There's nothing quite like a stargazing experience. It's something that pretty much anyone can enjoy to some degree, with the stars and galaxies exhibiting an unparalleled performance of spectacular visuals. But living as we do in packed cities or alongside brightly lit roads, it will come as no surprise that many people have never witnessed the night sky unspoilt by electric lights. Hopping on a cruise is a great way to get away from the glow, and to finally come face to face with a magnificent open vista of velvet black, scattered with stars.
If this is part of your cruise that you're particularly looking forward to, it's worth checking out some of our tips below for optimising your stargazing.
Choose your destination
If you're looking for prime stargazing opportunities during your cruise, it's worth going for a destination that offers minimal light pollution. It's no good opting for an itinerary that sees you spending one evening after another in major ports. Fortunately, at Seafarer and Variety, we specialise in smaller scale cruise vessels that allow for intimate exploration of our destinations. This allows us to visit more isolated parts of a country or archipelago that boast excellent stargazing opportunities.
Destination choice is also important from the point of view that it will affect which constellations you'll be able to see. For example, if you're intent on catching a glimpse of the Southern Cross, you won't find it much further north than Cuba. Similarly, you won't see the Ursa Major if you're travelling south of the equator.
Time your journey
Exactly when you travel will also have a lot of impact on the quality of your stargazing. Our advice is to choose the dry season of your given holiday destination as there will likely be fewer clouds throughout your journey, allowing for greater clarity. It's also worth noting what time of the month you'll be travelling, rather than just the time of year. If you're cruising coincides with a full moon, you can be sure of getting some fantastic views of its silvery presence. But at the same time, the strong light will mean you have a lower chance of seeing smaller objects such as satellites, or celestial bodies such as planets. This is certainly something to take into account.
Buy a guide
If you really want to make the most of your stargazing opportunity, it's definitely worth procuring a guide to the various constellations. When seeking out a book, it's important to keep two things in mind. Firstly, does it cover the stars in your destination of choice? Secondly, is it up to date? While bookshops are unlikely to stock guides that are no longer accurate, this isn't really a sale you should carry out on eBay in case someone is trying to offload an out-of-date copy.
Check for unpredictable events
Famous stargazer David Levy once compared comets and meteors to cats – "They have tails and they do what they want." While scientists are generally able to calculate the path of a single comet or even a shower, it is impossible to know very far in advance how visible it will be from Earth. However, all is not lost, and if you're determined to get a glimpse of a shooting star, there are websites available that offer schedules for potential sightings. You might be out of luck, but it's certainly worth checking while you're cruising or, if possible, during the journey.
Take the right equipment
If you're particularly keen on sampling the night sky, a bit of preparation is needed by way of the equipment you're bringing. A telescope cheap portable telescope is necessary for those who want an authentic stargazing experience as you'll stand a greater chance of witnessing far-off celestial bodies. For those who don't know their Orions from their Ploughs, there are applications for iPhone, Android and Windows smartphones that allow you to identify the constellations just by pointing your camera at the night sky.
So what are you waiting for? Decide which stars you're keenest on seeing and get ready for some excellent stargazing.