Freighter Travel and Freighter Cruises Get You There Slowly

Take a Slow Boat to China or Chile

container vessel on Baltic Sea
••• Hans-Peter Merten/Photodisc/Getty Images

Boat travel is a charming alternative to long haul flying. A little known and cheap boat travel option, freighter travel, is popular with student travelers and adventurers of all ilk. And with Easy Cruise ships bobbing up in world ports, "regular" cruises are now navigating the cheap boat travel fun lanes. So what's up with freighter travel, cruises and boat travel in general?

About Freighter Travel

Freighter travel is more expensive than flying (fares range from $65 -$130 per person per day, depending on the freighter company you travel with) but it's a life changing experience.

Freighter boats travel the same seas as do their luxurious sisters in cruise lines like Cunard, but there the boat travel similarities only begin. Because of the length of freighter boat trips (Long Beach, California to Tokyo generally takes about 13 days), you'll have time to strike up friendships and possibly meet travelers returning home - your destination area - who can become contacts and give you valuable travel tips.


How Freighter Travel Works

Most freighter travel is set up in the form of a cruise that returns to a starting point, but almost all freighter companies offer one-way fares, which is the way for you to go. You can set up one-way trips, or "segments", as they're called in the freighter industry, and arrange for a segment to get there and a segment to get home. Or you can choose to fly either way - taking a boat to your destination can be a great segue from your busy life here to your busy life there, but you may want to fly back in the interest of time.


Freighter Travel Cost and Booking / Reservations

Hopping a cargo boat without a reservation and with the intent of working off your passage is seldom feasible; most freighter company crews come from the Pacific and Far East and the captain is seldom looking for a temporary boy/girl Friday.

How much does freighter travel cost?


  • Read a complete freighter travel cost FAQ for the full skinny.

How can I book freighter travel?


  • Go through Freighter Cruises - a freighter boat travel agency (yep, there is such a thing).


About Cruise Ships

Freighter, or cargo boat, travel is the most economical, not to mention interesting, way to sail the high seas, but if you just won big bucks on a game show, you might consider a luxury ocean liner. Bear in mind that fellow cruise ship passengers are very likely to be older and the cruise ship atmosphere far more formal and insulated than that of a freighter boat, though; if you're carrying only a backpack and the passengers in the next cabin have mounds of matched luggage, you may not have much in common... 


Cruise Ships

Freighter travel (freighter cruises) is the most economical way for student travelers to sail the high seas (though most definitely not the cheapest way to cross the oceans), but if you just won big bucks on a game show, you might consider a luxury ocean liner for the sheer comfort factor. Bear in mind that fellow cruise ship passengers are likely to be older (as in downright geezerish at times) and the cruise ship atmosphere far (far, far) more formal and insulated than that of a freighter boat.

Want to give luxury cruises a try? About Guide to Cruises Linda Garrison tells you all about cruises, cruise lines, cruise ships and all things cruise here.

Short and Sweet (and Cheap) Cruises with Easy Cruise Meet Easy Cruise, a no-frills cruise line touring the Mediterranean Sea and the Caribbean islands (and one day, the world, evidently - expansion plans are underway). EasyCruise is meant for young people* on a budget - if you fit that bill, you probably wouldn't fit in with passengers on an expensive cruise line hunting down seafood buffets and the shuffleboard court anyway.

*Easy Cruise defines "young people" thusly: minimum passenger age is 18; Easy Cruise says, "We have not, however, set a maximum age restriction, as people older than our target range (20-40 years old) might be young at heart!"




  • Easy Cruise Mediterranean - all the Mediterranean EasyCruise detail: ships, prices, photos and route


  • Easy Cruise Caribbean - all the Caribbean EasyCruise detail (check it out - the Caribbean EasyCruise scene is really like a very cheap floating hotel)

Boat Travel Tips

Whether traveling by spendy cruise ship or freighter boat, boat travel is boat travel. It's key to pack sparingly, avoid motion sickness, and spend onboard pennies sparingly to enjoy your high seas adventure.

Boat Travel Packing

Packing for travel on a boat, whether a cruise ship or a freighter boat, is no different than packing for any student travel. Spare the stuff and spoil your back.

You're probably traveling with a backpack anyway...backpack packing is smart for boat travel because it can be hard to get at your stuff in a "cozy" boat berth (bedroom or cabin), just like accessing your things in a hostel can be problematic. Traveling with a daypack is smart; you'll want to take it with you on shore explorations.


  • Pack light and smart


  • Backpack reviews and backpack packing and buying tips


  • Cruise packing tips from About Guide to Cruises Linda Garrison

    Motion Sickness Prevention and Remedies

    The bigger the boat, the less likely you are to experience motion sickness. Be prepared for this potential pest, though; spending a boat trip tossing expensive onboard cookies overboard is no fun:


  • All about motion sickness and motion sickness prevention and remedies


    Bringing Stuff Home and Shopping From a Ship

    Among my belongings is a tattered straw purse I bought on the Nassau dock at the straw market. I didn't need it and I don't want it but I can't throw it away. I had to buy something. Watch yourself for this kind of crazed shopping behavior in ports. Highly dangerous to your wallet.

    Escape the dock as soon as possible when in port and head into town to find some real travel mementoes. Make them practical: earrings made by a local crafstman take up no room if you wear them; a good poncho is a must-have, anyway - search out a nice handwoven one well away from the madding crowds at dockside.


  • Caribbean shopping - okay, I met a couple in a Mexican cantina who were on a buying trip to Central Mexico; they were purchasing Mexico handicrafts to sell in their St. Thomas shop... what's up with that? Read up on Caribbean craft finding.


  • Bringing food into the US


    Onboard Food and Drink

    Food and drink on a freighter is almost always included in your freighter passage cost - do not count on carrying any food with you as the ship may forbid it. Food and drink on a cruise ship is usually spendy, but eating is a primary onboard activity and some cruise ships have truly terrific cuisine.


  • Cruise ship food safety - food for thought



  • Freighter travel costs and faq's
  • Cruise ship cost tidbits
    "The rewards of the journey far outweigh the risk of leaving the harbor."
    -- Unknown