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Yes, you can book passage aboard a freighter and sail away without meeting a cruise director or dodging the ship's photographer at every turn. No, it isn't for everyone. Itineraries and port stays tend to be longer, and there are few amenities beyond three meals a day and a few other basic comforts. But booking passage on a cargo ship, when priced according to daily costs, is often significantly cheaper than most traditional cruises. If you're the type that doesn't need a lot of entertaining and wants to leave the formal wear at home, read more about freighter cruises and how they could become your solid budget travel alternative at sea.

Comments
January 4, 2010 at 5:45 pm
(1) Pete says:

A lot of these listings seem to be for more exotic tours, for discount travellers are there any recommends for one way destinations (i.e. UK to USA)?

January 4, 2010 at 9:01 pm
(2) hjlr says:

It seems to me that the cost of a freighter is around the same if not more expensive than many of the cruises that leave out of Florida, so not sure that there’s really any savings! My mom recently joined us on a Celebrity 5 night cruise at a last minute rate of $229 per person for an outside cabin, but even early on a concierge class verandah cabin was available for $500 (or $100 per person per day). Obviously peak times are more expensive, and maybe certain cruise lines (Silversea, Crystal, etc.) or destinations will be more, but cruise prices happen to be really low right now on most of the major lines known to North Americans (Princess, Holland America, Celebrity, Costa, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Caribbean). Although I do agree that the constant pestering by photographers, rigidity of formal nights, and so on can be unappealing sometimes.

January 5, 2010 at 12:10 am
(3) Budget Travel Guide says:

It’s true that the total cost of a freighter cruise can meet or frequently exceed that of a traditional cruise. But like repo cruises, the daily rate is often more attractive because the trips are so much longer and different.

I say if you have a flexible schedule and you can look at longer trips, it’s worth checking the freighter option…but as you point out, there are also some low traditional cruise prices to be had right now.

January 5, 2010 at 9:45 am
(4) hjlr says:

Agreed. And in response to Pete, when cruise lines reposition their ships from one area of the world to another (called repositioning cruises) at the change of season, the prices tend to be much cheaper on these transatlantic cruises. To go from Europe to the US, look at the fall for these types of cruises (often October to November). Some do leave directly out of England, and might be a good option for you. Happy travels!

January 8, 2010 at 11:36 am
(5) Laureen Miles Brunelli says:

Freighter travel sounds great to me, but I know that there is an insurance, age and medical restrictions. I have a medical condition so I’m not sure they would allow me on a freighter cruise or if they did the insurance cost might be too high. Probably many retired folks, the people who have the most free time, would have this issue too.

January 8, 2010 at 5:10 pm
(6) Donna says:

I did a 49 day freighter trip – my large window opened to the ocean, food was good – they did cut out 3 advertised stops, which were to me the most important, but that is their option, and you have no comeback. The crew were excellent, but you ate alone at table for meals in same room as captain and officers, who are not overly friendly- and speak little English. If you are lucky you might have fellow passengers, which I had for two weeks time. Captain cranky. But oh those ocean breezes, and beautiful sunrise and sunsets.

January 10, 2010 at 9:20 pm
(7) Rudolph.A.Furtado says:

As a “Marine engineer” by profession i had the priviledge of visiting exotic ports during my employment on various ships.Agreed, as a “Marine engineer” working in the ships bowels(ENGINE ROOM) in high decibel engine noise and average temps of 40*C+ was no “Cruise” but the perks of touching exotic ports after a lenghty voyage was an indescribable feeling.I advise tourists travelling on “Cargo Freighters” to make sure that they are conditioned to “SAILING LIFE” as the same could be monotonous and boring leading to “Sea-Sickness”to “High Partying life-styles”, since unlike “Tourist Cruise ships”, the normal average “Cargo Freighter” have no mass entertainment, barring a “small Smoke/Lounge Room” for movies or a indoor game and a tub type “Swimming Pool”. If of the “Adventurous type” then there is nothing like a “Cargo Freight” tour cruise to really experience “SAILOR LIVING LIFE-STYLE”. I myself after having served in the “Mercantile Merchant Navy” for 25 years and having experienced “Cruise freighter tours” in the line of duty have at present switched over to “Solo Backpacking tours” after quitting the “Merchant Navy”. Honestly, i do miss the sailing work tours although my job was a real tough one.

January 11, 2010 at 9:26 pm
(8) Tom says:

Dear Mark,
I really enjoy your articles. This freighter cruise article is great. My partner and I, (same -sex, yes.) just returned Sunday from an 8 day Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Celebrity Solstice. It was very nice, but not our style. We encountered quite a bit of homophobia from the staff, and we just were not comfortable. I did meet some great people, and some of the staff were wonderful, but we will never do that again. We often felt like we were in jail. That was our very first cruise experience and probably our last, however this frieghter cruise thing sounds perfect for me. Thank you, and keep up the good work.

May 17, 2014 at 4:56 pm
(9) Jeannette says:

I am interested in travelling from the US to UK by freighter, taking my wheelchair accessible van and my service dog with me. Would be interested in any info available

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