We have an abundance of new followers every week and so many people feel in the dark when I begin posting and there’s lots of questions - especially when we go on cruise ship tours for 6-7 months at a time and that’s all people see. So here are the most common questions. Feel free to ask others if they aren’t here, and I will add them if they become popular as well.
You’re allowed to bring parrots on a cruise ship?!
Yes, we are allowed. Passengers are not. We aren’t passengers, we are paid guest entertainers with parrots as part of our shows. So through LOTS of paperwork, permits and hassles and hoops… yes.
Do you bring your daughter with you?
I would never leave her behind. … Unless it was for 21 days to train in the Mediterranean and I’d never been.
How do you take care of the birds properly on a cruise ship?
It’s really freaking hard. Mainly because we can’t bring their aviaries they normally live in with us because they’re too large for the amount of space we have on board - and our birds can’t be kept outdoors (weather changes constantly as does the direction of the ship) and they can’t be kept in passenger areas (no way to supervise them 24/7) which means they’re in a crew area. While touring cruise ships, the situation is different ship to ship but recently we’ve come to spend a majority of our time on the Norwegian Dawn so I’ll speak specifically about their situation there.
They’re housed beyond the theater, so that no one could accidentally come upon them and so that they are not part of any sort of paid back stage tours. We have to make sure we are in complete control of their lighting (aka hours of sleep they get) and are safe.
We bring them to our stateroom cabin, which is literally in the hallway of the theater so one room away from the birds. They use a shower perch and our shower, or some prefer the sink. We also keep a spray bottle handy in case they’re just not feeling the other methods or they need a quick clean up because they rubbed against something… like food stuck on the cage, or poop. Not that that has ever happened right before a show before…
We find trusted folks to make our fresh BirdTricks diet and bring it to us weekly or biweekly as needed to the ship for the birds. We keep it frozen in freezer tight bags (insulated) and take one gallon bag out as a time so it slowly defrosts every day as we use it for the week. They also get their organic pellets for their night time meal, and treats for shows. At home we give the fresh food as the AM meal and the pellets as the PM meal. On ships, it’s a bit different. I will give them the fresh food surrounding the show days and on show days. Then I go back to fresh and pellet shared days. I do this because of the treats they’re getting for the show and the time frame in which every thing is which changes for them. We have to get them onto a much later schedule since shows are primarily at 7pm and 9pm.
We fly the birds in the theater mostly on our show day. This is to get most of their energy out so that when it comes to the show, they’re less likely to lengthen their flights. They will just want to do the bare minimum by then (hopefully). It’s also “our day” to have the stage so we can and bird poop is expected. We also fly them in the theater when it isn’t already booked on port days because passengers are enjoying the port and we aren’t likely to be interrupted. This means we don’t have to worry about doors opening and closing and people coming and going. We can just PLAY.
To get the birds real sunlight, we take them in travel carriers to deck 13 and fly them in the basketball and golf netted areas. As long as they don’t have a lot of holes. Which usually they do… We also do this on port days when less people are around to witness so the birds aren’t distracted and neither are we.
But how do the birds do with all the travel?
Our birds were literally raised on the road. They’re so accustomed to this lifestyle that this is normal for them. They’re very very very used to it!
Why do we hear from you less when you are on tour?
We have limited internet access at sea with our changing itineraries and schedules. Plus, internet at sea is very unreliable and expensive and that’s time we would rather spend with our birds and daughter, and each other. The internet just won’t load usually and we get frustrated waiting on it. So although we tend to be able to post updates (especially once a week when in the USA) we can’t usually view comments which makes it impossible to respond. You can always email in your questions to us and we will get back to you ASAP via email - firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are the birds ever taken off the ship?
No. Our permits and paperwork are such that we cannot take the birds off the ship until we are going home. This is for the safety and health of our birds as well as the native birds in each country we visit.
Does the motion of being on a ship bother the birds?
Maybe it’s similar to being on a branch outside with wind, but the birds don’t seem at all bothered by the motion of the ship UNLESS it makes the things inside the ship move and make noise which startles them. The actual motion however, no. And we only usually have 2-4 rough sea days within a contract. It bothers people much more than our birds!
What sort of paperwork does it take to travel with your birds? I want to travel with mine.
It takes obtaining import/export permits from the countries you’re leaving and entering (contact USDA and USFWS if in the USA), quarantine periods (one month long for all our birds every time we disembark), $5,000+ for all of our flock to get to and from the ship (they charge more for vet visits leaving the ship because they have to come to us as we cannot disembark without a vet making sure they all look healthy - they’ve also added anal swabs before allowing exit and it’s even more expensive if on a weekend), 100’s upon 100’s of pages of paperwork applications (all hand-written), health certificates within 10 days of travel, CITES permits for those species of parrots listed on CITES (believe it or not, even hybrid parrots are listed on CITES if one part of them is endangered in the wild… such as our camelot macaws.
Seems unlikely since they don’t actually exist in the wild so always make sure!). We also go through shipping crates each time (one was destroyed this trip alone because the birds can EAT their way through them). So we are looking at having custom ones made from aluminum (safe, light weight and sturdy). We have gotten all of our birds we travel with pet passports which are stamped like a human’s passport to make the process more simplified on our end. It’s a lot of work that most people aren’t willing to go through. The consequence of doing it wrong is that your birds can legally be seized and often times killed. We had a friend who had this happen to his doves when unexpectedly flying through Mexico.
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.