I've never understood the pictures at the dinner table either. They make no sense, yet apparently (according to the photo contractor) enough people buy them to make the effort and the annoyance worthwhile. And yes, once upon a time, high-end restaurants used to do this too, but I haven't encountered it in years. Of course, just as Mr. Leppert's father says you wouldn't expect a fotog in a 5-star restaurant, neither would you go to a 5-star restaurant and expect to be seated at a table with a bunch of people you don't know. But that's a separate discussion.
I think the ecology/waste point is very well taken, despite the fact that it may be true that people are more inclined to buy pix on paper than from a screen. But it seems to me that to the extent passengers seek out the fotog in one way or another--rather than being ambushed--they will be willing to view the "proofs" electronically, because they initiated the shoot in the first place.
Another innovation that would be nice. . .the option to provide photos as hi-res files to take home instead of prints. This is a trend that's starting in the pro photography world, and it's very good. My son is a college baseball coach, and at a tournament recently a pro sports fotog was covering the event. His work was excellent, and he offered hi res jpeg's on a CD for $15 a photo. He had an area set up where players and coaches could review the work on a big screen and make selections. Very reasonable, and according to my son who bought several pix, was doing a very brisk business. The CD included a pro-forma license to print. Photoshopping them and formatting them for whatever print sizes we wanted was a snap.
I know that many will bristle at this idea, because it's akin to "selling the negative," but those who understand printing (and what it really costs these days) should have the opportunity to take advantage of their ability to manipulate images to their own specifications while still paying a fair price to the photographer. It's a win-win, because I doubt that many ship fotogs get reprint orders after the cruiser leaves the ship, and for all I know they may not even be equipped to handle them. So if there's no incremental profit from reprints, why not give customers full access to the image at the price of a little more than a single print?