Sunday, July 25, 2010
For several years now, a small group of birders has been taking cruise ships off the West Coast and watching some fantastic seabirds in comfort and luxury at a discount price.
In summer the big cruise ships travel 8-14 days from Vancouver, British Columbia to Ketchikan and other Alaskan ports. In winter they cruise from Long Beach, California to the "Mexican Riviera" (Mazatlan and Puerto Villarta). These trips have all the amenities--shows, staterooms, food, drink, music, spas, art shows, fancy dinners--really, they are self-contained floating casinos.
In spring, each boat must depart Long Beach and head to its new home in Vancouver. In the fall, the course is reversed. These repositioning cruises are 3-4 days and travel 60 miles offshore--the perfect place for deep water seabirding! The prices are exceptionally reasonable. In fact, the cost of such a trip (including air-fare) is often less than 3 day-long pelagic trips, when you figure in travel costs, restaurants, and a motel for 3 nights.
If you choose your trip carefully, you can plan to be offshore during daylight hours nearly anywhere on the West Coast. Rise at dawn and have the ship to yourself for several hours, as the last late-night partiers are just stumbling off to bed.
You watch birds generally from a covered deck on about the 7th floor of most ships. Bring your scope, it is smooth and the view is an ocean panorama (see photo above from September 2007). The very bow of the ship, from where you watch, may be more than a hundred feet forward of the bow wake, thus it is very quiet and relaxing.
For more photos of the trip I took, see: http://www.pbase.com/gregbirder/20070915_cruise