My son wishes to return home via a freighter from Saigon to the West Coast. He seems to think that he can go as crew, "sleeping in hammocks with them" from Saigon to Seattle. My wife says, "Hammocks, schmammocks! You'll be in crew quarters full of cigarette smoke." Is he out of his mind? Can you suggest any resources?
–Matthew Naythons, Sausalito, Ca.
While it’s never fun to hear “I told you so” from your children, your son is right. He can, in fact, sail home on a transpacific freighter … although he may need to do a bit of itinerary tweaking.
There are a number of travel companies that specialize in freighter cruises. These companies book passengers on round-trip freighter cruises, so you should get in touch and try to find one that will accommodate a one-way journey. Two reputable ones are Maris Freighter and Freighter World Cruises Inc.
Your son may not be able to get a freighter directly from Saigon to Seattle, but he might be able to meet the ship in China, Japan, or South Korea and get dropped off in Long Beach or Oakland, Calif. If your son is willing to be flexible, he can still experience freighter travel.
Freighter accommodations are comparable to regular leisure cruise lines. So, while your son won’t get to live out his hammock-on-the-freighter fantasy, he won’t be suffocating in smoke-filled quarters either. Single and double occupancy rooms are also available.
Your family should keep in mind that cargo ship travel can be much more expensive than air travel. Freighter passages run around $100 a day, and journeys are around 35 days in duration. Your son should also be aware that some cargo ships do not allow passengers to disembark in ports once they’ve boarded the ship.
The days of freighter travel are not dead, Matthew. But unlike other forms of modern transportation, cargo ship travel does not cater to travelers’ specific needs. So you’ll have to be flexible and maybe think about booking a flight.