Main Menu | Ultra-Luxury | Cruises | Small Ships|| Expeditions | Freighters | Transatlantic | Australasia | The World | Our Blog | About Us

The Freighter Traveller Returns

By Kevin Griffin

A well-kept secret in these days of airport anxiety and worry about aircraft emissions is that it is still possible to book a regularly scheduled sea passage to most parts of the world. While the world-famous QUEEN MARY 2 offers sometimes two departures in a month between Southampton and New York, many cargo-passenger routes actually offer a sailing every week of the year.

A tour of the ports tells us what’s going on. From Southampton, there are two weekly services to each of the Far East and the Mediterranean, from Liverpool two sailings a week to North America, from Le Havre a weekly sailing to the Caribbean and from Rotterdam weekly service to Japan and California via the Far East. In all, eight regularly-scheduled weekly services taking passengers. In addition, there are regular sailings from Tilbury to Australia and New Zealand, as well as to Argentina.

Southampton leads the way with four sailings a week to the Far East and the Med. CMA CGM The French Line sails every weekend for Hong Kong, with calls at Malta and the United Arab Emirates en route, and beyond at Shanghai, Ningpo and Yantian in China. Another French Line service leaves Southampton weekly for Port Kelang, Malaysia, and five ports in North China. The round voyage in each case is 56 days. Meanwhile, Grimaldi Lines' EuroMed service offers weekly sailings to Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Cyprus and Egypt, with calls on the way back at Italy and Portugal, a round voyage of 35 days. And a second Grimaldi service, EuroAegean, departs weekly for Portugal, Italy, Greece and Turkey, a 28-day round voyage.

Tilbury hosts the lines sailing to Australia and New Zealand, and while not sailing weekly, these are still frequent. Thirteen ships, some German, some French, carry passengers in this trade, eight of them by way of Panama and five through Suez. As the Panama-routed ships also call at US ports, passengers need a full US visa to travel this way, as cargo ships are not covered by the visa waiver program. Visiting friends and relatives make this the most popular cargo-passenger route by far and it is often necessary to book a year in advance to get the date one wants. Tilbury also boasts a sailing every ten days to Buenos Aires by Grimaldi Lines.

Meanwhile, Liverpool has once again become the hub for North America. The Merseyside port offers two weekly services, one to Philadelphia and Richmond, Virginia (which is on the Amtrak line to Florida) and one to Montreal. While the Montreal service is year-round the Philadelphia and Richmond ships only carry passengers between April and October. Travellers entering the United States by cargo ship need a full US visa on this service (but not via Canada). The ships in these two services are all German-owned and were built in 2005 and 2006.

Nearby non-UK ports also offer weekly services. There is weekly service from Le Havre to Martinique and Guadeloupe (a 28-day round voyage) by The French Line, for instance. And Rotterdam sees weekly sailings to Singapore, Hong Kong, Osaka, Tokyo and then on to San Francisco and Los Angeles (an 84-day round voyage) by the German-owned Senator Lines. Both Le Havre and Rotterdam are easy to reach.

Costs run at around £75 per person per day for full board. One dines with the officers and usually shares their lounge. A swimming pool and exercise room are also supplied, as are deck chairs. All cabins are en suite and all (except some Grimaldi cabins) are outside and many of the newer ships have double cabins that include a separate day room and bedroom. Indeed, most of the ships now engaged in these services were built in the 1990s and 2000s and carry between five and ten passengers, although some still accept the maximum of twelve allowed on a cargo ship before it becomes classified as a passenger ship. Imagine having your own 100,000-tonner for just five passengers instead of 5,000 - several of the Evergreen Line ships trading from Thamesport in Kent to the Far East are in this category.

And who does this, one asks? These days, it is mainly retired and early retired people who can afford the time (it takes about a day of sea travel to cover an hour of air travel). But there are age limits - usually 75 or 79, although Grimaldi will allow up to age 89 - as there is no doctor on board. There are also many returning students, relocating executives and their families, airline pilots (yes) and these days, people who are simply tiring of air travel. The shortest passages are of course Transatlantic and these vary between eight and twelve days each way.

Avoid the hassle and save the environment. To obtain further information please consult your freighter travel specialists, The Cruise People Ltd on 020 7723 2450 or at

- 30 –

For further information please contact:

Kevin Griffin on 020 7723 2450 or at

London, England

Weekly passenger service is now offered on the following routes: 


Line or Operator

Service or Owners

Main Line Route


Sample Transit

CMA CGM The French Line

French Asia Line

Southampton / Hong Kong / China


Hong Kong 23 days

CMA CGM The French Line

North China Express

Southampton / Port Kelang / China


Port Kelang 23 days

Grimaldi Freighter Cruises

Euro-Med Service

Southampton / Mediterranean


Round Trip 35 days

Grimaldi Freighter Cruises

Euro-Aegean Service

Southampton / Mediterranean


Round Trip 28 days

Hapag-Lloyd Container Line

Wappen Reederei

Liverpool / Montreal


Montreal 10 days

Independent Container Line

Peter Dohle

Liverpool / Philadelphia / Richmond (*)


Philadelphia 10 days

CMA CGM The French Line  

French Antilles Line

Le Havre / Martinique / Guadeloupe


Martinique 12 days

Senator Lines

F Laeisz and NSB

California / Japan / Hong Kong


Round Trip 42 days

All Services Year-round except (*) which is April 1 through October 30, with no passengers carried in the winter months.

These eight services alone can accommodate 78 passengers every week from UK and nearby ports. Other routes are available to Australia, New Zealand, South America and South Africa.  Passages are also available in the opposite direction from the US, Canada, Australia etc.

       Did you know that flying produces thirty-six times more carbon dioxide per passenger-mile than travelling by sea?

To E-mail The Cruise People about your next Freighter Voyage

(please send name, address and phone number for quickest reply)

Main Menu | Ultra-Luxury | Cruises | Small Ships|| Expeditions | Freighters | Transatlantic | Australasia | The World | Our Blog | About Us

Posted to 12th September 2006