In this section, I will review the photo equipment I typically take on board cruises, how I pack the equipment, and some photo examples. I rarely take all of the equipment on a given cruise, but rather tailor what equipment I take to where we are going.
Tripod or monopod - which is better? A cruise is perfect for a monopod. They are easier to carry, work almost as good as a tripod, and don't get in the way. Consequently, I don't always carry a (full size) tripod. A subclass of tripods however are also great for cruises, the so called Gorillapods, made by Joby. These are mini-tripods that can be shaped to irregular surfaces or bend around pipes, railings, or other objects for support.
Leg Material:Carbon Fiber
Extended length: 60.6" (without head)
Collapsed Length: 15"
Head type: Optional, with 1/4" and 3/8" stud
Maximum load: 22lbs
Street Price: $100
My tripod of choice is the Sirui P-326/P-306 Monopod; so much so that is currently my favorite monopod for cruise travel. Even though it is a 6 section monopod, it is quite rigid. The number of sections means that it can collapse down to 15", and I can pack it into my carry-on luggage without any problem.
All but the cheapest monopods are usually packaged without a head, although some monopods are in kit form with a head. But regardless, you will want a head with a quick-release mechanism. One of the monopods I referenced above, the Slik Lighty-Pod III comes with a screw-on ball head. After you go through the motions of attaching your camera to this monopod a few times, you'll quickly purchase a quick-disconnect head for it.
Virtually all cameras these days have a 1/4-20 threaded insert for attachment to a tripod. While heads also have a 1/4-20 screw for the camera, the better heads use a 3/8-16 screw on the bottom side for attachment to a 'pod, as it is stronger.
This can present a problem as attaching a 'pod directly to the camera without a head requires a 1/4-20 thread, while using a head requires a 3/8-16 thread.
Fortunately, many 'pods ship with a dual-head screw like the one shown here. This screw has a 1/4-20 thread on one end, and a 3/8-16 thread on the other. Depending on what you are attaching to the 'pod (camera or head), you simply screw the appropriate end of the thread into the pod.
Some heads also come with a 3/8-16 thread with a 1/4-20 insert for this purpose. Since there may be a slight compatibility issue, make sure that both your 'pod and head can use the same size thread.
Specifications Manufacturer: Benro
Head type: Quick-disconnect Tilt Head
Street Price: $35
You will want to match the head to your monopod. You don't want to put a heavy-duty 5lb head on a monopod, or it will be too heavy. As mentioned above, obtain a quick-disconnect head so that you can rapidly attach and remove your camera. The predominant styles are the Ball type, where the head can rotate at any angle, and the hinge type, where the head can only tilt at one angle. The one to get is purely a matter of personal preference.
A special type of tripod is called a Gorillapod, which is a small, lightweight head - perfect for packing and taking on a cruise. Several sizes are available, from full sized DSLRs to the compact point & shoots. They are almost indispensable, especially for point & shoot cameras.
Specifications Manufacturer: Joby
Head type: Quick-disconnect Ball Head
Maximum load: 2~6lbs, depending on size.
Street Price: $20~$80, depending on size.
Use: As shown below, I attached my point & shoot on a Joby GP1 (small) Gorillapod and wrapped it around a pipe on the balcony outside of our stateroom. I then used this vantage point to create self-portrait of my wife and I relaxing on our balcony. With this setup the possibilities are just about endless.
The larger GP-3 Gorillapod is sized for DSLR size cameras. I am not sure though how successful wrapping a DSLR on the pipe would have been. But for the price and small size of the pods, I usually carry both sizes in my camera bag.
Gorillapod attached to balcony - Freedom of the Seas.
Gorillapod attachment closeup.
Another unique monopod of sorts are the self-portrait arm extenders. These are technically monopods I suppose, but they are intended to get the camera a few feet away from you for a portrait. They work well for balcony photos and other interesting photos from a different perspective.
These arms are generally too light for a DSLR, but work well with Point & Shoot cameras. However, I have also used a monopod for the same purpose with a heavier camera.
I have used both the Opteka X-Arm and X-Shot. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but the primary problem with these arms is that they tend to fail when using them for anything but the lightweight point & shoots. Heavier point & shoots, such as the Nikon P7100, Canon G12, and even the magnesium body Olympus 820 are too heavy for these arms.