If deck games, endless buffets, and large crowds are things you try to avoid, then the standard 7-day cruise to the Bahamas may be a painful test of your ability to endure rather then an opportunity to relax and leave your day-to-day worries behind.
Your opportunity to be alone with your thoughts will quickly vanish into the endless crowds of people aboard an ocean cruise ship.
Cargo freighters, on the other hand, are all business. Delivering manufactured goods around the world, they slip into port for only the time required to exchange one load for another, and then it’s back to sea heading to their next (sometimes exotic) destination.
Here are some tips for booking your first trip on a freighter ship…
What It’s Like
Traveling on a working freight ship is a completely different experience than, say, a 3-day cruise to Cancun.
There is no swimming pool, no bar with servers bringing fancy drinks with little umbrellas to your lounge chair. Things like expansive dining halls and a wide variety of live entertainment are not found on freighters.
Freighter ships make their bread and butter by delivering freight — 40-foot long boxes of unknown (to you) merchandise stacked 10 stories high on their decks. Some freighters will accommodate up to 12 passengers in modest but usually comfortable cabins, but they offer little more than the experience of being on the open sea in the way of entertainment.
The small passenger capacity is due to lack of medical staff on board. International law restricts the quantity of passengers to 12 unless there is a doctor on staff, a luxury not found on freighters.
You will likely dine with the captain and officers of the ship, though direct contact with the crew is also part of the experience. Exposure to many different cultures will be part of the learning experience as crews come from all over the world.
This video gives you a glimpse at what freighter travel is like:
Benefits Of Vacationing On A Freighter
With this obvious lack of amenities, what could possibly draw a person’s interest to such an unglamorous way of travel? Consider these:
- Peace and quiet without the hordes of scurrying people
- A chance to actually get to know your fellow travelers and the crew of the ship
- The learning experience
You can even take an “Inside” tour of the ship to see the inner workings and what makes it go. Whereas, cruise liners do their best to make the working part of a ship disappear from view for their passengers. I would much rather see what life aboard is really like. I want to learn what it takes to move cargo around the world.
I spent a summer as a crew member on an iron ore carrier working the Great Lakes. Just living on that great lumbering vessel was a fascinating experience that I often reflect on.
And believe me, you will eat well on a freighter! The most important person on board ship is the ship’s cook. The crew expects good food, and it takes a happy crew to get the job done.
In this series of videos, you can get an excellent feel for travel aboard a working freighter:
- Part 1: Tour of a Freighter at Sea – Below Deck
- Part 2: Tour of a Freighter at Sea – Above Deck
- Part 3: Freighter Embarkation
In many ports, you will have the opportunity to leave the ship. However, you’re more likely to see the working world of an industrial city than you are to find cutesy gift shops for buying souvenirs and t-shirts. Freighters don’t tie up at the flashy tourist docks. You’re going to be where the locals live and work.
Yes, booking passage on a cargo freighter is completely different from a cruise ship. It’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. But if a quiet, slower paced, more intimate way of travel and the opportunity to learn and experience different cultures around the world sounds interesting to you, then maybe you’ll want to consider booking passage on a cargo freighter.
Have you been on a freighter before? If so, let us know what it was like in the comments below…
More About Passenger Travel On Cargo Freighters
- Round The World & Extended Freighter Voyages
- How To Travel By Freighter Boat
- Freighter Travel: The Sea Is The Entertainment
- Internet Guide To Freighter Travel
- Freighter Travel Explained
- How To Cross The Ocean On A Freighter Ship