22 Jul Freighter Travel
Although the days of working for your passage hopping freighters are a thing of the past – a heavily specialised and unionised work force put paid to that – with a little planning and flexible travel dates, there aren’t too many regions you can’t now get to as a paid-up-passenger on board a cargo ship.
For about €100 per day you’ll get fed three hearty meals, housed in more than adequate accommodation and up-close access to the inner-workings of a fully-functioning freighter.
Food standards vary but there’s always plenty of it, there are snacks around the clock and if you’re lucky enough to gain passage on board a French vessel, there may even be a little vino thrown in with the evening meal.
Accommodation may not be as plush as you’d get on board a cruise ship but depending on the type of room you cough up for, it’ll probably be very roomy and much more than adequate. Almost without exception you’ll have a comfy double bed, an ensuite, a small lounge area with table, TV and DVD player, a fridge and if you’re lucky, a view unimpeded by containers.
You’ll have access to the officer’s lounge with its eclectic collection of DVDs, books and magazines and to the more lively crew lounge, where, if you’re lucky, their karaoke machine might be on the fritz.
Often there’s a salt water pool that the Captain will fill if the seas are calm and if you’re lucky there may be a small gym and/or table tennis table on board where you can take on fellow passengers, the officers or the crew.
For some, being able to witness up-close the workings of a freighter is the biggest draw. Within reason, you’ll have unlimited access to the bridge and tours of the engine room can be arranged.
Time at port may be limited but there’s often a window to dash in to town, take a look around and stock up on essentials. Or you can spend your day at port hanging at the docks and staring at gantries as they load and unload all manner of cargo from destinations as far afield as Shanghai, Hamburg and Cape Town.
For many, the appeal of freighter travel is that, it isn’t cruise-ship travel. There are no pre-planned activities – with the exception of meal times and emergency drills, – no happy hours and no shore excursions. No black tie functions or cabaret shows. There may be a handful of other passengers, but for the most part, your time is yours to fill reading books, lounging on deck, chatting with the crew or just watching the sun set with a cold duty-free beer from your fridge.
Online Freighter Travel Resources
Here’s an article I wrote about a voyage from Melbourne, Australia to La Spezia in Italy in 2008 on board the Alexander Rickmers – a 26 thousand-tonne freighter out of Hamburg, Germany. And here’s a bunch of photos from the trip.
I’ve booked all manner of sea travel through Kevin and his team at London-based, Cruise People – from freighter trips to an Atlantic Crossing on the Queen Mary II. Kevin is incredibly knowledgeable in his field and happy to answer any questions you may have on the topic of freighter travel.
Sea Plus provides some great freighter travel tips and first hand accounts covering freighter travel topics from pirates to seasickness.
Sea Travel Limited’s blog helps travellers keep up to date with new freighter travel itineraries and last minute opportunities.
Sydney-based Freighter Expeditions specialises in unique and diverse sea voyages not only from down under but from all corners of the globe. Subscribe to their newsletter to keep abreast of the latest happenings in the world of freighter travel.