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Question DetailsAsked on 2/8/2014

Looking for information on passage on cargo ships.

Interested in cargo ships that take passengers departing from ports in New York, New Jersery, Maryland, or Virginia to Spain or close by locations such as Lisbon. Travel time is late May/early June. Would appreciate names of Travel Agencies that would handle this kind of travel. We are interested in a trans-atlantic cruise from the Washington, DC area to Spain instead of flying. We will do our sight seeing in Spain.

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1 Answer


I don't think Angie's Liust can directly help you with that - too specific a category.

My suggestion - google this search phrase - cargo ship passenger booking - then after looking at some websites and picking some prospects, do this:

1) if you have a regular travel agent you use, ask them for a recommendation of some firm that specialize in this

2) google this sort of search phrase on each company you are considering - Slow Boat Tours Travel complaints to see if that company has complaints o the web.

3) Also check for BBB and similar site complaints, and check the company names on Angie's List by name once you narrow it to a few firms.

4) Bear in mind many of these cabins, being essentially for crew or corporate personnel, become available only on short notice, so booking a long time in advance can be iffy, and of course you have to be flexible on departure date because most ships do not run on fixed schedules - they add or drop ports along the way depending on cargo demand and shipper whims, so a booked departure date may well not be within even days of the actual date.

5) One hint - from a friend who did this and was sorely disappointed - a vast majority of crew members on cargo vessels are non english speaking - asian, philipino, malaysian, indian/bangledeshi, turkish, greek to a large extent, and they typically do not interact with the passengers, so if you were counting on a jolly good time talking with the crew you may be very disappointed, as you may find only one or two of the officers speak english, and they will have time for you basically only at meals. Unless you are looking for solitude this may not be the answer for you, unless you choose a mixed freighter - one with a significant number of passenger cabins - say 20-40 or so, so there will be a selection of people to interact with.

6) Do not count on a lot of recreational facilities, and you may feel out of place using facilities that are essentially crew lounges and workout facilities and such.

7) Many of the ships who carry passengers, especially tankers, may only have a very few passenger cabins - commonly built into the ship to hold extra crew for extended voyages or one needing a lot of on-board deckhands, or for occasional corporate visitors, security personnel when going through dangerous areas or into dangerous ports, etc - so you may well be the only passengers, or one of only a very few.

8) Bear also in mind, especially with tankers, that they are subject to diversions to pick up additional cargo, or to divert to a totally different area due to changes in cargo pickup or delivery locations. My friend was supposed to be going to Rotterdam - ended up in Singapore as the first stop. Was given the option of being taken off by shore boat in South Africa along the way but that did not help much, because the budget was tight and could not afford airfare from there. Ended up cancelling all the tourist travel in Europe that was planned - at significant cancellation fee cost as was in prime tourist season, and ended up losing job because the duration extended a coup0le of weeks beyond planned.

9) Also be aware thihs sort of diversion could put you in a country you do not want to go to, or for security reasons related to past work experience are not even allowed to visit - think Iran, North Korea, China, Russia, etc. And of course, if diverted, that will mean you will not have necessary tourist visas for that country, which can mean not even being allowed off the ship to catch a flight elesewhere. Also, because almost no ships are US flagged, you are operating without protection, and if you get into a customs bind or get involved with local police, there will be no cruise line helping smooth the way for your departure from the country.

10) Not to discourage you, but buyer beware - there are a lot of potential surprises along the way, and the tickets will have lots of caveats regarding dates and destinations and such.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD

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