Travelling By Cargo Ship

The first thing I did when I walked into my cabin was tasting the water that came out the shower. That might seem a weird thing to do, but I had just boarded my first ever container ship for a month-long journey from Europe to Australia and I wanted to know if I had to shower with seawater.

This was not the case, however! The water that came out of the shower was fresh and as I discover later, even suitable for drinking.

Travelling By Cargo Ship

travelling by cargo ship dock

The ship for the journey

Now why would someone board a cargo ship to go to Australia from Europe? Wouldn't flying be much easier? It probably would, but I had already done that once and this time I decided I wanted to see the world without flying and taking a freighter cruise seemed like the way to go.

People might not realise this, but most cargo ships have room for up to six passengers. Many shipping companies are eager to fill their excess cabins and allow passengers to book the 3-months round trip or parts of it, having them experience life on board for themselves.

What makes travelling by cargo ship such a unique experience?

  • Slow way of travelling – great for getting a feeling of how large the world is;
  • Giving the possibility to visit ports and places that are not on the beaten track;
  • Experiencing life on board – hanging out with the officers and crew, visiting the bridge and engine-room;
  • Resting and relaxing while the ship is at sea and experiencing the bustle of the ports when docked;
  • Encountering wildlife like whales, dolphins and flying fish.

It's not even necessary to forgo luxury when travelling on a cargo ship. Cabins all have en-suite bathrooms, and the ships have a swimming pool and sauna. Meals on board are excellent – and an added bonus is that there are no restrictions on how much luggage can be taken on board.

travelling by cargo ship bow

Killing time on the voyage

How to Get on a Freighter Cruise

Organising a freighter cruise is easy as worldwide there are many travel agencies that specialise in cargo travel. To find an agency, just google ‘freighter cruises' or ‘freighter travel’.

Don’t make any allusions on being able to work for a passage. Due to insurance restrictions this is not possible anymore. The costs of a freighter trip are between $90 – $150 per day, which sounds expensive, but keep in mind this includes accommodation, full board and travel!

travelling by cargo ship ramp

The ramp leading to the ship

A New Way to Travel

After my first container ship had dropped me off in Australia, I immediately booked my passed back to Europe on another cargo ship – but it didn't stop at that. So far I have travelled on five different container ships and spent a total of nine months at sea.

I can highly recommend this mode of transport. If you're not in a hurry to get somewhere, this is a unique way of travelling, guaranteed to give you an experience you will never forget.

This post is part of a blog tour that focuses on Maria's book Time Zones, Containers and Three Square Meals a Day. Visit the Travel Writers Exchange for an interview with Maria about how she wrote the book. Tomorrow, Maria's new book More Stories of Time Zones and Containers will be launched on her blog Scribbles of an Author and Freelance Writer.

Maria Staal is an author and freelance writer, based in the Netherlands. She has written two books about her adventures on the container ships. Time Zones, Containers and Three Square Meals a Day and More Stories of Time Zones and Containers. You can find her online at

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