Expert Tips for Stargazing on a Cruise Ship


Without the excess of light pollution that’s often present on land, nighttime can be some of the most magical times to be onboard a cruise ship. Expect to see pristine, star-strewn skies unspoiled by electric lights. A cruise will give you the opportunity to experience the wonder of clear constellations and celestial sights that simply couldn’t happen back at home, on dry land. Stargazing is a simple way to bring science alive and to see the beauty of the natural world, it’s just a matter of looking up! If you’re considering stargazing onboard your next cruise trip, then check out our expert tips.


Before You Book

Just a few handy tips to ensure you’re set up for the stargazing trip of a lifetime.

Research, research, research

Before you travel, it’s a good idea to research the skies. It’s not always possible to accurately predict celestial events but it’s worth researching what is expected at the time of your chosen cruise. Take a look at astronomy websites to find out if anything exciting is on the horizon, a lunar eclipse would be an incredible spot for instance!

When should you travel

The time of year will play a role in what stars and constellations you’ll be able to see. It’s also good to know what phase the moon will be at – a full moon will brighten the sky so much you might not see smaller stars and distant planets. The ideal time to stargaze is during a crescent moon. If you are hoping to see the Aurora Borealis then a North Atlantic, Alaskan or Scandinavian cruise in the Autumn or Winter months is most likely to produce results.

Northern lights (Aurora Borealis) above a lake with still water and reflections at night. Stars on the night sky behind the polar lights.

Many cruise companies run solar eclipse cruises that travel to the Arctic or the Antarctic, so opt for an astronomy-themed cruise if a total solar eclipse is on your bucket list. These celestial events occur every year or two but not usually over land. A cruise ship has the obvious advantage of accessing parts of the world that you otherwise simply couldn’t reach. A themed cruise captain will even manoeuvre the vessel to ensure pesky clouds don’t mar your view.


Before You Set Sail

As the big day approaches, make sure you’re set for adventure.

Get assistance from the professionals

A decent astronomy book will help you understand what you’re likely to see while astronomy websites and magazines will let you know about upcoming notable astronomical events. Once you’re in the know, you could be lucky enough to witness meteor showers and lunar eclipses. Learn in advance which planets you’re likely to see and which bright stars will make an appearance on your voyage.

Milky way without any light pollution

Download the best apps

Technological advances mean that your mobile phone can help you identify stars, planets and even satellites in the night’s sky (simply by aiming your device). Certain apps will only work when connected to Wi-Fi so be sure to get the ones that won’t cost you a fortune in data roaming. Star charts have long been the way that budding astronomers plot the night sky but now you’ll have the option of using a handy digital version instead.

Invest in a decent pair of binoculars

According to the experts, binoculars are a better way to map the night sky than hefty telescopes – and they’re far more luggage friendly too. Would-be astronomers often find that an ordinary pair of binoculars will deliver exactly the results they wish for. After all, in astronomy, magnification and light-gathering power let you see more of what’s up there. Even a moderate pair of bins will reveal far more than the eye can see unaided.

On the Day

Make the most with these handy insights.

Check your cruise’s enrichment activities for expert stargazers

Check whether there are any relevant enrichment activities on board your chosen cruise. There may well be experts aboard, particularly if you have opted for a themed cruise. In addition to any lectures, shipboard astronomers will often give nighttime star talks on deck. So, you can see firsthand celestial sights that you might never see at home.

When the stars come out

Now’s the time to enjoy your preparation, and gaze upon wondrous sights in the night’s sky.

Things to take

You may be up on deck for a while so be sure to make yourself as comfortable as possible. Take:

  • Something to lie on. A blanket or camping mat will do.
  • Refreshments – snacks and drinks will keep you happy as you wait for the stars to come out. On a cold night, hot chocolate can help keep little (and not so little) stargazers warm too!
  • Your phone, complete with stargazing apps or a compass to help you find a particular constellation or star.

What to look for

Hopefully by now, you’ll have a great idea of what you want to see, but if you’re very new to the game then spend time just watching the sky and enjoying the view. After all, spotting shooting stars, and satellites is very exciting. Things to look out for:

  • The moon – It wasn’t until people saw the moon through binoculars that they realised it isn’t a perfect sphere. On a clear night, it’s easy to see its craters and bumpy edges.
  • Jupiter – The largest planet in our solar system, this super bright planet is great to observe – see if you can spot its four moons.
  • Saturn – Possibly the most enigmatic of the planets, Saturn’s rings are truly mesmerising. It’s twice as far from the sun as Jupiter so half as bright but a decent telescope should reveal its secrets.
  • Stars – When you see the stars you are looking into the past. Light takes time to travel so you could be seeing a star that doesn’t exist anymore – quite a mind-blowing thought!

Once you start watching the night sky, be patient. You won’t learn everything at once so be persistent, watch the sky a lot and watch it regularly. You’re likely to make a connection with nature that will last your whole life long – enjoy!

If you’re keen to try your hand at stargazing during an unforgettable cruise holiday, you’ve come to the right place. See the full selection of itineraries online or call our friendly sales team on 0808 2746 777.


About Author

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Claire has worked in the travel industry since leaving college in 1994. One of this blog's most regular contributors, Claire covers cruise news and industry trends.

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