1. Planning of the voyage
Postponements of the departure and arrival dates must be expected. Most ships operate according to a timetable, which is subject to fluctuations. Travel times depend, for example, on the weather and the duration of work in the ports. Alterations to the routes are also possible. In general the freight and the interests of merchant shipping are always prioritized.
The arrival and departure is organized by the passengers themselves. If you arrive with your own car, e.g. to Hamburg or Bremerhaven, we will provide you with detailed information on how to get there and on parking facilities.
We strongly recommend that you choose only changeable and cancelable flights and train tickets. The same applies to hotel reservations and other follow-up bookings. In the event of any postponement of dates, the passengers themselves shall bear the costs of additional hotel accommodation or the changing/cancellation of tickets.
2. Life on board and shore leave
The special appeal of a freighter voyage is that you normally have free access to the bridge and other facilities on board and can watch the captain and officers at work. Please understand, however, that some captains wish to be alone on the bridge in case of fog, cruising or mooring maneuvers.
The Chief will be happy to show you the engine room by prior appointment.
During a quiet watch there is often an opportunity for a conversation with the watch commander or the free watch. However, you cannot expect an entertainment programme by the crew on board a cargo ship. But you will have a lot of time for yourself, a lot of rest, for example, to read books that have piled up at home. A CD player allows you to listen to music. A small world receiver keeps you informed about events in the world. Generally, games and some books are available. Television sets with DVD are available on board. Television reception is usually only available near the coast. Some vessels have a satellite receiver on board, which also allows television reception at sea. In the respective voyage description, we give information as to whether, for example, TV, DVD, radio or similar are also available in the cabins.
Information on the usual loading times in the ports can be found in the descriptions of the individual voyages. The loading times depend on the cargo. The captain and crew are happy to give you tips, but rarely have time to go ashore themselves. Harbor loading times can sometimes be as short as a few hours, and sometimes only overnight. When going ashore, exchange mobile phone numbers with the captain / 1st officer. In addition, the container terminals are not always located close to the city centre. The focus of a cargo ship voyage is the experience of modern seafaring.
3. Room and Board
The cabins – on cargo ships they are called “chambers”, even if it is the most luxurious owner’s chamber – are outside cabins with separate shower/WC. Some cabins even have a separate living room. The view may be blocked by cargo. If single cabins are not available, double cabins can often be booked for single use at an extra charge. Most vessels have space for 2-5 passengers, on few ships up to 12 passengers can be carried.
On almost all ships there are three hot meals for passengers and crew. They are taken in the wardroom. On smaller coasters, meals are eaten in a community room.
Coffee and tea are available free of charge for passengers. Soft drinks, beer, wine, spirits and tobacco products are available for cash payment from the captain or steward. On more and more ships there is a ban on alcohol for the crew. This also means that there is no alcohol on board. Please note that – if at all – only moderate alcohol consumption is allowed for safety reasons and follow the captain’s instructions.
Many of the larger ships for long trips have a salon with a bar, sports facilities, sauna or swimming pool (either indoor or outdoor). The facilities of the individual ships are explained in the travel descriptions.
A freighter voyage should only be undertaken in good physical condition. There will be no doctor on board your cargo ship! Unrestricted walking ability is a prerequisite for every passenger. Certain health restrictions (such as severely limited vision) make it impossible to go on a freighter voyage. Please contact us before booking if you have physical limitations. An on-board pharmacy is available, and the captain and officers can provide initial treatment in an emergency until medical assistance is available.
The shipping companies have certain age limits. For passengers aged 65 and over, most shipping companies therefore require a current medical certificate before the start of the journey. For some longer journeys a medical certificate is required for all passengers. You will receive a corresponding form with your travel confirmation. Upon request we also send you a medical certificate form for a certain voyage, so you can check whether there could be restrictions.
For certain countries, such as Brazil, South Africa, China, Panama and Suez Canal, etc., yellow fever vaccination is mandatory when entering by cargo ship. Please clarify before booking whether you will receive the vaccination. For older passengers and passengers with previous illnesses, vaccination is sometimes refused. Medical necessity and local authority practice may differ, and in many cases an exemption permit is not accepted by the local authorities. Especially for trips to South America, vaccination is mandatory, and passengers who are not vaccinated will not be carried.
5. Documents, Vaccinations, Insurances
A passport is required for freighter voyages, an identity card is usually not sufficient even within Europe. The passport must be valid for at least 6 months after the end of the journey, for some countries even 12 months. In some countries a visa is required. It is essential that you arrive by cargo ship, not by plane or cruise ship. For example, you need a visa for the USA and Australia, even if you have had contrary experiences with another type of travel. Check with the relevant embassies or consulates and always mention the type of entry: by cargo ship. We will be happy to advise you on this. For one-way trips, some countries require proof of a flight or ship ticket for the return or onward journey.
All shipping companies require proof of sufficient insurance. This includes in particular travel health insurance. We also recommend travel cancellation and luggage insurance. A deviation insurance is taken out for each passenger, which covers the costs incurred to the shipping company if the ship is forced to change course, e.g. to call at the next port in case of illness or accident of the insured. The amount depends on the size of the ship, the route and the age of the insured.
6. Language on board
We mainly broker ships of German shipping companies, some of which operate under German management (captain and/or officers). However, English language skills are also helpful on these ships, as the language of communication in merchant shipping is English and the crew is usually not German-speaking. Many ships operate with international ship management, then there may be no German on board, and English language skills are required.