Some of us who enjoy sea travel are finding it more difficult to find a ship going where we want to go that is not as large as a football stadium carrying 2,000 to 4,000 passengers. Those ships are resorts at sea, offering just about every amenity you would find on land. What most of these behemoths do not offer is the quiet, club-like atmosphere we enjoyed only a few years ago on most cruise ships. Sure, you can find these wonderful smaller ships today, but they are becoming more and more scarce.
It costs a cruise line the same amount of money to market a 600-passenger ship as it does one that accommodates 2,500 passengers. Also, with these very large ships, the style of cruising has shifted to offer extra charge dining rooms and other items with extra fees that all cruise ships included just 10 years ago.
If you want the old-style of cruising, look at Oceania Cruises, Discovery Cruises, Silver Sea Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, and Crystal to name a few.
However, you might consider another way to enjoy the sea and that is freighter travel. I was between jobs some years ago and booked a 64-day voyage on a passenger freighter out of Los Angeles that went down the west coast of Mexico, through the Panama Canal and then down the east coast of South America. We called at several ports, loading and unloading cargo during which time we could enjoy a selection of shore excursions. Today a cargo ship usually does not spend any more time in port than a cruise ship because of ultra modern loading and unloading techniques.
On my freighter trip, we spent two days in Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires which was just enough time to see the sights we wanted to. The agents for the freight line arranged our tours.
From Buenos Aires, we headed down the South Atlantic and turned west to go through the Strait of Magellan, then up the West Coast of South America returning to Los Angeles. This remains the best pure vacation experience I have enjoyed. During the many days at sea, I read 36 books, enjoyed afternoon naps, and conversations with fellow passengers which included the author Alex Hailey and the retired president of Standard Oil of Indiana.
One passenger freighter you may find interesting is the Aranui ... the Freighter to Paradise. This ship explores the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific. Recently constructed, it offers a selection of accommodations ranging from deluxe suites with private balcony to 10 suites and 12 deluxe cabins. This ship is fully air-conditioned, has an outdoor pool, dining room, two lounges, two bars, a library and special marine facilities for fishing, snorkeling and scuba diving. The Aranui departs Papeete, Tahiti and cruises through the Marquesas Islands ending in Rangiroa and returning to Papeete. You are on the vessel 15 days. A package is available that includes round trip air fare from Los Angeles to Papeete, a three-night stay in Papeete, transfers and a cruise in a category A cabin from $4,860 per person, double.
The South Pacific is also available from Los Angeles on the mv Polynesia that offers two lovely double suites. Passengers can enjoy an indoor pool, exercise room, and lounge with a VCR. The ship is German-owned. Age limit is 79. Fares per person for the 28- to 30-day cruise begin at $3,494 which is about $125 per day. There are scheduled calls at San Francisco, Papeete, Apia in Western Samoa, Pago Pago, American Samoa returning to Los Angeles.
An example to Northern Europe are the Latour, Manet and Matisse which depart Philadelphia for Tilbury, England, Rotterdam, Netherlands, Dunkirk and LeHarve, France returning to New York. The ships carry six passengers, and the trip usually lasts 26 days with fare around $3,720, double, $4,060 Single.
One must remember freighters are working ships and the duration, ports of call and schedule may change en route. To enjoy freighter travel you should enjoy reading, conversation and the sea. On most ships the food is quite good since you usually dine with the officers. Most of these ships are large since they carry freight and ride the seas well. There will not be a medical doctor on board, so your health should be good and always bring extra amounts of medication.
You can cruise around the world on the German Rickmers-Linie offering brand new multipurpose vessels, which can accommodate several passengers in its General Cargo Around the World service. The sailing duration is about 124 days out of Long Beach, Calif. cruising into many ports in Asia, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and East Coast of the U.S., through the Panama Canal back to Long Beach. Port times are about one to three days. Age limit is 75. Fares begin about $11,284 per person which is under $100 per day per person.
Cabins are usually quite spacious and well appointed.
You can cruise almost anywhere by freighter -- Asia, Europe, Africa, South Pacific, India -- you name it, there is a freighter going there.
There are two outstanding freighter cruise travel agencies that you may contact with marvelous reputations. They have both been in the business of representing leading freighter companies that have offered clean, safe, modern travel for many years. Both agencies will send you their newsletters that describe in detail space availabilities for upcoming departures and fares. You'll see photos of the suites and cabins of the ships as well as itineraries and helpful comment about particular ships. They even print past passenger reviews.
Try it once. You'll probably come back for more.
To further consider freighter travel contact: Freighter World Cruises in Pasadena, Calif., 1-800-531-7774 of TraveLtips in Flushing, N.Y., 1-800-872-8584.