A cargo cruise may just be the cheapest way to travel the world

You'll need to go via a specialist agent to book a cargo cruise.
BABAK FARROKHI/FLICKR

You'll need to go via a specialist agent to book a cargo cruise.

There's no climbing wall or karaoke to be found. No uniforms or luxury restaurants. And there are only a handful of passengers. In other words, cargo cruises are a little bit different than your classic cruise ships.

On cargo cruises, passengers join crew members on monstrous container ships that deliver goods to ports across the globe. Aside from being a unique immersive experience, it's a way to see the world for a fraction of the cost of plane tickets or regular cruises.

Here's what you need to know before embarking on the open seas in a cargo ship.

TO BOOK A CARGO CRUISE, YOU'LL NEED TO GO THROUGH AN AGENT THAT SPECIALISES IN CARGO CRUISE TRAVEL

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There's a reason you probably haven't heard of cargo cruises — most travel agents don't book them. You'll need to go through an agent that specialises in cargo cruise travel or get in touch with a ship's manager.

Freighter voyages usually require months of advance planning, but they rarely have set schedules. Arrivals and departures can depend on how long it takes to load or unload cargo, how busy a port is, and weather conditions. Sometimes, a departure window is given instead of an exact date. Bottom line: flexibility is a must.

IT'S CHEAPER (AND COOLER) THAN FLYING

Cargo cruises cost as little as A$65 (NZ$68) a day but most Kiwis are looking at between $160 and $190 a day. This fee includes lodging, three meals a day, and taxes. Voyages usually last between 40 and 50 days, but some people opt for segmented trips that last a few weeks, leaving on a boat, disembarking at a port, and returning home by plane. 

 

Enjoying a New Years Eve with the crew of the CMA CGM Titus #cargocruise #rtwsa #roundtheworld #cmacgm #vancouverbc

A photo posted by Starr Smith (@starrsy7) on

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IT'S NOT A LUXURY LINER, BUT IT'S PRETTY GREAT

Cargo ships are utilitarian boats. They don't have stabilisers, but with a big enough ship and a heavy enough load of cargo, you won't feel the waves. There are also lots of stairs, so hold on to the railings and wear sturdy shoes.

The accommodations are spacious and comfortable, as nice as those on regular cruise ships. And since container ships don't take more than a dozen passengers, there's plenty of room to spread out.

YOU'LL HAVE TO KEEP YOURSELF ENTERTAINED

The crew is there to work, not entertain, but everyone on the ship eats meals together, which gives you plenty of great opportunities to chat. There's no wifi, and phone access is limited to a ship's single satellite phone, so make sure you come equipped with plenty of books, games, writing materials, knitting projects, or whatever will keep you occupied. There will also be gorgeous views of sunrises, sunsets, and constellations to marvel at. 

Most ships also feature a rec room, bar, and swimming pool. Some even have a sauna and a gym.

Is travelling on a container ship for you? If you've got a flexible schedule and a sense of adventure, go for it. 

KIWIS, WELCOME ABOARD

Hawke's Bay-based director of Freighter Travel NZ Hamish Jamieson has been in the freighter travel agency business for 20 years and said this alternative form of cruising was as popular as ever.

Kiwis could travel from New Zealand to Asia, North America and Europe on board freighters.

One of the most popular trips was a 35-day trip around the Mediterranean on a car carrier, Jamieson said.

This trip cost about $4000, he said, adding that it was important to beware of customs and immigration taxes when seeking quotes from companies.

The highlights of a freighter cruise were "peace and quiet and no crowds".

There aren't any "spunky chicks", "guys with sex-packs", or waiters looking for tips, he said.

"You can sit of the bow... doing a Kate Winslet impression, with a thermos of gin and tonic."

Passengers get to dine with the captain every night and you can get a bottle of wine for about $13, rather than the $16 a glass charged on most cruise ships. But they have to serve their own drinks from the bar.

Jamieson said there were four types of people who were attracted to this form of travel:

- Can't fly, won't fly.

- I've been on a cruise but never again.

- Those who went to sea and want one last voyage.

- The greenies. (Freight cruise passengers have a carbon footprint of 0).

Businessinsider.com.au with Stuff

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