Traveling by Cargo Ship

Container Terminal

[tcly] / [iStock] / Thinkstock

Cargo ship travel was long ago filed as one of the most romantic forms of seeing the world, joined by hitchhiking and tramping along boxcars. Today, most people have written off cargo ships as a mode of transportation, but they are still very viable for those who want a little adventure.

By cargo ship standards, accommodations for paying passengers are quite nice. In most cases, you’ll get a cabin that is as nice as most of the higher ranking officers on board, possibly with a private bathroom and almost always with a view. But, don’t expect fresh flowers, minted pillows and Egyptian cotton sheets. This is a cargo ship, not a cruise liner.\

Tickets are made available through third party organizations that have ties to the cargo ship carriers. Because of liability issues, it’s no longer possible to simply hop aboard a cruise ship at your convenience. Try sites like to find and book trips on cargo ships around the world. In most cases, you’ll want to talk to an agent; the schedule and itinerary options can get very confusing for the first time cargo ship traveler.

One of the best parts of cargo ship travel is the destinations. Because their itinerary is not based on any sort of tourist influence, cargo ships go to parts of the world that few people ever visit. The only downside is that most ports of call will have very little in the way of information services or tourist offices. And, even if you do end up in a touristy town, the cargo ships usually shore up in industrial areas far outside the center of town, which makes quick day trips all the more challenging.

Cargo ship travel is not for the easily bored. As far as entertainment goes, expect little more than some board games and a lot of free time. But what cargo ships lack in casino games, they make up for in unique experiences. How many cruise ship passengers get to have dinner with the captain, or play drinking games with the crew? If you’re excited about traveling with a sort of maritime host family, than cargo ships are for you.

One of the biggest misconceptions about cargo ship travel is cost. People assume that because they are so spartan, cruise ships are dirt cheap. While cargo ships aren’t super cheap, they are affordable. Expect to average about 80 bucks a day for most cruise ships, more if you want a larger room. Discounts are usually available if you’re willing to travel for longer stretches. Keep in mind that some ships have schedules that last half a year or more.

By Patrick Hutchison