Looking forward to cruising again but worried that it may not be the same after COVID? Perhaps too many health checks and rules for it to be the relaxing and fun-filled experience it used to be. Or maybe you just don’t want to mix with 3,000 other passengers any more.
For a completely different experience have you ever considered cruising on a cargo ship?
Of course cargo ships still have to make sure they stay healthy, but as there will likely be no more than 12 passengers on your cargo ship cruise and about double that number of crew, it’s not such a burdensome task.
Far removed from mass tourism, you will all share the living area and dining room with the crew. The living area usually contains a TV, DVD player, a library, and board games. It is a convivial place where you can chat with the officers, relax, and watch a film or lose yourself in a book. Three meals are served each day. They are included in the cost of your cruise, prepared by the ship’s chef, and taken at set times in the officers’ mess.
Cargo ships generally have an indoor seawater pool, a fully-fitted gym with weight machines and a table-tennis table. Some ships also have a sauna. However, there are no cocktail bars, upmarket shops (but you can buy alcohol, soft drinks, cigarettes and basic toiletries – usually in US dollars) casinos or cabarets – unless some of the more outgoing crew members put on an impromptu one!
Internet access is available but connectivity can be patchy. This shouldn’t trouble you as the whole idea is to get away from the everyday humdrum and the demands of being contactable 24/7.
The cabins of a cargo ship are generally spacious and fitted with an ensuite bathroom with toilet, a double bed or two single beds, a sofa, a desk, and one or two portholes. To wash your clothes, most container ships provide laundry facilities including washing machine, dryer, iron, and ironing board. Sheets and towels are provided and a steward will keep the cabin clean
During your freighter cruise, you can access the deck and move around it freely. Sun loungers will be made available so you can relax and enjoy the sun, weather permitting, observe the ocean, feel the spray on your face, and discover the changing landscape, day after day. You can also stroll along it or even go for a jog.
One Australian retiree has been cruising on cargo ships since 1998, notching up thousands of kilometres at sea and criss-crossing the globe numerous times on different voyages. Don’t leave it too late, though, the age limit imposed by shipping companies is usually around 77 and there is no doctor on board.
There are several travel companies that organise freighter cruises. Giant French container shipping company, CMA CGM, has its own cruise division known as Voyages en Cargo, a team of experts within the CMA CGM group backed by a network of leading travel agencies, to assist you with your cruise and offer you a unique experience.
The cost of a cargo ship cruise is calculated per day. CMA recommends that you allow upwards of 130€ per person per day, excluding taxes. They point out that today’s union rules mean it is no longer possible to work on board to pay your passage.
Ports of call
When in port, while the containers are being discharged and new ones loaded, passengers may disembark and make the most of their cargo ship cruise by visiting the surrounding area. However you must always remain contactable and carry your passport, cruise ticket, mobile phone and the name and number of the port agent. Above all, make sure you’re back on board by departure time. Cruise ships say they won’t wait for passengers returning late from shore excursions, but they often do. Cargo ships say it and mean it.
Cruises on cargo ships have been suspended during the pandemic but are expected to resume around March or April 2021. Check out the links below for up-to-date information.