Best Binoculars for Cruise Ships 2020

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Cruise Ship Binoculars

What are the Best Binoculars for Cruising?

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No matter if you are going on a cruise to Alaska, Norway, the Mediterranean or the Carribean, a good pair of binoculars is an essential item to add to your packing list and here is my guide to why and which ones you should get:

Whilst many cruise ships have a selection of binoculars for you to use, often those available are not the best quality, get a little worn, can have markings on the lenses and you can never be sure that there will be any left if there is an exciting sighting of whales or dolphins for example.

It is because of these and indeed a number of other reasons that we will cover below that my suggestion is that if you have the space, get yourself a decent pair of binoculars to take on your cruise ship holiday.

Important Features

Cruising BinocularsMost good quality marine binoculars will have all of the qualities and more that you need. So in many ways they may be ideal and the perfect cruise binoculars for some, but for others they may also be slightly overkill. Let me explain:

Features often found on marine bins like their wide field of view and lower magnification that helps to maintain a more steady view even in rough waters are ideal. But for most people on a holiday cruise, a rangefinder or digital compass may be of interest but not essential and a floating neck strap that keeps them from sinking will be of no use because even if you drop them overboard, I doubt you would be able to convince the captain to turn the ship around to go and find them!

Most marine binoculars are also fairly large and heavy, which may not be a problem on board, but if you also plan on taking your bins with you when you go out on day trips then you may be better off with a more versatile pair that is also a little smaller and lighter.

So lets take a closer look at all the features that will be important on your holiday, so that you can find the best cruise ship binoculars for your exact needs:

Size

A big consideration for most people when going on a traditional holiday or a safari holiday, especially when travelling by air is the size and weight of their gear as it all has to packed away in their luggage.

However on a cruise ship things are a little different as you have less size and weight restrictions, plus less worries that your baggage will get damaged en route. However that is not to say that you want to carry too many very large and heavy suitcases onto the boat.

Also keep in mind that if you plan on using them when you go on excursions onto land at different locations during your cruise holiday, carrying a large full sized pair along with your camera, map, guide book and other items may not be ideal.

  • Full Size bins usually have objective lenses of between 42mm to 45mm
  • Mid-Size bins have 30mm to 36mm objective lenses
  • Compact binoculars often have objective lenses between 21mm and 28mm
  Full Size Mid-Size Compact
  Vanguard 10x42 Endeavor ED Binoculars Celestron Granite 9x33 Binoculars Swarovski CL Pocket 8x25 Binoculars
  Vanguard 10x42 Endeavor ED Binoculars Celestron Granite 9x33 Binoculars Swarovski CL Pocket 8x25 Binoculars
Objective Lens: 42mm 33mm 25mm
Weight: 25.8ozs (731g) 20.1ozs (570g) 12.2ozs (346g)
Length: 6.0in (15.2cm) 5.4in (13.7cm) 4.3in (10.9cm)
Width: 5.1in (13cm) 4.9in (12.4cm) 3.9in (9.9cm)

The larger the objective lens, the more light your binocular can capture and therefore assuming everything else within the optical system is the same, bins with bigger lenses will produce an image with a higher resolution that is potentially brighter in bad light than smaller ones.

However in good light, image brightness and quality will not be a problem even when using small compacts (as long as they are of a good quality). For more on this please see my Complete Guide to the Exit Pupil and this article comparing 8x42 vs 8.5x45 Binoculars both of these articles go into great detail explaining how the objective lens size affects image brightness and quality.

Another aspect to keep in mind when deciding what size to get is that larger and slightly heavier bins can be easier to hold onto and tend to resist moving about a little better. This means that they can be easier to hold steady preventing image shake, which can be very important when standing on the deck of a boat or ship in rough water.

So to sum up:
In terms of size, there really is no right or wrong choice, but what you do decide on should take into account your own personal preferences and needs:

  • If a small size and low weight is very important to you and you are prepared to sacrifice a little on image quality and brightness, then I would opt for a compact binocular
  • If you want the best possible quality image and brightness and are not bothered by size and weight, then choose a full sized binocular
  • OR - If size is fairly important, but not critical and image quality, brightness and field of view are important but also not critical then a mid-sized binocular could be the perfect compromise between the two for you.

Field of View

A binocular's field of view (FOV) is essentially a way of describing the width of the image that you see when looking through them and is usually described as a measure at a set distance often at 1000ft or 1000 meters.

A wide FOV makes it more easier it is locate and track objects, which can be very important in many situations where what you are looking for is small and fast moving - so birds for example.

On a ship it will make it easier for you to locate landmarks, other boats and ships as well as any potential marine animals or even birds. However whilst it is advantageous, I would not say that a really wide FOV is critical.

A bins FOV is also connected to it's magnification, which we will go into more detail below:

Magnification

The main reason for taking a pair of binoculars on a cruise is to get a better view of distant objects, so it is understandable that most people assume that the higher the magnification (more power) the better. But tis is not at all the case and it is possible that you can have too much of a good thing:

Image Shake
The main problem with high powered binoculars on a ship or on any unsteady/moving platform is that as you increase the power, it becomes harder and harder to keep the image steady as any movement you make is progressively magnified in the view through the binoculars. It is for this reason that most purpose built marine binoculars have a relatively low power of around 7x.

If you really want a higher power or if you have unsteady hands, a good option then would be to go for bins that have some sort of image stabilization built within them that can really help. For more, I highly recommend taking a look at the range of Canon Stabilized Binoculars.

Narrow View
As you increase the magnification, your FOV decreases (see field of view above). So whilst optics with a powerful magnification enable you to see loads of detail, the narrow FOV makes it harder to locate objects and you see less of the whole picture.

So to sum up:
With magnification it's not about getting the most powerful pair of binoculars> Rather you have to make a compromise between image detail, seeing the whole picture and being able to get a nice steady view of whatever you are looking at.

So whilst most dedicated marine binoculars will have fairly low powers of 7x, they are often designed to be used on smaller vessels like yachts that move about more, or by captains in very rough seas. Thus on a cruise ship, you should also be able to get away with magnifications of about 8x to 10x.

Porro or roof prism binoculars

Style of Binocular

For the most part, bins come in two main designs/styles that largely depends on the type of prism they use, so you get Roof Prism or a Porro Prism. Once again there is no right or wrong choice but both have unique advantages that once you know, you can make a choice that is better for you:

  • Roof Prism Advantages: The prism shape means that you can have a smaller more compact roof prism binocular than most porro prisms that have the same size objective lenses. There are also less moving internal parts, so tend to be tougher and longer lasting.
  • Roof Prism Disadvantages: At the cheap end of the market, roof prisms are quite often optically inferior to porro prism's. There are a number of reasons for this which I go into detail in this article: Cheap Binoculars – Is a Roof or Porro Prism Best?

  • Porro Prism Advantages: Their shape means that they often have their objective lenses slightly further apart, which can translate into a better stereoscopic image and a wider field of view than many porro prisms. They are also cheaper to make than roof prisms and so tend to be optically superior in the cheap to mid price ranges.
  • Porro Prism Disadvantages: Can be rather bulky when compared to porro prisms with the same size lenses and are harder to make dust and waterproof and have more moving parts so there is a little more chance of something going wrong.

Price

Most people will have a budget in mind on what they feel comfortable to spend on their optics, this will usually relate to your own personal circumstances and how highly you rate the importance of quality versus price.

However if you can just take one pice of advice from this page then please try to keep well clear of very cheap binoculars as you will only be getting something that will disappoint and frustrate you and in some cases you will be better off without any bins at all.

Value for Money
Best Value For Money BinocularsThis also does not mean that you have to spend a massive amount either. It is true that some of the very best binoculars can be expensive, but there also some really very good optics out there that will not only add to the enjoyment of your cruise, but you can enjoy using them for many, many years.

To give you more of an idea, take some time to read some of my reviews on BBR as well as this section on the Best Value For Money Binoculars that I have reviewed in different price categories.

Other Important Features

Water & Fog Proofing
It is obvious that you should look for a binocular that is completely sealed and waterproof. Whilst you may not drop them into the water, you may subject them to rain or spray coming off the sea. The seals will also protect the insides from dust and the dry gas (usually nitrogen) that is used inside them to make them fogproof will also prevent the insides from corrosion, which around the sea can be important.

Water Repellent Coatings
Some bins, especially the higher end ones come with special coatings on the outer lenses that repel water. This is great when using them in light rain or in a spray. These coatings can also make the lenses easier to clean and get water marks off them, which in turn helps them last longer as the glass will need less frequent and less vigorous cleaning.

Eye Relief
If you wear glasses, make sure you get a pair that has enough eye-relief to enable you to keep your glasses on whilst using the bins and still get the full view without any dark rings forming on the edges.

For most eyeglass wearers, this will mean you will need an eye-relief of at least 15mm.

 

Specialist Marine Binoculars

Vanguard Mariner binoculars (7x50)As I mentioned earlier, binoculars specifically designed for marine use tick all the boxes and much more, but they are very specialist and so if you plan on using them on land or taking them on a walk whilst on holiday, you may find many of them a little bulky or cumbersome.

However for those who want compass headings, rangefinders and the best binoculars designed specifically for use on the water then this will be the way to go.

For more on these and for a selection of the best then take a look at my page on marine binoculars.

 

Ideal Cruising Binocular Reviews

Below you will see that I have listed a selection of what I consider to be good binoculars to take on a cruise. I have split them up into in the three main size categories as some people may prefer smaller models that are not only easier to pack, but better for taking out with you on any day excursions:

Full-Size Cruise Ship Binoculars

These larger bins will take in more light, producing a better quality image and will perform better in low light, but will take up more space in your luggage and may not be ideal if you decide that you want to take them off the ship when you stop off at any ports on the way on an excursion or day trip.

 

Celestron Trailseeker 8x42 Binoculars Review

Aimed at the more price conscious user, but who still want a high quality instrument, the Celestron Trailseeker binoculars come with an impressive array of features.

A fully sealed Magnesium alloy body, with metal twist-up eye-cups protect high quality and fully multi-coated optics that include phase and dielectric coated BaK-4 prisms to offer a performance that easily surpasses their price tag and thus almost all of their direct competition.

Price: (3/6) Mid Priced Binoculars
BBR Ratings:
Body Quality: 7/10 80%
Outstanding
Body Stats: 8/10
Optical Quality: 8/10
Optical Stats: 9/10
Image Quality 8/10
Extras & Details: 8/10

 

Hawke Endurance ED 8x42 Binoculars Review

Mid-range binoculars that to my mind offer a level of quality and performance that easily surpasses their price tag.

Highlights include a Magnesium Housing, ED Glass Elements in the Lenses, Phase Corrected BaK-4 prisms, 18mm of eye-relief and a close focus distance of less than 2 meters.

Price: (3/6) Mid Priced Binoculars
BBR Ratings:
Body Quality: 8/10 80%
Outstanding
Body Stats: 8/10
Optical Quality: 8/10
Optical Stats: 8/10
Image Quality 8/10
Extras & Details: 8/10

 

Helios Lightwing HR 8x42 ED Binoculars Review

Mid priced Helios binoculars with a host of features that you would only expect to see on high end, far more expensive instruments.

This includes a a magnesium chassis, fully multi-coated optics and phase corrected BaK-4 prisms that have been dielectrically coated for the highest levels of light transmission.

Price: (3/6) Mid Priced Binoculars
BBR Ratings:
Body Quality: 8/10 78%
Excellent
Body Stats: 7/10
Optical Quality: 9/10
Optical Stats: 9/10
Image Quality 8/10
Extras & Details: 6/10

 

Snypex Knight D-ED 8x42 Binoculars Review

'New and improved' that is how Snypex highlight their latest version of the Knight ED binoculars, which was developed and improved in response to customer as well as BBR's feedback.

Major changes include upgraded dielectric coatings on the prisms to improve light transmission and thus the brightness and image quality as well as changes to the exterior like a full metal focus wheel that not only works better but brings added class to what was already a great pair of binoculars.

Price: (5/6) High Value Binoculars
BBR Ratings:
Body Quality: 9/10 85%
Outstanding
Body Stats: 8/10
Optical Quality: 9/10
Optical Stats: 8/10
Image Quality 9/10
Extras & Details: 8/10

 

Tract Toric 8x42 Binoculars Review

High end binoculars from Tract Optics, the 8x42 Toric has a lot going for it and is far more than just a hunting binocular that they market it as:

A tough magnesium housing protects a fully Multi-coated optical system with ED Glass Lenses, Scratch & oil-phobic coatings on external surfaces, Phase and Dielectric mirror coated Schmidt-Pechan Roof Prisms that combine well to give a superb image.

Price: (5/6) High Value Binoculars
BBR Ratings:
Body Quality: 8/10 82%
Outstanding
Body Stats: 8/10
Optical Quality: 9/10
Optical Stats: 8/10
Image Quality 9/10
Extras & Details: 7/10


Note: If you are on a reasonably tight budget and want a full sized instrument also take some time to check out my guide and recommendations on Binoculars For Alaska Cruise under $200 / £

Below are a selection of what I consider to be the best Mid Size binoculars for cruises that I have reviewed. These to me make the ideal compromise between portability and image brightness and quality:

Mid-Size Cruise Ship Binoculars

 

Swarovski 10x32 EL Binoculars Review

Because of their compact design and light weight, the Swarovski EL 10x32 binoculars are ideal for travelling with. This combined with Swarovski's unique wrap-around grip also makes them easier and more comfortable to carry in the field. If you then combine this with the quality that only comes with a Swarovski binocular, they also make excellent binoculars for birdwatching as well as wildlife observation and are therefore one of the best binoculars in the world to take on safari.

Price: (6/6) Expensive Binoculars
BBR Ratings:
Body Quality: 9/10 92%
The VERY Best
Body Stats: 8/10
Optical Quality: 10/10
Optical Stats: 9/10
Image Quality 9/10
Extras & Details: 10/10

These Binoculars are On SaleDiscounted Binoculars: The Swarovski EL 10x32 binoculars are available at a discount on Amazon.com, Binoculars.com and Eagle Optics in the USA
>> Check Prices
 

Pentax DCF NV 8x36 Binoculars Review

With their 36mm objectives, these inexpensive, yet great quality Pentax binoculars offer a nice compromise between a lightweight semi-compact design, yet still produce a superb, bright image that makes them ideal for all around use, especially where weight is a factor.

Price: (3/6) Mid Priced Binoculars
BBR Ratings:
Body Quality: 8/10 73%
Excellent
Body Stats: 7/10
Optical Quality: 8/10
Optical Stats: 7/10
Image Quality 8/10
Extras & Details: 6/10

 

Kowa 8x32 SV Binoculars Review

These mid-priced, mid-sized lightweight binoculars from Kowa feature a tough waterproof exterior and fully multi-coated optics, with phase correction and high reflective coatings on the BaK-4 roof prisms.

Price: (3/6) Mid Priced Binoculars
BBR Ratings:
Body Quality: 7/10 77%
Excellent
Body Stats: 8/10
Optical Quality: 8/10
Optical Stats: 9/10
Image Quality 8/10
Extras & Details: 6/10

 

Hawke Endurance ED 8x32 Binoculars Review

Mid-sized, mid-priced Hawke binoculars that impress in almost single every area.

A fully fog and waterproof magnesium housing protects high quality and fully multi-coated optics with highlights that include ED glass lenses, BaK-4 roof prisms that have been phase corrected.

The result is a high quality and bright image that has a wide field of view, good close focus and delivers plenty of eye-relief.

Price: (3/6) Mid Priced Binoculars
BBR Ratings:
Body Quality: 8/10 80%
Outstanding
Body Stats: 8/10
Optical Quality: 8/10
Optical Stats: 8/10
Image Quality 8/10
Extras & Details: 8/10

 

Celestron Granite 9x33 Binoculars Review

Top of the line mid-sized binoculars from Celestron with that feature a lightweight open bridge magnesium body that protects high end optical components. These include fully multi-coated lenses, with ED glass elements and Bak-4 roof prisms with phase correction and very highly reflective dielectric mirror coatings that really do help produce a superior view.

Price: (4/6) Mid-High Value Binoculars
BBR Ratings:
Body Quality: 8/10 82%
Outstanding
Body Stats: 8/10
Optical Quality: 9/10
Optical Stats: 8/10
Image Quality 8/10
Extras & Details: 8/10


If having a small lightweight bin is very important to you, then take a look at the compacts below that I feel will make ideal cruise ship binoculars, especially for those who want to carry them about wherever they go:

Compact Cruising Binoculars

 

Minox 7x28 BD Binoculars Review

The fixed focus compact roof prism binoculars, come with a very comfortable open bridge design and are fully waterproof and filled with nitrogen gas to prevent internal fogging. They have a very wide field of view and produce a high quality image that makes these ideal take anywhere binoculars.

Price: (3/6) Mid Priced Binoculars
BBR Ratings:
Body Quality: 9/10 68%
Very Good
Body Stats: 6/10
Optical Quality: 6/10
Optical Stats: 7/10
Image Quality 7/10
Extras & Details: 6/10

 

Swarovski CL Pocket 8x25 Binoculars Review

With the duel hinge design and compact body, these true pocket binoculars fold up to easily fit into the palm of your hand or indeed your pocket!

Fully fog and waterproof, you get a wide field of view and generous eye relief, which is complemented by fully multi-coated optics and phase corrected BaK-4 roof prisms for an image that you expect from Swarovski.

Price: (5/6) High Value Binoculars
BBR Ratings:
Body Quality: 9/10 87%
Outstanding
Body Stats: 9/10
Optical Quality: 8/10
Optical Stats: 9/10
Image Quality 9/10
Extras & Details: 8/10

 

Vixen SG 2.1x42 Widefield Constellation Binoculars Review

With an extremely wide field of view and low power, these small, easy to carry Vixen binoculars offer a unique view of the stars and complete constellations.

This along with their exceptional low light capability also make them and excellent choice as a high quality pair of opera or theatre glasses and a host of other uses.

Price: (3/6) Mid Priced Binoculars
BBR Ratings:
Body Quality: 8/10 77%
Excellent
Body Stats: 9/10
Optical Quality: 7/10
Optical Stats: 9/10
Image Quality 7/10
Extras & Details: 6/10