There Are Various Ways To Cruise

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There is more than one way to cruise the waters of the world. Many choose to board a modern cruise ship and travel to the Caribbean, Europe, Alaska, Canada, Asia, South Pacific, South America and even around the world. Others prefer the riverboats, seeing the various towns and cities as well as the countryside using the modern and now very popular boats found on many of the major rivers in Europe, China and soon (again) the Mississippi River, with service beginning in 2012.

There are a small number of travelers who choose to cruise on freighters, which may accommodate four to 12 passengers in very comfortable staterooms. On freighters you have to entertain yourself and enjoy many days at sea without a port of call in some cases.

Even into the 1960s and 70s there were passenger freighters crossing the waters from the United States to Asia, Europe, South America and the South Pacific. They carried between 100 and 150 passengers. Travelers chose freighters because there were fewer passengers and more days at sea. They were like a floating club on the water. The onboard service and dining was usually as good as the leading liners of the time.

Now, if you want to travel on a freighter you usually have to bring CDs of feature movies and whatever music you wish to hear during your voyage.

Your freighter stateroom may be a little larger than the standard cabins on cruise ships, but a freighter cruise usually involves more days at sea.

I took a passenger/freighter on a South America cruise lasting 64 days in the 1970s and even today it remains as probably the best cruise I have taken. The ship was Delta Lines Santa Mercedes. It could carry 125 passengers and featured four lounges, two bars, a glassed-in dining room, large swimming pool and one of the friendliest American crews at sea. The ship was U.S. flagged and American owned. It was 549 feet long and 14,000 gross tons - just the right size for a long voyage.

The ship carried containerized shipments as well as space in the hold for coffee, bananas and other soft goods for the U.S. market. We usually never spent more than one day in each port of call and during the free time during these breaks it was interesting to watch the loading and unloading of cargo.

Every two weeks during the voyage a new set of entertainers would board and those who had spent two weeks giving us entertainment would disembark and fly home. Passengers could also book portions of the cruise and would board for two or three weeks at different ports along the way. The “veterans” always welcomed the new passengers and the opportunity for new conversations they brought with them. There were only 27 of us who booked the complete 64-day round trip from Los Angeles.

The line arranged sightseeing tours for us to enjoy in the various ports just as the cruise ships offer. We did spend two days in Rio de Janeiro to allow many passengers to properly see this most beautiful city, as well as venture inland to other locations including Sao Paulo.

We also spent three days in Buenos Aires, Argentina with time to travel out into the countryside, as well as time to tour the wonderful city and enjoy some entertainment.

A week after departing Buenos Aires we were at the bottom of South America at which time we headed west and sailed through the Strait of Magellan and then headed northwest up the amazing Chilean coast and began our return voyage home to Los Angeles, stopping at ports along the west coast of South America, Central America and Mexico.

All passengers were most interesting. Most were retired. I was the only one that was between jobs and took the time for the cruise. One man was the former president of Standard Oil of Indiana who brought his lovely wife with him and occupied two of the largest suites available. One for them and the other for their clothes. The author, Alex Haley, was also on board, writing one of his books. Almost everyone had a story of interest. I never became bored. The outside decks for passengers offered comfortable lounge chairs.

Often during tropical weather the chef provided on-deck lunches around the pool that were to write home about. The entertainment was modest, but fun. There was a play-money casino at night. U.S. ships could not offer real casinos at the time. Perhaps they cannot even today. We had several costume parties. Some of the passengers worked most of a day getting a costume together for the event. I won one of the contests by placing a fifth of whisky around my neck with a sign that read “Beethoven’s Fifth”.

There remain a few freighters in the world that carry upward to 200 guests in nice accommodations. One cruises the islands of Tahiti and region for two weeks. Other than the Tahitian islands the ports of call are remote but interesting. The locals only see tourists every two weeks when the boat pulls in depositing its cargo. The vessel and other freighters may be booked by an agency I will list at the end of this article.

Passengers travel on freighters for several reasons, including relaxation, adventure, few tourists and the informal atmosphere. Be sure to bring quite a few books if you book one of these trips (or a well-loaded e-reader). I took my freighter trip with 34 books in a separate suitcase. I read 33 of them. Today’s passenger freighters offer from cruises from two weeks to as long as several months. Fares range from $100 to $150 per day per person. The fee includes your passage, stateroom and meals.

Dress is informal and you wear what you would around your home -no ties for the men and no party dresses for the ladies.

Onboard, most ships allow you to enter the bridge and speak with the officers to obtain the daily weather and course or, simply stay and watch the workings of a giant ship.

Your ship will probably have a lounge, dining room where you will eat with the officers, as well as a small exercise room and swimming pool. Each ship will have different amenities. Many freighters play recorded movies at night in the lounge. You will be able to lounge on deck as well as probably walk entirely around the ship on one deck.

You will be onboard most freighters with no more than four to six other passengers.

Several German and Italian companies offer very fine freighter service from both the east coast and west coast of America. MSC is one of the largest companies with freighters operating all over the world. On these ships you will find two-room suites facing outside. They are like small apartments. Some travel up to 24 knots per hour, which is fast for any ship.

Hanjin, which is Korean, operates all over the Pacific. Their cabins are about 376 square feet in size. Most freighters today provide self-serve laundry service.

Most of these mammoth ships were built in the late 1990s into the 2000s and are container ships. Make sure your cabin overlooks one side of the ship so that a stack of containers does not block your view.

River cruising has grown tremendously in the last 10 years. More and more companies are building and operating riverboats that are almost on par with modern cruise ships in regard to cabin size, lounges, dining and service.

River cruising is for those who prefer not to leave the sight of land and who enjoy sitting in a comfortable lounge chair as your boat cruises along, permitting you to view the countryside.

You dock in interesting towns and villages and most tie up in the center of town. You can take a sightseeing tour or just stroll the towns and enjoy the shops and sights. This is a great way to travel. Try it once and you will come back for more.

You dock in interesting towns and villages and most tie up in the center of town. You can take a sightseeing tour or just stroll the towns and enjoy the shops and sights. This is a great way to travel. Try it once and you will come back for more.

There is something very relaxing about travel on the water. Pick good weather months for your vacations, which usually translates into smooth seas and calm rivers. Amazon River cruising can be interesting and allows views of small villages and so much jungle you won’t believe your eyes. It will also be hot and humid so dress appropriately.

There is one travel agency in Southern California that is the number one booking agent for several freighter lines. It is Freighter World Cruises and its telephone number is 1-800-531-7774.

Standard cruises and river cruising may be booked through your travel professional.

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