What can I expect on board? How will I live on board a freighter vessel? What do I need to know?
You will find the most important information under Characteristics of freighter voyages..
We gladly advise you and answer your questions. Please call us or send an email or fax. Find the contact form here.
Good advice is better than a wrong impression or a bad experience. We have made a lot of freighter voyages ourselves. Please profit from our travel experience.
On most vessels it is possible to bring your own bicycle for free. Please indicate this when booking. The passenger is responsible for transportation of the bicycle from the port to the ship or vice versa. In some ports an extra fee is charged for transportation within the port. Please pay on the spot.
Usually being on the bridge is always possible. On some vessels there are certain times for being on the bridge. There may be restrictions during certain maneuvers or certain weather conditions (e. g. fog).
You do not need to bring bed sheets and towels, both will be provided.
Passengers are accommodated in outside cabins with their own shower/WC. On some vessels a separate living room is available (see voyage description).
The captain the is the man/woman in charge on board and the official representative of the shipping company. His orders are to be obeyed unconditionally.
You want to bring a car, caravan or motorbike? It is generally possible, but transport has to be arranged through a freight forwarding company and will be inside a container. Freight forwarding companies you will find online. Regarding Roll-on Roll-off vessels, the vehicles are driven onto the ship. There are special transport agencies for this kind of transport.
The cargo always has the highest priority aboard. Usually neither the shipping company nor we know what is inside the containers.
The Chief is the first engineer on board. Please do not confuse with the the Chief Mate, who is the first officer.
A freighter is, to be honest, not the right place for smaller children, because it is not equipped adequately for small guests. Therefore, often a a minimum age is required, which can vary between shipping companies. Children under 3 are not accepted by any shipping company. Often the minimum age is 6 years, or 16 years, or even 18 years.
You can leave suits and dinner dresses at home. Pack your clothes according to the areas you are travelling to. Sportive and casual are exactly the right choices. Even the captain does not wear his uniform all the time. Be equipped for all kinds of weather. Windbreaker jacket, tough shoes/house shoes (see equipment or packing list)
We are happy to advise you and to answer your questions. Call us, send us an e-mail or a fax, or use our contact form.
Good advice is better than wrong ideas or a bad experience. We have made many freighter voyages ourselves. Take advantage of our travel experience.
The smaller cost on board are paid in EURO or US Dollars. Checks or credit cards are not accepted.
Valuable items, such as photo camera, video camera, mobile phone or laptop, as well as tobacco and spirits must be declared on a customs list before arrival at the port. A ship officer will help you if questions arise.
The departure of the ships depends on the loading and the general situation in the harbours. This can sometimes lead to alterations at short notice. Please discuss with us the means of transport to the ship and make sure you are reachable in the meantime.
Especially the container terminals are often far away from the city centers. For the most important ports in Europe you will get special port descriptions with address and parking advice. Parking your car near the gatehouse is not being watched, but until today we have not heard of any negative surprises.
Generally arrival by plane or train is reasonable. Buy tickets only shortly before departure of your vessel, or make sure they are changeable or refundable.
This is the insurance which covers the cost of the shipping company if the ship is forced to change route, or in order to reach the nearest harbour due to illness or accident of the insured. The cost of the insurance is related to the size of the ship, the route and the age of the insured. We will contract the deviation insurance for you.
There is no doctor on board on freighters.Therefore it is important to go on freighter voyages only in a good health conditions.
Depending on your voyage you need different documents, e.g. passport, visa, return tickets, etc.. Please find the documents required, according to our knowledge, in the corresponding voyage description. Passengers are responsible for acquiring and for the completeness of the necessary documents. Please contact the relevant embassies or consulates and always indicate your means of entry: per freighter. We are happy to provide information. Please note, that our information is valid for EU members and Swiss citizens, members of other countries have to contact their embassies or consulates regarding the relevant regulations.
Usually the very large vessels have an elevator. To find out whether or not your vessel is equipped with an elevator, please see the voyage description (or contact us).
The timetable of cargo ships primarily depends on the requirements of the trade shipping and is subject to temporal fluctuation. We are in close contact with you shortly before embarkation. Therefore, it is essential for you to inform us, how we can contact you, preferably via mobile phone (please leave it turned on).
Embarkation / Disembarkation Fee
These fees incur for the activity of agencies, primarily in the South European and non-European harbours, as well as special places of embarkation or disembarkation such as Kiel-Canal. The agents especially deal with the compliance of entry and exit regulations in the corresponding harbours. In case of embarkation you will also get information about times, locations, etc. through the agencies.
In addition to these charges, which we have to pay for you to the agencies and authorities, in some ports charges for transportation from port entry to the vessel, and vice versa, may incur. Please pay these fees directly on the spot. If these charges are taken care of by the agencies/authorities, often times the charges sum up to more than twice the amount. Also if, for example, you are taken to a doctor by an employee of an agency, please pay on the spot.
The topics of energy efficiency and protection of the environment are becoming more and more important, for good reasons. Therefore the usage of heavy oil is fortunately coming to an end. The shipping companies are using three different ways to reduce the percentage of sulphur to almost zero: installation of purification devices (so called scrubbers), switching to marine diesel or liquefied natural gas (LNG).
On board there is no special entertainment program for passengers.
Here you enjoy your vacation with leisure. Here you find tranquility and maybe finally the time to read the book you wanted to read for so long.
Bring your laptop – if you like. Certainly you’ll take lots of pictures, here you can process/archive them directly on board.
Maybe you prefer watching the hustle and bustle on board and in the ports. With a little bit of empathy you’ll soon be in contact with the crew and you’ll have one or the other conversation.
Generally you should bring the following on your freighter voyage: all travel documents issued by us (especially ticket / travel contract), passport, i.e. visa and return tickets, vaccination documents if applies, documents of your travel health insurance, medicine, skid-proof shoes, slippers for the cabin, small amounts of the local currency for bus or taxi.
Additionally: sun glasses, spare glasses, binoculars, sun screen, drinks for the first day on board, English dictionary.
The will be small extra expenses on board. Drinks are available at moderate prices. On shore leave expenses will arise for transfer through the port and/or taxi/bus for the way to the city.
You are free to take pictures on board the ship as you wish, provided that you are not in the way of the crew when they are at work. However, there are harbours and passages with restrictions (e.g. the Suez Canal). Please ask the captain. We would be happy, if we could dispose of some of your best pictures after your return.
Make sure the gangway touches ground firmly. Bring only litte hand luggage and ask the gangway crew to help you with your luggage. But generally you should be able to bring your luggage on board safely yourself. The gangway can be 20 m or longer and may swing a bit – so be careful.
Freighter voyages can only be went on when in good health, there is no doctor on board. Passengers must be able to walk without restrictions. Certain disabilities will not allow transportation for safety reasons.
On every vessel there is an on-board pharmacy. Still bring enough medication which you have to rely on personally.
Insurance (see Travel Insurance)
Visiting the bridge, having conversations with the crew, time and tranquillity for yourself, reading books, listening to music, sun bathing and, if available, using the sauna, fitness room and pool. View the loading and unloading from a safe location. Also, interesting shore leaves are the usual leisure activities during a freighter voyage.
Each person is generally allowed luggage up to 125 kg. Please note: Your entire luggage must be transported on board the steep gangway of the ship and be stowed in a seaworthy manner in your cabin. The crew will be glad to help. Larger parts like packing boxes, furniture, etc. have to be transported via a forwarding agency. Instead of large suitcases we recommend using bags, duffel bags or similar, which are easier to store in the cabin.
Three warm meals are included in the voyage price. Passengers eat together with the officers in the Officer’s mess.
There are different rules for certain inland voyages.
On most ships the following times apply:
- 07.30h – 08.30h Breakfast
- 10.00h Teatime/Coffeetime
- 11.30h – 12.30h Lunch
- 15.00h Teatime /Coffeetime
- 17.30h – 18.30h Dinner
Tip: ask the steward or one of the officers about their seat in the mess. Each officer has his seat where he always sits and it would be embarrassing if you picket the captains seat.
Motion of The Sea
Please consider the motion of the sea already when unpacking, and store your personal goods in cabin and bathroom in an appropriate way.
When there is heavy motion of the sea do not use outside stairs. Non-skid and comfortable shoes are right on board.
We know „Vomex“ as a helpful medication again sea sickness. Consult your doctor. For most people sea sickness vanishes quickly, if it shows at all.
For freighter voyages a passport is needed, an identity card will mostly not be enough, not even within Europe. For many countries the passport must be valid for at least 6 months past the end of the voyage, for some countries even 12 months. For some countries visa are required.
Dogs, cats, etc. must stay at home. Pets are not permitted on cargo ships.
On the voyages to East Asia the Gulf of Aden has to be passed. Some passengers ask about the danger of pirates in this area. Therefore the following information:
the vessels of the shipping companies which we deal with either travel in a convoy accompanied by marine ships, or have a security service on board, or take care of safety for crew and passengers by other protective means. There have been no more reports of attacks in this area since 2015.
Safety (on Board)
Captain and Security officer will show you the life saving appliances and instruct you with the safety instructions. Please follow all instructions of the crew. Be careful: when landing and departing and when loading and unloading, you should avoid the working areas. Never walk below floating loads!
Watch from one of the upper decks!
Please also follow the safety instructions for the port.
We are working with a variety of mostly German shipping companies, which allow taking passengers on their freight ships. For this, we act as agents. You enter the contracts with the shipping companies. The various shipping companies each have different Terms and Conditions.
On board there is a small variety of items for daily needs (such as soap, tooth paste, wine, beer, spirits and tobaccos). They can be purchased from the captain or steward for cash. Spirits and tobaccos are tax-free outside of the EU and therefore very cheap. On more and more vessels alcohol is not allowed. We state it in the voyage description. The store generally has fix opening hours, please ask on board.
Smoking is allowed on most vessels. Please adjust to the habits on board. Every vessel has its own rules. Even though there would be enough water to out a fire: smoking inside the cabin is not allowed. In ports smoking on deck and in the port itself is not allowed. Never throw burning cigarettes over board! They can be blown back onto the ship by the wind.
On larger vessels there is often a steward who cleans your cabin. Otherwise you are in charge of it.
On most larger vessels there is a small swimming pool (ourdoors or indoors). It will be filled with sea water. Therefore water temperature and quality must be good. They are usually not filled close to shores.
Telephone, Email, Internet
The vessels nowadays have satellite telephones and email. Generally the means of communication are reserved for the work aboard and can only be used by the passengers after arranging it and for short and important messages. The resulting cost have to be paid directly on board. On the larger vessels across the ocean, etc. there mostly is internet access for passengers and crew for sending and receiving email.
Inform yourself on board about usage and cost. Pleas be prepared to be reachable only in a very limited way on board and do not open your office on the bridge. By the way: mobile phones only have reception near coasts.
It is up to you to give tips, for example for the chef or the steward. It is not expected of you, though. We usually give 1-2 Euros per day and person and rounded up a bit.
In agreement with the captain you can, where allowed, for example for a barbecue, buy a crate of beer or invited your ‘travel guide’ to a restaurant. The crew will also be happy if you leave an interesting (multilanguage) DVD on board. Also current newspapers/magazines are popular. Often the crew also enjoys good chocolate or gummy bears.
You need a travel health insurance with return transport (emergency flight) and a limited liability insurance (the regular limited liability insurance is sufficient).
Additionally a travel cancellation expenses insurance with travel interruption insurance is absolutely recommended.
Also a luggage insurance could be interesting.
The insurances you can book individually or as a package.
Easy and fast: ERV.
Reports of our customers about the voyages we offer you will find here…
Please contact us for reports as books and DVDs.
Please find information on the required vaccinations in the travel descriptions of the relevant trip. Vaccination regulations many times differ from the usual regulations for tourists. Some countries require a Yellow Fever vaccination. Other vaccinations may be recommended. Please consult the travel recommendations of the Federal Foreign Office as well as your personal physician.
You are going to be taking part in the regular meals on board. The chef cannot consider special wishes. The hard working crew usually prefers ‘rustic’ food.
Vegan meals or special dishes for persons with intolerances are not available on board. Vegetarians can “leave out” the meat and fish and eat the sides.
Sometimes one or the other chef tries to cater to special wishes, but please do not expect it.
If a visa is necessary, it will say so in the voyage descriptions.
These visa are required even if you do not plan to go on shore leave.
Our information regards German citizens.
Visa regulations may change anytime.
Working on board
Sometimes we are being asked, whether it is possible to work on board in order to pay for the voyage. However, on the ships we work with this is not possible due to employment laws and insurance. Also, nowadays there is no demand for untrained workers anymore.
This vaccination is mandatory for many countries like Brasil, Panama, China, the Suez Canal, etc. on entering with a freighter. Please check before booking, whether or not you will receive it. Older passengers or passengers with previous diseases are sometimes denied the vaccination. Medical necessity and practical implementation in the relevant location can differ. In many cases an exemption will not be accepted. Vaccination is mandatory especially for trips to South America – passengers not vaccinated will not be transported.