Characteristics of Freighter Voyages
1. Travel planning
Alterations in departure and arrival times have to be considered. Most cargo vessels travel according to a time schedule, which can be due to variations. Travel times depend on the weather and work in the harbour. Alterations to the routes are also possible. In general the freight and the interests of merchant shipping are always the priority.
The arrival at the harbour and the departure are to be organised by the passengers. When travelling with your own car e.g. to Hamburg or Bremerhaven we will provide you with details about route and parking.
We strongly recommend booking only changeable and refundable tickets for flights and trains. The same counts for hotel reservations and connection bookings. When changes of schedule occur the passengers will have to pay for additional hotel stays or changing/cancellation of tickets.
2.Life on board and shore leave
The particular appeal of cargo vessel trips is that in general the passengers have free access to the bridge and all other facilities on board the ship and they can watch the captain and the officers at work. The chief will also show you the engine room.
During a calm watch you will certainly have the opportunity to talk with the officer. However, an entertainment programme on board cannot be expected. Thus, you will have time for yourself and the tranquillity to read the books that have been piling on your shelves at home for a long time. A CD-player will enable you to listen to music or listen to the latest news with a long distance radio. Often games and books are available, as well as a television with DVDs. Some ships have a satellite receiver, which allows for TV reception on the sea. Mostly TV channels can only be received near the coast line.
The descriptions of the trips also contain information regarding the usual times spent at the harbor. The time for shore leave depend on the cargo. The captain and the crew like to give advice, but often have hardly the time to go on shore themselves. Sometimes the lay times are only a couple of hours of during the night. Furthermore, the container terminals are often not in the reach of the city. The focus of cargo ship trips is the experience of modern seafaring.
3. Accommodation and lodging
The cabins are outer cabins equipped with separate shower and toilets. Some cabins even have a separate living room. The view can be disabled by containers. If single cabins are not available, double cabins can often be obtained with an extra charge for single use. Most ships can have 2-5 passengers and some even have the space for up to 12 passengers.
On nearly all the ships three meals per day are available for the passengers in the officer’s mess room. However, on a few smaller ships the meals are served in common rooms. Coffee and tea is free for the passengers. Soft drinks, beer, wine, alcoholic drinks and tobacco can be obtained from the captain or steward for cash payment. Alcohol is prohibited on more and more ships. This also means that there is no alcohol available on board. Please note that for safety reasons only moderate consumption of alcohol is allowed, if at all, and please follow the instructions of the captain.
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.
You should join a freighter voyage only in good physical condition. There will be no doctor aboard your freight ship! Unrestricted ability to walk is mandatory for each passenger. Certain health restrictions (such as severely limited vision) make it impossible to go on a freighter voyage. Please contact us prior to booking if you have physical limitations. There is a pharmacy on board, the captain and officers can perform a first treatment in case of an emergency, until medical help is accessible.
The shipping companies have certain age limits. For passengers from 65 years old most of the shipping companies require a medical certificate before begin of the voyage. For some longer trips, a medical certificate is required for all passengers. For this you will receive a form together with the 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. a Yellow Fever vaccination is mandatory upon arrival by freight ship. Please check before booking whether you will receive the vaccination. Vaccinations are partly rejected for older passengers and passengers with pre-existing conditions. Medical necessity and practice of authorities on the ground can differ, in many cases an exemption permit is not accepted by local authorities. Vaccination is mandatory for voyages to South America, passengers who are not vaccinated will not be carried.
A passport is necessary for journeys on cargo ships, even throughout Europe an ID card is generally insufficient. The passport must be valid for at least further 6 months and even for 12 months in some countries. Some countries also require a visa. In this case it is essential that you travel by cargo ship to the country, not by plane or cruise ship. For the USA and Australia, for instance, you are required to have a visa travelling by cargo ship, even though you might have different experiences with other travels. Please consult the embassies or consulates concerned and always mention your travel terms, i.e. cargo ship travel. Some countries request the proof of your return terms for one way trips, i.e. flight ticket or cruise ticket for your return or your further trip.
All shipping companies request proof of sufficient insurances, mainly a travel insurance. Furthermore, we recommend a travel cancellation insurance and a luggage insurance. A deviation insurance is taken out for every passenger to cover the costs incurred by the shipping companies, in case the ship has to change the course to reach the nearest harbour, due to illness or an accident of the insurant. The amount depends on the size of the ship, the travel route and the age of the insurant.
6. Language on board
We predominantly act as agents for German shipping companies. The ships are often navigated by a German crew (captain and officers). However, knowledge of the English language is helpful, as the lingua franca of merchant shipping is English and the crew is generally not German-speaking.