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Cargo Ship Travel

Travel Guide General Guides Transportation Cargo Ship Travel

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Introduction

Golden Gate Bridge, SF

Golden Gate Bridge, SF

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

The days of just showing up in a port and hoping for a berth (room on ship) on a ship are long gone since the start of 21st century. Sometimes you might get lucky and hop on a ship (or yacht for that matter), but usually travelling by any form of aquatic transport is limited to either your own boat or travelling by ferries or cruise ship. On the other hand, with these difficulties came companies that offer possibilities to book a berth on a cargo ship, thus being able to travel across oceans in the most adventurous way there is and not hopping on the next plane again. Generally, it doesn't come cheap though and in many cases, signing up for a cruise probably is cheaper, especially in areas like the Caribbean. For some trips though, the alternatives are not available, unless you don't mind taking the plane. Trips can range from just several days across the North Sea in Europe to weeks or even months travelling between continents or even around the world. In general, the trip costs per day decrease with the length of the trip.

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Destinations

Painting the ship, Antwerp Harbor

Painting the ship, Antwerp Harbor

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

Unlike cruise ships, the choice regarding ports/places you want to visit is rather limited. For example, most ships with destinations like the Netherlands visit Rotterdam instead of the tourist favorite Amsterdam. In the UK, many ships use Southampton, while in the USA, ports are generally located away some kilometres from the main cities as well, like Long Beach near Los Angeles. On the other hand, there are also some great options to visit ports in countries or cities which you might never visit otherwise, like Pago Pago in American Samoa and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, to give just a few examples.
There are, however, quite a few routes available, mainly focusing on Europe, Asia and North America, but during longer trips also visiting ports in Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific, Africa and the Middle East and both Central and South America. The latter ones are mostly on longer trips, lasting a few months or more.

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Concept and Costs

A cargo ship on the Panama Canal

A cargo ship on the Panama Canal

© All Rights Reserved Ross-Lori

Travelling by cargo ship is not new of course, but the commercialization has made it somewhat different compared to several decades ago. Nowadays, to increase income, the berths are available for travellers. Usually, it is just one to several berths which are available, most of them only for the use of one or two persons (the single supplement costs are relatively low compared to cruises or regular rooms in a hotel!). Apart from a room/berth, the rate mostly includes three meals, which are used along with the crew and at set times. Sometimes, but not always, costs regarding port taxes etc. are included as well. For everything else, including visa, transport to/from the port and additional trips on land, you have to pay the costs yourself. So when choosing for a trip, it is wise to check visa regulations and options to visit cities while the ship is anchored ashore, to keep extra costs to a minimum or arrange things beforehand in case of red tape. Again, costs vary widely, but a standard rate of around US$100 is a fairly good starting rate, usually a little more for shorter trips and less for (much) longer trips. There are few services on board, like restaurants, fitness areas or pools, although you might be lucky in some cases. The best thing you can do, is to bring lots of reading material or otherwise music or videos (movies), because tv or radio might not always be available either once on open seas. Finally note that there might be age restrictions (mostly 70-75 years old), due to the fact that there are generally no doctors on board.

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Companies

Lonely cargo ship between Nolsoy and Sandoy

Lonely cargo ship between Nolsoy and Sandoy

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

Unlike the enormous choice you have when going on a cruise, the choice is rather limited (but therefore also very easy for searching across the web), but the following specialized companies all offer a range of cargo ship trips. There are some companies which sell cargo ship trips, next to their regular business like cruises or tickets for ferries.

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This is version 4. Last edited at 15:52 on Jun 25, 13 by Sander. 5 articles link to this page.

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