The Not Quite Backpackers Version Of An Ocean Cruise

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The Not Quite Backpackers Version Of An Ocean Cruise

After I watched Titanic and had finished balling my eyes out for however long that box of tissues lasted (yes I cry in sad movies, ALL of them!), I started day dreaming about what it would be like to go back in time and travel on one of those passenger ships. These days just about any type of experience is possible so I started my research. And that is how I discovered freighter travel.

While doing my research I found a set of ‘old school’ style trunks emblazoned with ‘Ahoy Soldier’ that I just couldn’t resist. And thanks to a great 30% off coupon that I found on, I didn’t even pay that much for them! And I will of course be using them on my upcoming cruise to South Africa.

So what exactly is freighter travel?

Well, you know those big, not so very sexy and sleek looking container ships that you see in literally every port in the world? Most of the major global shipping lines allow paying passengers to take a cruise on one of their lines. The captains and crews of those ships spend weeks and months on a relatively small space together and they’re generally pretty happy to have a new face with new stories that they’ve never heard before.

Where can I travel to?

Major shipping lines have ships traveling to and from just about every major port in the world, and quite a few that travel to those smaller, less known ports. So, you could travel just about anywhere in the world! The freight companies have certain lines that travel specific routes, and there are many who let you buy a ticket on one of them. And they don’t particularly mind when you disembark or board as long as there’s a ship leaving port that day.

How much will it cost me?

Now you may think that because you’re not getting all those clubs, swimming pools, waiters, trainers and shopping opportunities, a ticket on a freighter ship would be cheaper than a normal cruise. But you’d be wrong. A ticket on a freight liner could cost you anything from $80 – $140 per day. But before you write off the whole thing as an insanely expensive idea, remember that your ticket covers the cost of your cabin, all your meals and experiences that you’ll never get any other way.

What can I expect onboard?

I don’t think there’s any movie about it, nor have I ever seen a documentary about a day in the life of a freight liners crew, but it’s pretty easy to imagine. Everyone has a job to do, and the biggest event of the average day is breakfast, lunch and dinner. And when you’ve got guys spending weeks and months looking after your interests you make sure that they’re fed properly, so the food should really be good! And the rest of the day is yours to do with as you please. Unfortunately you’re not allowed to work onboard (legal issues), but most of the crew are quite happy to let you shadow them or give you a tour.

Anything else I need to know?

Your fun is your own responsibility. There are no fitness trainers, no dance instructors, no group team building exercises. Get an eReader and load it with every book you’ve ever wanted to read. If you’ve been thinking about starting yoga, then bring along some instruction DVDs. Bring a laptop and an external drive loaded with movies and series. Expect to do a lot of stair climbing though because there are no elevators onboard! Make sure your insurance will cover you and bring along a first aid kit, with motion sickness medication – there’s a good chance you’ll need it. And be flexible. Like, a piece of cooked spaghetti flexible, because there is no such thing as a fixed itinerary on board a freight ship! They can leave port three days later than planned, or two days earlier. You might get redirected to another port and you might not. No matter what, though, prepare yourself for the adventure of your life!

Photo Credit: Roberto Faccenda

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