Container ship passenger FAQ

09.10.10 | 11 Comments

Talking to a number of people about our container ship travel plans, we realized there were a few questions that seemed to come back regularly. So here are the most asked questions and a few that I threw in there as extra info.

1. A container ship… why would anyone want to do that?
Justin posted about this subject, but ultimately the real answer is: why not?

2. They take passengers?
Yes, a small portion of cargo ships (around 1%) have extra rooms they decide to rent to passengers to make a little extra money.

3. How many passengers do they take?
This ship only takes 6 and at the moment, there are just 3 of us. As a general rule, they take no more than 12, otherwise they would need to hire a doctor on board.

4. How do you even book a trip like that?
There are a few travel agencies that specialize in cargo travel. We went through one in Germany called Hamburg-Süd.

5. Where will you sleep? In a container?
Haha although some containers get transformed into homes by some architects, on the ship they’re made just to carry stuff, not people. Actually, we stay in a double cabin inside the white superstructure in the back of the ship. That’s where all the crew stays and eats, and it’s where the navigation happens.

6. What are amenities like?
Our cabin has a double bed, a couch, a coffee table, TV, DVD player, our own bathroom with toilet, shower and sink, a small fridge, a desk and a closet. It’s actually quite spacious.

7. What will you eat? Do you have to bring your own food?
We have a cook! Well, the crew’s cook, but we’re eating in the officers mess. The food is actually not bad at all. It’s not gourmet but it’s well balanced (each meal has some type of meat, some type of vegetable, some type of starch and fruit). They even have Nutella on the table! If anything, the portions are too big, so most of the time, Justin and I split a meal… we figured that out after stuffing ourselves a couple of times.

We did however bring few comfort foods and drinks, like nuts, pretzels, cheese, dried fruit, some beer and wine. On that topic, we can buy beer and wine on the ship at a reasonable price in case we run out.

8. What will you do with all that time?
Well, a whole lot of nothing. When do you ever have time to just hang out, let your mind wander for any length of time, nap as many times as you want, meditate. But that would get old, so we brought plenty of books, our computers, painting supplies and yarn for some crochet projects.

9. Do you have internet on the boat?
Nope, no internet. But we rented a satellite modem to get access at sea. Right now, we haven’t been able to make it work yet, but are trying to troubleshoot. So for now, we’re just seeking out internet cafes at the ports along the way.

10. Can you walk around the ship?
Yes, it took us a while to understand the rules, but essentially we can walk all around the ship. We have access to the officers mess anytime (which has a stash of DVDs… mostly Russian), there is outside space on each deck where we can hang out (our deck is the nicest and they even put some reclining chairs out there for us), we can go up to the bridge (the navigation room, where I am typing this blog post), there’s a gym (very sparingly equiped, but Justin seemed to have had a good workout this morning) and we can walk the length of the ship with the authorization of a crew member (mostly to know that we’re out there).

11. Do you have port stops?
Yes, we will be stopping in Savannah, Georgia (where I’m posting this from), Cartagena, Colombia, and Balboa, Panama after going through the Panama canal.

12. Can you get off the boat?
Yep, we’ll get off at every port. Talking to the 3rd officer, it sounds like we’ll have a 6-8 hour window at each port to go explore. They seem to have recommendations on where to get good coffee and to be willing to arrange taxis to pick us up and return us to the boat. Apparently not all cab companies can go into ports… good to know.

13. What nationality is the crew?
The captain is Russian, the officers and cook are Filipino and all the engineers are Russian/Ukrainian.

14. Does the ship sway a lot?
Not at all. It’s so big that most of times you just feel like you’re in a giant airplane, with the vibrations and the slight tugs. We have been lucky so far, the ocean has been very calm and the weather (aside from the heat) has been compliant. I’m sure it’ll get a little rougher at times… we’ll report back on that.

Is there anything else you’d like to know?