So You Want to Go to England: Getting There - Freighter Cruises
09 May 2012 · by Brennan Storr · Be the first to comment!
Why fly when can you take 20 times longer for three times the price?
Photo by Mike Baird, licensed through Creative Commons
Part 1: Getting Started
Part 2: Before You Go
Part 3: Getting There - Air Canada
Part 4: Getting There - Air Transat
Part 5: Getting There - British Airways
Part 6: Getting There - Freighter Cruises
Part 7: Surviving Heathrow Airport
Once upon time, if a young man suffered from wanderlust or a failure to fully comprehend the rhythm method, fleeing his quaint coastal hometown was a simple matter. All he had to do was run, preferably under cover of darkness, to the dockyard and beg for a job on the first freighter bound for Sheik Yarbouti. Once onboard he was free to enjoy a lifetime on the open sea, never again to worry about personal responsibility or any kind of basic human comfort.
Over time, the slow encroachment of unions and maritime laws has made it tougher to escape your mistakes by sea. Now the experience of traveling on a seagoing freighter is limited to those who thoughtfully joined the Seafarers International Union before “forgetting” their prophylactics and independent-minded tourists who have time and money to burn.
And so, having covered some options for flying the friendly skies, in this installment of "So You Want to Go to England" we takes a look at this considerably less popular alternative to air travel.
Where once you could pay your way across the ocean with the sweat of your brow, the high seas are now more interested in a pound of flesh – freighter cruises will run you anywhere from $65-$150 a day. Freighters bound for the UK leave from the eastern United States (Philadelphia, New Orleans and New York are a few ports of call) and take just over two weeks to reach English shores, which puts you in the $1100 US range (one-way) before tax.
That price does include meals but menu options are limited to whatever the crew is eating, which, depending on where they’re from, could be an adventure for the more sheltered among you.
You should be so lucky
What that price doesn't include is the cost of getting yourself to the port you’re planning to depart from or the cost of putting yourself up if your boat is delayed, which isn't uncommon with freighter voyages. As always, check Hotwire or Hotels.com for the best deal on hotels if you're stuck for a few nights, or if you're feeling Bohemian, curl up under a bridge somewhere.
"May I take your wallet, sir?"
Cabins on freighter cruises are generally spacious - equal in size and comfort to mid-range accommodation on a standard cruise ship – have at least one large window and, best of all, their own bathroom. This saves you from worrying about two weeks spent sharing a toilet with heavily tattooed sailors named Orlov who demand to watch you pee.
There are no onboard amenities except for a place to buy cheap cigarettes and alcohol (bring cash), there is sweet bugger-all to do (bring books) and instead of four-thousand fellow seafarers being herded from one buffet to another, you will have at most 11 other passengers to keep you company.
And they're all going to look like this
Why only 12 passengers, you ask? Because any more than that and the ship is required to have a doctor on board. Ask your travel insurance provider whether or not your policy covers death at sea caused by an all-Russian crew’s inability to understand “my left arm is tingling."
"I cannot understand him but I think he is saying,
'Take my cigarettes and throw me overboard, comrades.'"
Freighter passengers are likely to be independent-minded travelers who have seen their fair share of the world and could have some great stories to keep you occupied. They could also be “travel bores” who have seen the world and learned nothing from it save the human body’s upper limits for alcohol absorption. Whatever the case they are likely to be extremely pretentious and before long you'll be grateful for the lock on your cabin door.
"No, we don't have many friends. We think it's because we're too edgy."
Below you’ll find a table of UK ports where your freighter may dock, their distance, by train, from London’s Paddington Station, and the approximate cost. Costs are listed in pounds sterling (£),are current as of this writing and represent the cheapest ticket on offer – prices and availability will fluctuate with time of day. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, Paddington is used for reference because, as a tourist – even a rufty-tufty freighter one – London is the place you’ll likely want to see first. Then onward to Wigan.
|Port||Distance from London by train||Approximate Cost|
|Bristol||1h37m – 2h30m||£35|
|Liverpool||2h45m – 3h||£52|
|Southampton||1h23m – 2h||£34.10|
Freighter trips are not as easily booked as the booze cruise you took last summer – arrangements will have to be made through a travel agent who deals specifically with freighter lines. This list from Cruise Ship Portal is a good place to start looking or spend some time on sites like GoNomad learning from people who have made the journey themselves.
Finally, a reminder that freighter schedules are not set in stone so even though your voyage has to be booked months ahead of time, there may be complications that delay your departure by days – even weeks. But try not to worry, Orlov will still be waiting.