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.

More proof?

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.

Smile! You’re on constant camera!


  1. One of the many stupid questions I was asked while working on cruise ships…
    ‘where will I find my photos’
    We would answer…’in the photo gallery’
    Passenger ‘ How will I know which are my photos when I get there?’
    Me ‘Look for the ones with your face on!’


  2. The photographers work very hard on a ship…and also crazy hours. I like the life jacket photos… well as memory photos of some great dinner-mate. I’m sure I could “Pass” on the photo taking if you (Anthony) were one of those dinner-mates. Now I know why people change tables early in a cruise; your nit-picking and self interest would bore most passengers to tears. Your attempted comparison with a “Titanic reference is quite sophomoric writing as well.
    I don’t mind if you take your own photos; in fact, why don’t you bring your own food…maybe you’ll get a discount?


  3. I couldn’t agree with you more Anthony. On SOME lines the photographers have become excessively annoying and act as if they have a right to photograph you. I am sure some creative marketing genius could develop a new approach that would provide the photos for those who want them and leave the rest of us in peace. Anthony, I’ll happily share a table with you and enjoy your well thought out opinions. — I may even want a photo with you. 😉


  4. You note that the lifeboat drill is “the most serious and important exercise conducted on board any ship” and imply that because it’s so serious it shouldn’t be photographed. I don’t see the connection. Lots of serious things get photographed – weddings, funerals, wars, riots, presidential inaugurations, graduations, baptisms, bar mitzvahs, prom nights, ship dedications, ceremonies of all kinds up to and including the awarding of Nobel Prizes. The funeral procession of John F. Kennedy in 1963 was perhaps the most photographed event of history. There might be a case to be made for limiting photography somewhat (although I think it’s a highly debatable point) but criticizing the shooting of the lifeboat drill may not be the best approach.


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