Freighter cruises, as you might expect, take place on freighters (generally large container ships) instead of regular cruise ships. Because cargo ships are very unlike the ships operated by cruise lines, trips taken on freighter cruises are fundamentally different experiences than standard cruise vacations. A freighter cruise is like a regular cruise in approximately the same way a school bus is like a limousine, although this perhaps paints an unduly negative picture of freighter cruises (and freighter cruise enthusiasts would probably resist the comparison too). Since a trip on a freighter cruise is an oft-overlooked travel option, we decided to compile some basic information about them below.
It is important to keep in mind that freighter ships, even if they carry passengers, are primarily tasked with carrying various supplies to different regions around the world. This has a few implications. To begin, the vast majority of a freighter’s space is dedicated to shipping cargo, so this doesn’t leave a lot of space for passengers. Some freighters have small swimming pools for passengers, and all of them will have some deck space for lying out, but of course they do not have the recreational and entertainment facilities (spas, casinos, movie theaters, etc.) that larger cruise ships have. A few freighters do have exercise rooms, however, and of course there are places to eat (generally in the same place that the captain and officers dine). Also, the limited ship space means that not many passengers can travel on any given freighter at a time. It is not uncommon to be one of only a few passengers on board, and generally there are a dozen leisure passengers at most. Finally, freighters are subject to schedule changes. The time and date of departure often varies, and occasionally ships go to ports that they weren’t originally scheduled to go to. You have to be very flexible if you want to take a freighter cruise.
To some, everything that has been said so far may seem like a list of the disadvantages, but many conclude just the opposite. While there is nowhere near as much to do on a freighter cruise, this leaves ample time for pure relaxation: you can lay by the pool all day, read for hours on end, and so on. The atmosphere on board a freighter is unquestionably casual as well. There is no dress code on a freighter, so you don’t have to dress up when you go “out” to dinner, for example, as some cruise ships require. Finally, as you probably anticipated, the cost of a freighter cruise is considerably less than a regular cruise vacation (unless you get a really cheap last-minute cruise deal). It’s not quite as a cheap as a plane ticket (generally speaking), but obviously a plane ticket doesn’t include the price of food, drinks, and a room (often with a private bathroom) for several days. With room and board factored in to the freighter-cruise price, as is very often the case, they are definitely a relatively cheap way to travel the seas.
As you can see, freighter cruises aren’t for everyone, but for a particular type of traveler, they can be a great option. They are cheaper (at least in most instances) than regular cruises, and they have their own special appeal. If you are interested in taking one, check out our article on how to book a freighter cruise, or if you still need a little more information, read our description of the difference between freighter cruises and regular cruises.