Although most long distance travel is done by air these days, there are still a number of freighters that offer travel by sea. Whilst you may pay thousands of dollars for a week excursion in the Mediterranean or the Bahamas, you may be able to find better economy on a freighter. There are no where near as many freighters that also carry passengers as before but still, if you look, you can find some.
There are indeed many types of deep ocean going vessels. There are container vessels, pure car and truck vessels, liquid bulk vessels, dry bulk vessels, heavy lift and project type vessels and the list goes on. In my experience, it appears to be either container vessels or conventional vessels (mostly of the multipurpose type) that offer passenger service, if they offer any at all. There is also a stark difference between liners and trampers. Liner, as the name implies, travels the same trade route and ports again and again. The ship knows more or less the container-vesselexpected time of arrival and departure at each port. The same cargo is loaded and discharged again and again. On the other hand, there are trampers and possible a sub-category of semi-trampers. The tramper vessel is the taxi of the ocean. Wherever there is money (read cargo) to load, the vessel will call the port and discharge the cargo at another port. Frequently, tramper vessels will fill themselves at one port and sail to the next port and discharge it all. This of course extends your stay in the port but you will not be able to call as many different ports if you were on a liner vessel. The sub-category of semi-trampers is probably the most exciting in my opinion. Semi-trampers generally load and discharge in a certain trade route (eg. Europe to Middle East and India and back) but the ports they call often change.
The cost of travel is normally cheaper than that of a cruise ship but, depending on which ship you travel on, it is probably still more expensive than air travel. The freighter must feed you three times a day, provide clean accommodation and assist with all customs/immigration formalities at all the countries they call via their agent. I believe, on average, the cost is approximately Euro 90 to Euro 170 per night, including meals.
So, you made it to the ship; what now? Well, let’s hope you have selected a freighter that is at least calling ports every few days and not doing back and forth trips on the Pacific! Also, let’s hope you’re not the only passenger! Depending on the crew, you could get a warm welcome or just an escort to your room. On freighters, the prime object is to transport cargo and unlike the Owner of the vessel who sees passenger travel as another revenue source, some crews or officers could see you as getting in the way of day to day biz. I would say that is more often the exception than the norm.
Here are a few links to get you started searching for freighter travel around the world. Oh, and by the way, forget about working in exchange for your passage – not going to happen! Believe it is more of an insurance and union issue more than anything. I would also guess you’re used to making a few thousand US a month, at least, whilst the labor on some ships can be a few hundred US per month.
Freighter World Cruises Ltd. – based out of California, they have a very good listing of various owners, operators and carriers offering passenger service around the world.
http://www.grimaldi-freightercruises.com/ Grimaldi Lines Freighter Travel
http://www.freighter-travel.com/ A la Carte Freighter Travel
http://www.freightervoyages.eu/ Freighter Voyages
http://www.cargolines.biz/ Cargo Passenger Lines
http://www.freightercruises.com/ Freighter Cruises
http://www.cruisepeople.co.uk/ Freighter Travel
http://www.strandtravel.co.uk/ Offers voyages on cargo ships amongst other services
http://www.hamburgsued-frachtschiffreisen.de/ Self proclaimed experts of freighter travel
http://www.thecruisepeople.ca/ The Cruise People Ltd – located in Canada and offers regular and freighter cruises
http://www.seatravelltd.co.uk/j/ SEA TRAVEL LTD is a company registered in England to provide holidays aboard cruise passenger liners, cargo vessels and expedition ships worldwide