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Im_on_a_boat

I don't fly so this is the best thing since sliced bread!

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Yes, I know, I'm weird. Major childhood issues regarding being forgotten about at an airport that I can't seem to shake.

 

I always joked about traveling to Europe via cargo ship and never looked into it to see if it was a real thing or not. I must say, I am thrilled that it is!!

 

Roughing it on a ship is not something I'm afraid of. My uncle was a large vessel tugboat captain and I have seen his "luxurious accommodations" so I know what to expect there... this would be just a means to get from one part of the globe to the other without being drugged in order to be tossed onto a plane.

 

I have a few questions:

How much do fares normally run out of any port on the Eastern seaboard to Europe?

Is it per person or per stateroom?

How many other passengers are usually aboard the ship (if any at all)

Ever come across any issues while traveling on a cargo ship?

Would my 10 yr old son lose his mind? (I think I know the answer to this)

Am I dreaming? I can really travel the world without flying??!?

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I had a great aunt and uncle who traveled this way and loved it.

 

I can only answer some of your questions.

 

Unless your 10 year old son is very self confident and independent and can amuse himself or with an adult (scrabble, checkers, etc) yes, he probably would be bored stiff

 

As for number of pax, I have read they can range from as little as 6 to 90 to 100. It depends on the line.

 

Meals may be with ship officers or with other passengers.

 

Accommodations can range from very Spartan to quite nice.

 

This company

 

http://travltips.com/

 

has been around for a very long time and is probably a good resource to start investigating freighter cruises.

 

As for traveling the world, yes you can but remember that freighters dock at working ports, typically not very close to town. Some of the lines will arrange tours and/or transportation to the center of town. Others you are on you own. Also remember that a freighter's time in port is totally dependent on what is being dropped off or picked up. So some ports of calls may be skipped.

 

Freighter cruiser is a whole other world but lots of people do it and love it. I would suggest doing lots of research and hopefully you'll get some replies here from people who have done it.

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Google freighter travel for freighter travel agencies for some answers. Most ships that carry passengers are container ships and are huge and carry only a few passengers, no more than 4 but freighters can carry up to 12 without being classed as passenger ships. I've had children as passengers and they were wonderful, the crew miss their own kids and really love to be with youngsters. The biggest negative is that you have to alter your schedule to fit the ship's schedule which can change with little notice. For transatlantic service you can use the Queen Mary. Prices are per passenger but there is usually no problem since you will have a large cabin to yourself. Expect to pay a lot more than economy airfare because you get room and board for a week or two. You will need to be able to leave work for long periods of time and do with limited communication by internet.

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CaptainMCD makes a good point about whether or not a freighter needs to be classified as a cruise ship. I believe (not 100% sure) that if the number of pax is 100 or more there has to be a doctor on board.

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CaptainMCD makes a good point about whether or not a freighter needs to be classified as a cruise ship. I believe (not 100% sure) that if the number of pax is 100 or more there has to be a doctor on board.
I think 12.

 

Here's a terrific (and long) trip report on FlyerTalk regarding a Hong Kong - LA cruise taken recently.

 

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-reports/1755608-crossing-pacific-slow-hyundai-china.html

 

It's spurred me to scan some pictures of a freighter trip we took from Auckland to San Francisco some years ago, that I will presently put into a trip report and post on my personal website.

 

Meanwhile, here are a couple of snaps...

 

Departing Auckland with harbor pilot boat chasing -

 

freighter%20trip%2006.jpg

 

Crew member off duty -

 

freighter%20trip%2007.jpg

 

At port in Suva, Fiji -

 

freighter%20trip%2012.jpg

 

Sunset, mid-Pacific -

 

colcalsunset1.jpg

 

San Francisco harbor pilot approaching -

 

colcalsunset2.jpg

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Really enjoyed your report. A few questions.

 

Did your room come with a fully equipped bathroom (shower, tub, etc.)?

 

Was there an on board laundry for both your clothing and the bathroom towels? Was it a do-it-yourself operation or did the steward handle that?

 

Did the steward do the daily chores including changing the bed linens periodically?

 

The cabin photo did not show a window. Was their one and did it offer a view of the sea or just the cargo deck?

 

Were beverages available (coffee, tea, soda, milk) and were there any alcoholic beverages available beyond the beer you mentioned such as wine, gin, scotch, etc.?

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Really enjoyed your report. A few questions.

 

Did your room come with a fully equipped bathroom (shower, tub, etc.)?

 

Was there an on board laundry for both your clothing and the bathroom towels? Was it a do-it-yourself operation or did the steward handle that?

 

Did the steward do the daily chores including changing the bed linens periodically?

 

The cabin photo did not show a window. Was their one and did it offer a view of the sea or just the cargo deck?

 

Were beverages available (coffee, tea, soda, milk) and were there any alcoholic beverages available beyond the beer you mentioned such as wine, gin, scotch, etc.?

1. Yes, shower, not tub. Standard marine fixtures (vacuum waste.) The hot water was plentiful and very hot.

 

2. The steward handled both. Laundry was folded and returned the same day. I don't recall that they charged for it, either, or if they did it was a trivial amount.

 

3. Yes. I think bedding was changed every few days, or weekly at most.

 

4. Two side-facing windows one forward facing (hence impaired view from containers) in the sitting room, one side-facing in the separate bedroom. (Pictures below.)

 

5. Coffee, tea and fruit punch always available; the steward would bring carafes to the passenger lounge. No soft drinks on board although we bought some cokes in Suva. The ship's bar (in the passenger lounge) was well-stocked and priced cheaply, but since my wife suffered from liver disease we didn't partake very much. And since we were the only passengers we didn't feel like drinking alone anyway. The officers were tea total while on duty, thankfully.

 

Cabin interior showing side and forward windows. Note small fridge next to desk -

 

freighter%20trip%2003.jpg

 

Bedroom showing window -

 

freighter%20trip%2004.jpg

 

All the pictures (and many from other travels over the years) here - http://gardyloo.us/misc.htm

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Thanks for your replies. While not "posh" the cabin really looks good for a home at sea. The only thing that would concern me is out of anyone's control and that is the compatibility of everyone with each other, especially if there were other passengers on board.

 

I enjoyed your photos as well. The shots of landscapes in Alaska and Denali on a clear day, the Berlin Wall, the Suva market, etc., etc., and the artsy shots of the cobweb and the sunset shots, spectacular.

 

Thanks for sharing.

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Thanks for your replies. While not "posh" the cabin really looks good for a home at sea. The only thing that would concern me is out of anyone's control and that is the compatibility of everyone with each other, especially if there were other passengers on board.

 

I enjoyed your photos as well. The shots of landscapes in Alaska and Denali on a clear day, the Berlin Wall, the Suva market, etc., etc., and the artsy shots of the cobweb and the sunset shots, spectacular.

 

Thanks for sharing.

 

Your concern is well justified. Cargo ship crews are a very small community, even throwing in a few passengers. If you're not used to it, seeing the same few faces for weeks at a time can get disturbing, if there are habits that bother someone else. It takes a certain type to go to sea and make a go of it.

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How much do fares normally run out of any port on the Eastern seaboard to Europe?

 

~ €100 pp pd

 

Is it per person or per stateroom?

 

Usually the same. Single supplement is small, maybe €10-20 a day.

 

How many other passengers are usually aboard the ship (if any at all)

 

For visa reasons, likely more U.S. => Europe than the other way around. Maximum of 12.

 

Ever come across any issues while traveling on a cargo ship?

 

Change of schedules (by weeks), change of routing (unannounced to you), change of ships (some of which may not carry passengers). To name but a few.....

 

Would my 10 yr old son lose his mind?

 

If he gets easily bored yes. And depending on which documents you read (even for the same Line), he may be too young.

 

Am I dreaming? I can really travel the world without flying??!?

 

Very much so, but it won't be that cheap, or easy.

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Did your room come with a fully equipped bathroom (shower, tub, etc.)?

 

My vessel was a new built. One of 9 or 10 for the same Line though ships of this line (as in route) are slowly being rotated out of the East Asia-U.S. route in the next few months and reportedly being moved to Europe - ????.

 

Yes to all, Shower only. Small and austere but functional

 

Was there an on board laundry for both your clothing and the bathroom towels? Was it a do-it-yourself operation or did the steward handle that?

 

Yes to all. I counted at least 5 machine pairs (high-efficiency washers!) for crew and passengers on my ship. There's separate machines for laundry and work clothes. Free to use, including soap.

 

Did the steward do the daily chores including changing the bed linens periodically?

 

Bed linens and towels changed weekly. ROom may be vacuumed that frequency. They might make your bed daily but it's a duvet so you can easily do that yourself.

 

The cabin photo did not show a window. Was their one and did it offer a view of the sea or just the cargo deck?

 

The ones on the Libra had 2 wide side and 2 narrow tall fronts for the 2 2 passenger cabins. 1 single front-facing only had 2 narrow windows while the 2 rear-facing singles had 2 wide sides and either 1 or 2 narrows (ship accommodation is asymetrical).

 

Were beverages available (coffee, tea, soda, milk) and were there any alcoholic beverages available beyond the beer you mentioned such as wine, gin, scotch, etc.?

 

Depends on the nationality of the officers. If eastern (read Slavs) or central European (read German), it'll almost certainly be dry. If French or Italian, less likely to be so.

 

Lots of water, tea and coffee available. Milk at breakfast. Soda you pay for (if they will let you buy it from the onboard store).

 

Wine may be served if you have French officers on CMA-CGM ships (1/4 l per person at lunch and at dinner). Forget it if Romanian or Croatian. Hard liquor may be available from the duty-free store if the captain opens it and decides to let you buy.

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Wow! Thank you all for the information! It is very much appreciated. Sorry it has taken so long to respond, just got off a ship (not cargo, traditional cruise ship) yesterday so I am still trying to come to terms with the reality of life on land (no room steward and now I have to cook).

 

The pictures are fantastic and I will have to read the link - I glanced at it briefly during the multiple restroom breaks along the way to Miami. With 5 people in the car, there were quite a few!

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My son does not fly.

He takes a cruise ship from the east coast to Europe in the spring.

Comes back in the fall same way.

check last minuet Trans Atlantic very good prices even for singles.

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I am curious about experiencing a freighter. However, I understand that the food is quite basic and limited, especially for vegetarians. Is that generally true for most if not all freighters? I wouldn't want to be eating salads and rice or pasta every day for a long period at sea...

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If you are picky about food for whatever reasons (ethical, religious, taste), then yes, pickings will be slim. That is unless the crew (either officers and/or seamen) are of some religious and/or cultural group that regularly eats something akin to your diet.

 

As for what the menus probably comprises of, it's 1 starter (probably a soup), 1 main and 1 dessert for some lines (more, reportedly, if French or Italian).

 

If the crew are East Asian, there may enough vegetarian options to pick from. Filipinos (they make up a vast majority of ship crews) like their meat. As for officers, I imagine French, German and eastern European crews like meat too. You might be able to pick at stuff if the crew is Italian.

 

Below are some menus that I scanned:

20160309 Libra menu

20160311 Libra menu

20160314 Libra menu

 

Officers were all Romanian except for 1 Filipino and the crew were all Filipino.

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I am curious about experiencing a freighter. However, I understand that the food is quite basic and limited, especially for vegetarians. Is that generally true for most if not all freighters? I wouldn't want to be eating salads and rice or pasta every day for a long period at sea...

 

As cockroach says, there is typically a split in nationality/ethnicity between officers and crew, so there may be two choices at each meal for a passenger, if you want the crew meal instead of the officers'. Even on US flag ships, and there are none that carry passengers anymore, with all US crews, there will only be two choices for each meal, and there tends to be a divide in cuisine between the officers and crew (crew heavy on fried food and carbs). Vegetarians, vegans, pescatarians, and those with medical diets tend to have to buy their own food and do a good bit of their own prep.

 

The ships will only have 3-4 crew to deal with all the housekeeping and meal service onboard, so the food tends towards "home cooking" rather than the well presented "mass produced" restaurant meals from cruise ships.

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Vegetarians, vegans, pescatarians, and those with medical diets tend to have to buy their own food and do a good bit of their own prep.

 

Which would mean that you have to get frozen, dried or preserved (there is a freezer and refrigerated room too) and lugging it up the accommodation ladder. If you want to help out in the kitchen, I don't think the cook would mind if you didn't get in his way. It is a big kitchen for the single cook. One day on my trip, one of the crewman (the reefer man, who is apparently an electrician in waiting and not yet an officer) made Romanian empanadas for everyone.

 

The ships will only have 3-4 crew to deal with all the housekeeping and meal service onboard, so the food tends towards "home cooking" rather than the well presented "mass produced" restaurant meals from cruise ships.

 

Home cooking is precisely the way to put it. And like home, if you don't like it, starve.

 

I can get more precise than that.

 

1 cook, for cooking and managing food.

1 steward for assisting the cook but mainly to serve officers and passengers and clean officer and passenger cabins.

3 Ordinary Seaman who keep the hallways, public bathrooms (yes, there are despite every regular crewman having their own private facilities) and the few public facilities clean.

Edited by cruising cockroach

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40+ years at sea, and with the exception of a very few stewards/cooks, I've never considered the food onboard to be anything other than fuel for the body. Eat it because you need it, not because you enjoy it.

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3 Ordinary Seaman who keep the hallways, public bathrooms (yes, there are despite every regular crewman having their own private facilities) and the few public facilities clean.

 

Not to minimise what OSs have to do, the above was their housekeeping chores in addition to their seaman duties.

 

40+ years at sea, and with the exception of a very few stewards/cooks, I've never considered the food onboard to be anything other than fuel for the body. Eat it because you need it, not because you enjoy it.

 

I would tend to agree with you for ships with Anglo (U.S., British, Australian, Canadian, etc.) officers. However, I understand that for some cultures that take food very seriously and eating as a pleasure of life (namely the French, and less so Italians), food onboard for the officers is actually quite good, and would be impressive for a restaurant in North America. From observing how French workmen (electricians, telecom workers, builders, masons, plumbers) dine at lunch, and how French truckers dine at truck stops in France, I can unreservedly believe it.

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After years of dreaming about a freighter cruise, we booked the Rickmers Seoul for their fall Houston to Antwerp sailing (about 32 days). Our 'excuse' for booking this sailing was to avoid transatlantic air travel to Europe to get to Southampton to board RCI Independence of the Seas B2B back to Miami.

But, as per usual with freighter travel, our arrival in Antwerp has been moving steadily back, reducing our buffer time between sailings from four weeks to about 10 days. So we're looking to cancel our RCI cruise at the 100-day before sailing mark in order to allow this freighter cruise to work out for us.

To think that we may be giving up our RCI diamond+ perks and sipping endless DYI cappuccinos in the diamond & concierge lounges for the solitude & peace of a freighter cruise......... ;-)

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