The ultimate un-cruise
Just as some cruise lines are offering over-the-top onboard experiences such as water parks, luxury spas, and celebrity chefs, other sorts of cruises are attracting travellers with less flashy ambitions. Far less flashy.
A new off-the-beaten-trail trend to emerge among travellers looking for something different? Un-tourists booking un-cruises – on freighter ships.
While the thought of vacationing alongside shipping containers might not be everyone’s idea of a holiday, freighter-enthusiasts are happy to recite the benefits.
Solitude, relaxation, no dress-codes at dinner and costs generally half to a third less than conventional cruises just to name a few. Freighter fares typically range from about $90-$130 (USD) per person per day, inclusive of all meals onboard. Freighter cruises can last from 10 days to 120 days to go around the world.
“We like saying it’s like staying on your own yacht with a captain,” Ranko Zunic, the owner of Maris Freighter & Specialty Cruises told the Associated Press.
Zunic’s Connecticut-based company is one of a small number of agencies that book freighter trips. One trip promoted on the company’s website departs every Wednesday from Montreal and arrives in Liverpool, UK 8 days later. The cruise then continues on to Antwerp, Belgium. After that, it’s back to Montreal, with the entire trip taking 20 days.
On this particular cruise, ships can accommodate 8 passengers in 6 cabins located on the passenger deck, two decks below the Captain’s. Cabins offer single and double accommodations and have a refrigerator and a CD player. (Although the company warns that forward views may be obstructed by containers stowed on deck.)
Another freighter travel company, Freighter World Cruises Inc. in California, books about 1,000 trips a year. The company’s president, Joycene Deel told the AP that her company screens potential clients to make sure they really want to travel by cargo ship.
“People have this glamorized image. It usually is not what you dream about. When you come down to reality, it’s a working cargo ship,” Deel said.
Passengers who have to ask what to do with all the time or get bored easily might seek other trips, she added.
Container cruising is a far cry from conventional passenger cruises. Freighter cabins are usually utilitarian and there are no 24-hour buffets or lively dinner shows; in fact, passengers generally eat the same meals as the officers and no special diets are accommodated.
Generally, travel has to be booked as much as 3 to 6 months in advance, and while the cost is usually less per day, typical voyages take longer causing costs to add up. Extended shore visits are virtually impossible with typical port times ranging from only 6 to 24 hours.
And container ports are often quite a way out from the city center, requiring a hefty taxi fare to get into town.
While many freighter travellers are older or retired, most lines have age limits because of insurance restrictions. (Add to that most ships don’t have elevators or a doctor onboard.) The age limit for most shipping lines is 79 with a lower limit of 13.
But if you’re satisfied with the simpler pleasures of being on the open sea – strolling the deck, spending hours tackling Suduko or losing yourself in a good novel – you certainly won’t be lacking for free time. And most freighters offer a small exercise room, swimming pool and TV for viewing a selection of video movies.
Photo: Freighter World Cruises, Inc.