Increasingly, adventurous travelers are booking cruises on ocean freighters laden with shipping containers.
Truly basic amenities, minimal distractions, mundane food, and a ship with a big job to do: Welcome to the anti-luxury cruise.
Hitching a ride on a cargo ship sounds like a James Bond move, but the travelers who travel like this do it for the unusual experience. They like the breathtaking view from the gangway, the solitude, the camaraderie, and the smell of the sea. Plus, it's a different way to view the world.
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"You have to be prepared to go with the flow," retired Australian farmer John McGuffick and experienced freight traveler told BloombergBusiness.
Amenities vary but can include private cabins with full bathrooms, dining with the crew, access to exercise equipment, DVDs and CDs, darts, ping pong, and modest pools.
Several international shipping companies offer freighter travel aboard their ships. They include Hamburg Süd's cruises on multiple routes, CMA CGM's cargo cruises, and Australian-based Freighter Expeditions. Cruises in different regions are detailed at About.com.
That authentic, working ship experience does come at a price. BloombergBusiness reported that a cargo ship vacation can actually cost more than a cruise ship: $239 in one comparison. Spots also tend to be limited. The ships typically don't take more than a dozen non-crew passengers.
We're likely to see more of these cruises, though. BloombergBusiness pointed out that global shipping is increasing at half the average annual pace of the past 20 years. Income from travelers can help offset lower freight rates.
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Playing ping pong, listening to CDs, and looking out on stacked containers doesn't sound like my ideal trip. But, to be fair to the shipping companies, I'm not inclined to do a touristy cruise, either. A whale watch, ferry rides, and day trips on small boats are the extent of my seafaring experience.
Now, a brief stay on a crab fishing vessel in the Bering Sea? That seems far more exciting. I promise to stay out of the way, and not hurl directly on anyone.