
It isn’t simply boat drill. Throughout any large ship- on almost any night- large, CGI backdrops will be erected in the public areas to allow for passenger portraits. A steady procession of them will line most of the public walkways, and often on more than one deck.
Prime locations, such as processional stairways, will be roped off to ‘non participants’ in this neon pageant. Not only is this this mildly inconvenient- it’s downright rude. What is the priority here; passenger comfort or photographer’s prerequisites? And I also have concerns that there might be the makings of a safety risk here in the unlikely event of an accident.
Then, of course, there are the photographers who swoop down like dive bombers at dinner tables. Annoying barely begins to cover it.
Don’t mistake this as a rant against the people actually taking these pictures; they work their socks off, and do a job prized by a great many. But the fact remains that shipboard photography these days has become all intrusive, all pervasive, and totally out of control.
Look at the size of the average photo gallery on any mega ship today. It is usually the size of a Zeppelin hangar. Vast acreage is given over to displaying a tsunami of petrified rictus grins, staring down at us from wall to wall, end to end.
Surely, in the digital age, there is a better way of doing this? Couldn’t on board photography be arranged as a required service, rather than allowing it to become something that pokes it’s intrusive tendrils into every aspect of shipboard life?
From embarkation to getting off at every port. From cocktail parties to formal portraits, restaurant pictures and fancy dress costumes, it often now feels as if the entire ship is now seen as nothing more than a backdrop for the benefit of the photographers. And it is high time to draw a line.
For sure, I’m aware of the revenue incentives that cruise lines see in on board photography, and the sums realised are a big part of on board passenger spend.
I’m not arguing for an end to shipboard photography services. Not by any means. I’m appealing for a bit less of the in your face, over the top, all pervasive pressure that we are being brow beaten into accepting as the norm. It isn’t normal. And it isn’t nice.
Enough is enough.