|Travel By Freighter / Cargo Ship|
|Written by Chuck Bennett, edited by Sascha Grabow|
|Wednesday, 11 May 2011|
Continent to Continent on Freighter
By Chuck Bennett
Rose Bachman, a retired telephone operator from Houston, Tex., was on an around-the-world cruise when the cargo freighter she was sailing on was sold for scrap - in the middle of the voyage.
"They just sold the ship from under us," she said. Bachman and the other passengers were dropped off in Mombassa, Kenya. It wasn't all bad, Bachman said. "They put us up in a five-star hotel and gave us business-class plane tickets," she said. The travelers were also reimbursed for the two months they lost on their four-month cruise.
The cancellation did little to damper Bachman's enthusiasm for freighter travel. Over the past 10 years, the 73-year-old has spent more than a year at sea on cargo freighters. "It is absolutely the only way to travel," she said ...
... Freighter travel is a tiny niche of the cruise industry. Only about 20,000 people take freighter cruises a year compared with the 8 million people who take traditional leisure cruises. It is no-frills travel and it's not for everyone.
First of all, it's not cheap. There are few amenities. It can be boring. And schedules can change at the last minute.
Brochures and Web sites touting freighter travel say the attraction lies in the spacious accommodations, meals in the officers' dining quarters, the tranquility of the sea and freedom from everyday concerns. Passengers have weeks on end to read, write, paint, converse with fellow travelers or just gaze at the enormity of the ocean. A brief glimpse of a whale or albatross may be the only excitement of the day.
Freighter cruises aren't for the average vacationer. Typical cruises cost between $100 to $150 a day and most cruises last at least several weeks. With time and money a major consideration, retired people tend to be most attracted to freighter cruises. "Generally, they are between 60 and 70," said George Koch, director of marketing at Traveltips Cruise & Freighter Travel Association, a travel agency in New York City.
Robina Condict, 63, has made five around-the-world freighter and four other shorter freighter voyages since retiring in 1996. "I got a chance to take early retirement from the State of Vermont. I thought what can I do? I'm still 56," Condict said. She started with a 124-day around-the-world freighter cruise. She loved it. "It's just an awesome feeling to be in the middle of the ocean and realize how vast it is." She said she now spends more time at sea than in her Charlotte, Vermont, home.
The company is currently trying to fill six available slots on the French-owned Utrillo freighter ship. Leaving from New York City, the ship will circumvent the globe with more than two dozen stops including Kingston, Jamaica; Papeete, Tahiti; Auckland, New Zealand; Sydney, Australia; Singapore; Damietta, Egypt; and Le Harve, France, before finally returning to the Big Apple. It's $10,500 for the voyage.
The Utrillo trip is planned for 86 days, but that could easily change if the ship gets an order to pick up new cargo at an unscheduled port. Travelers have to be flexible. The enjoyment of the trip should be the travel itself, not the destinations, travel agents caution. In port, container ships can unload their cargo and load new cargo in a manner of hours. Shore leave allows little time for sightseeing.
"It's all about cargo," warned Ranko Zunic, president of Maris Freighter Cruises and Specialty Voyages in Westport, Conn. "You can't count on anything." Zunic, a former freighter captain, said he tells prospective passengers to expect nothing other than room and board. Freighter captains often invite passengers onto the bridge to chat, offer them wine with dinner and entertain them with stories of the sea. But not all of them do. He also warned that ship schedules are never permanent. "You prepare them for the worst," he said.
For some people, it really is the only way to travel. For those who refuse to fly but want to visit other continents, freighter options are an attractive option. "Every time there is a plane crash, our phones ring off the hook," said Joycene Deel, president of Freighter World Cruises in Pasadena, California.
In London, Kenneth Griffin, president of The Cruise People Ltd., a travel company specializing in freighter cruises, said, "The people who don't like flying form a larger proportion of the population than one might think." He added that he had an upsurge of requests for trans-Atlantic booking for those afraid to fly after Sept. 11.
Still, it's the love of the sea, not fear of flying, that keeps freighter cruise travel agents in business. "I love the ports of call," Condict said. "I love being at sea. I love the feeling of the ocean at different times of day. I love watching the sky and ocean change."
Most of the major steamship lines and cruise lines from around the world that offer cruise on merchant ships including the following:
Abercrombie & Kent, Christian F Ahrenkiel, Alpha Ship, American Canadian Caribbean Line, America West Steamboat Company, Amerigo Express Line, Bank Line, H Buss, Passenger Cargo Ships, CMA CGM The French Line, Canadian Sailing Expeditions, Captain Cook Cruises, Classic International Cruises, Clipper Cruise Line, Columbia Ship Management, Columbus Line, Columbus Seereisen, Compagnie des Iles du Ponant, Compagnie Polynésienne de Transport Maritime (CPTM), Coopérative de Transport Maritime & Aérien (CTMA), Costa Container Lines, Cruise West, Peter Deilmann River & Ocean Cruises, Delta Queen Steamboat Company, Discovery Cruises, Peter Doehle, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, French Asia Line, French West Indies Line, Galapagos Inc, Galileo Cruises, GAP Adventures, Glacier Bay Cruiseline, Great Lakes Cruise Co, Grimaldi Freighter Travel and Cruises, Hamburg-Süd, Hansa Shipmanagement, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Harmony Cruises, Hebridean Island Cruises, Holland America Line, Horn Line, Interorient Navigation, Intership Navigation, KD River Cruises, Reederei F Laeisz, Leonhardt & Blumberg, Lindblad Expeditions, Merchant Ships, MCC, MSC, Cruise and Freighter Travel Association, Italian Cruises, Mare Schifffahrtsgesellschaft, Martime Gesellschaft, Mediterranean Shipping Cruises, NSB Freighter Cruises, Niederelbe Schiffahrtssgesellschaft Buxtehude, Reederei Nord, Norwegian Coastal Voyage (Hurtigruten), Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), Oceania Cruises, Oceanwide Expeditions, Oltmann Shipping, Orient Express River Journeys, Orient Lines, P&O Cruises, Passenger Freighter Lines, Freighter World Cruises, Polar Star Expeditions, Polish Ocean Lines, PZM Polish Steamship Company, Princess Cruises, Projex, Quark Expeditions, Reederei B Rickmers, Rickmers Linie Pearl String Around-the-World, Royal Caribbean International, St Helena Line, St Lawrence Cruise Lines, Reederei Heinrich Schepers, Reederei Karl Schlüter, H Schuldt, Seetours, Star Clippers, Star Cruises, Swan Hellenic, Transeste Shipping, Transocean Tours, Viking River Cruises, Andrew Weir Shipping, Windstar Cruises, Tom Wörden, Reederei Hermann Wulff, Zeus Cruises.