Travelling on-board a cargo ship is a completely different experience, as passengers get a taste of what it's like to travel on the open seas. Travelling with shipping companies, passengers are able to tailor their trip to suit their needs; passengers are able to spend as long as they like at each different port - catching the next ship as it passes through.
Cargo ship operators are primarily in the business of transporting freight across long distances. Generally speaking, most of their ships have a small number of rooms which they rent out to paying passengers. In some cases, these rooms are the officers' quarters.
A large number of companies offer passengers the chance to travel with them on their overseas trips. Most of these companies offer broadly the same sort of service, and therefore this page summarises the most common aspects of travelling on a cargo ship.
Passenger-carrying cargo ships offer a wide range of routes to the public. These include 'around the world' trips, as well as shorter hops between continents.
A number of travel brokers arrange cargo ship journeys. These include:
The number of cabins on each ship varies depending on route and ship. Generally, there are between 2 and 14 cabins available on each ship. The biggest difference between cargo ship cabins and cruise ship cabins is the size; cargo cabins tend to be significantly larger. All cabins are provided with towels, bed linen and soap. Most cabins are air-conditioned.
Most cabins are spacious en-suite rooms (bathrooms have a toilet and shower, and sometimes a bath), and they tend to be positioned high up in the ship, below the bridge. Cabins tend to be outside rooms with windows, although sometimes the number of containers on the ship may obscure any potential views.
Cabins may be in the form of suites, with separate sitting areas. Smaller cabins have separate seats within the room. Some cabins come with televisions and DVD/VHS players.
As single travellers make up a large proportion of those wishing to travel on cargo ships, many of the ships in the fleet have purpose-built single cabins on-board, offered at the same rate as double rooms (or for a much smaller than usual supplement).
Luggage & Facilities
The facilities offered on-board each cargo ship varies, but there are some standard features.
Passengers luggage should be able to fit within the confines of their cabin. Some ships also have a weight limit for passenger baggage.
Most cargo ships have a passenger lounge, normally situated next to the dining area. Lounges normally contain a television with VHS/DVD player, as well as a selection of games, books etc. The majority of entertainment materials are likely to be in the language of the ship's crew, so you may want to bring some of your own.
Food & Drink
In some cases, the Lounge area includes a bar serving drinks. Alternatively, passengers may be permitted to use an Officers' bar. The selection of drinks tends not to be that extensive, but the prices are favourable as they are duty-free and usually not-for-profit. Generally speaking, only cash is accepted on-board, and Euros are prefereable.
Meals are generally taken with the crew and sometimes the Captailn in the Officers' Restaurant. Passengers will generally have their own table. Food tends to be served a little earlier than usual (e.g. breakfast 07.00-08.30, lunch 11.30-12.30, dinner 17.00-18.00). Don't expect the food to be gourmet-standard, but do expect it to follow the nationality of the ship/cook. There isn't a lot of choice on-board, so you may have to eat outside your comfort zone. Snacks tend to be available outside of meal times.
Some ships have an indoor swimming pool on-board, and occasionally even a sauna. Exercise equipment may also be available (although shared with the crew). This may include items such as exercise bikes and rowing machines.
Bed linen and towels are changed on a regular basis, but passengers may also use the on-board launderette (where available - shared with crew) for personal items.
Email / Telephones
Ships tend not to offer passengers access to telephones or internet, as this is expensive. Passengers are encouraged to post letters to family and friends from ports. Postal addresses may also be given out in advance so that correspondance can be sent to you at port.
Cargo ships are not designed to carry disabled passengers, oweing to the number of stairs involved. As a result, passengers with physical disabilities or mobility problems are not able to travel.
Travelling with Pets
Unfortunately, no animals of any sort are permitted to be transported on-board.