I wanted to take the time to answer the most common cruise ship related questions I get asked that have to do with my birds.
Q: How did you get your birds on board?
A: The only reason the birds are on board is because they are part of the guest entertainment. Regular cruise ship passengers are not allowed to bring “pets” on board.
Photo by Dave Location: Holland America Stateroom Window Perching: Galah "Bandit" (solo), African Grey "Cressi" & Galah "Bondi"
Q: Where do the birds stay on the ship?
A: The birds have a separate room they are kept in and they are taken to my stateroom daily for bathing and cleaning of the cages. Depending on how many birds are brought on board depends on where they stay as well. I’ve kept my toucan in the bathroom the entire time out-of-cage or kept her in the window of the room. When I have my three medium sized birds on board, I can keep the two females together at night and the male in the window to sleep.
Photo by Dave Location: Holland America Veendam Theater Soaring: Galah "Bandit"
Q: How do they get their exercise?
A: Well, due to regulations of USDA and USFWS we cannot take the birds off the ship so there is no outdoor flying while cruising. However, the theater is free game and the theaters on board cruise ships are well-sized. Nothing compared to the great outdoors obviously, but it’s something! I make sure to fly them daily in the theater so they get plenty of exercise and maintain their stamina for outdoor flight.
Q: How do you get food out there for them?
A: I am on a monthly food program of organic pellets where I do not have to re-order it; it just comes to me every month automatically which is easier for me because I travel. I have the food shipped to my PO Box which forwards to wherever I am in the world. Also, food is prepared fresh daily for the passengers at the buffet or dining rooms and I was easily able to have fruit baskets delivered to my room or go and grab what I knew my parrots would like to eat that day. So they didn’t miss out on those fresh foods! If anything, they got more variety than ever because even I didn’t know what would be available each day.
Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Holland America "Veendam" Pigging Out: Congo African Grey "Cressi"
Q: How often are the birds around other people?
A: A lot, actually! I really take advantage of the fact that there are over 1,000 passengers on the ship and that they are normally all interested in meeting the birds. It’s great socialization for my birds and a good way to let people know more about them. When flying them in the theater, people are welcome to sit and watch if they happen to catch us during it. Sometimes the birds might land on them briefly or land nearby to say hello and the passengers seem to love the unexpected interaction. We also host what is called a “meet and greet” with the birds where an hour long seminar is held in a ballroom on board the ship and people can come to learn about them, watch videos of them flying and ask questions as well as get their pictures with the birds. Our birds get to show off their tricks, people can ask how we train them for the shows and just really interact with them (and us) on a personal level. This also helps the birds get used to a real audience which is the only thing we cannot duplicate before putting a bird on stage. It’s also a huge factor in properly socializing all of our birds to numerous amounts of people of different characteristics, sizes and races. I’ve had birds that were afraid of people with distinct facial hair, ones afraid of small children and one who was actually afraid of African Americans! Boy was that embarrassing!
Q: How big is your stateroom?
A: The size of the stateroom we are given varies. The smallest we have had actually had bunk beds and was about 70 square feet! They average larger than that though with normally a full to queen size bed, a sofa, TV and desk. Here is a video of one of the staterooms we have been in:
Article by Jamieleigh Womach. She has been working with parrots and toucans since the age of 17. She isn’t homeless but is home less than she prefers to be. She travels the world with her husband, daughter, and a flockful of parrots whom she shares the stage with.