Freighter adventures

I found the freighter travel articles in the October ’04 issue most interesting. I would like to add some comments in order that individuals contemplating going this route will have another viewpoint to consider.

Starting in 1998, my wife and I have been on four freighter trips, not counting another in February ’05 to the Southwest Pacific. Our trips have included the Caribbean, Europe and South America.

Freighter travel is for those individuals who do not like the hustle and bustle of cruise ships, where passengers are continually bombarded with loudspeaker announcements to do this or buy that and with stops in ports where the passengers on the ship outnumber the populations of the towns being visited.

Freighter travel is for those who want to relax, enjoying the sea while sitting on deck, especially at night when the moon and stars are at maximum glory. Passengers can read their favorite books at leisure either on deck or in the comfort of their cabins and also go ashore at various ports.

Cargo, naturally, has priority on freighter ships. Whether a stop is made at a designated port or not is determined by there being cargo to deliver or pick up. We have been fortunate on our trips in that we have had the opportunity to visit most of our scheduled stops.

On our last trip, we left Long Beach, California, and traveled down the west coast of Mexico, Central America and South America to the southern tip of Chile. The trip lasted 35 days and was most enjoyable.

When dining on a freighter, you will always eat with the ship’s officers. Meals normally offer only one entrée and it varies throughout the trip. Breakfast always is pretty standard — eggs cooked to your liking, cereal, fruit, toast, jelly, etc., and coffee, tea or hot chocolate.

Lunch has always included a soup, a meat dish, potatoes and a salad along with coffee or tea.

One can have some unusual dishes at times, as the meals are tailored to the likes of the crew. One dish I remember very well as the entrée for that evening was a large plate of spinach with an egg on top. This did not bother me, as I am a great spinach eater. One other meal was a large pig knuckle as the meat dish along with potatoes, vegetables, salad and bread.

It has been our experience that there are no desserts on freighter trips. However, once a week, usually at the Sunday evening meal, ice cream may be served.

Here are things to consider when taking a freighter trip.

1. Go easy on the amount of clothing you take. The trip is very casual, with no need for suits or fancy dresses. Jeans, as far as we are concerned, are a must. Take clothing that is washable, as each freighter has a washer, dryer, ironing board and iron, plus soap powder used by the officers of the ship, all at your disposal.

2. The ship’s store has for purchase most everything one would need on a daily basis, as the crew must have the same items: toothpaste, toothbrushes, Kleenex, lotion, Band-Aids, etc. Liquor, wine, soft drinks, candy, nuts, crackers, etc., are also readily available. We had an excellent wine from Chile for $3 a bottle. The captain keeps tabs of your purchases and gives you a bill at the end of the trip. This must be paid in cash, as credit cards or checks cannot be used.

3. Take rubber-soled shoes. The decks can become slippery following a rain shower or when the crew washes them down.

4. Take American currency in small denominations. Many stores will take American bills but lack the ability to give you change in American money, resulting in your having an excess amount of that particular country’s currency, which you may not be able to use. Especially with taxi drivers. Several stores take credit cards, and we also have found ATM machines that dispensed local currency.

5. When going into a port in which the town is not within walking distance, check with the captain to see if, when he is in contact with his counterpart in the port, a taxi can be made available to take you to town. This procedure has worked very well for us.

Once in town, we would always make arrangements with the taxi driver to pick us up at a certain time, depending on the time we had available for sightseeing, etc. This way, the driver knew exactly where we had to go, rather than our trying to explain our desires to a new taxi driver who might not speak English.

On our trips where Spanish was spoken, we had 3-by-5 cards with these words written in Spanish: “Take us to the middle of town” and “Take us to the freighter dock.” Several times this technique became invaluable.

6. Take some videotape movies. The ship normally has VCRs, but the crew over a period of time has seen the movies over and over. On our last trip, we took 10 movies and then left them on the ship for the benefit of the crew.

The crew knew we had new VCR movies, so during the voyage they would ask if they possibly could watch them. We always watched our movies in the afternoon, as the crew could only watch movies after their work was done for the day, which normally was after the evening meal. If they were watching a movie we had not seen, we would watch it with them.

7. Take swimming attire, as on two of our freighter trips a small swimming pool was available along with a small workout room. The workout room usually had a bicycle, rowing machine and weight training equipment.

8. I recommend one utilize the owner’s cabin, which has no bunk beds but two single beds. In some cases, the owner’s cabin has a sitting room and a separate bedroom off the sitting room.

All of our trips were handled by Patricia Moraski of TravLtips (Box 580188, Flushing, New York, NY 11358; phone 800/872-8584, e-mail or go to Pat has done an excellent job on all our trips, and the wife and I highly recommend her.

If anyone would like further information, I would be happy to answer any questions you may have relative to freighter travel. You can write to me at 37 Eagle Trail, Tijeras, NM 87059, or e-mail

Tijeras, NM