Unconventional transportation
September 14, 2005 6:38 PM   Subscribe

Help me get myself across the Atlantic or Pacific without using an airplane.

OK, so I'm planning a round-world trip and I'd like to take some non-airplane transport from europe to the Northeast coast of the US, preferably NYC, arriving around mid-August 2007.

Looked at transatlantic cruises via orbitz, didn't see anything. Do you know of a way to get berthing on a ship that is not a cruise? Any mefite experience with this? Alternatively, are there any cruise lines that are out there that I've missed seeing?

Also, please help if you know of trans-pacific options going to Japan, China or (very preferably) Vladivostock, which would take place approximately late April.

Arguments that I can just fly will be listened to, but I'd like to make at least one of these methods ground-based, because the idea is to be off of conventional transportation as much as possible. I'm also looking for someone to join me, I'll be biking across the US and europe on this trip, cheating a bit by taking the trans-siberian railroad.
posted by lorrer to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered freighter travel? I haven't done it myself, but I understand that it can be relatively cheap and pleasant, if you're not the kind of person who needs a Cruise Director to keep you entertained at all times.
posted by spacewrench at 6:43 PM on September 14, 2005

How about sailing? A little bit of footwork -- or, more literally, internet searching, phone calling, and message board posting could earn you passage on an international sail training vessel. Start with Sail Training International or the American Sail Training Association.

Each year, a number of ships make transatlantic voyages in each direction to attend a variety of tall ship gatherings. You may not know anything about sailing, but there are many possibilities -- you might find work as a cook or deckhand (both relatively unskilled) in which you get the passage rather than pay. If you have any teaching experience, perhaps you can work as an educator. Alternatively, you may be able to pay for passage on some vessels. Most of the US vessels, though, are not Coast Guard-certified for passenger travel.

You will have to be persistent at this. Boat people are notoriously hard to get a hold of. They have a different conception of time than you and I do. Email is probably the best way to reach them, followed by phone to their dock office (but you may get clueless interns, etc.) Keep calling.

The best way to get a berth on a boat is to walk up to the boat when it's in port, and express your interest. If they don't have any ideas, they may recommend another vessel. It's all about getting into the network. The supply of people who want to sail exceeds demand for labor, so you have to be in the right place at the right time in many cases.

But you will love it, if you're at all romantic and adventurous. Good luck!
posted by Miko at 6:45 PM on September 14, 2005

A few years ago, the ship I was working on was berthed next to the Sea Cloud. It was the most beautiful ship I have ever seen. It makes runs around the Mediterranean in the summer, then crosses the Atlantic in late November to make runs around the Caribbean in the winter, returning to Europe in the spring. The rooms range from dorm type bunk rooms to suites with marble baths. Schedule here. May be a little different in 2007.

I know it is a few months later than the time frame but, in my opinion, it would be a unique experience. You would also have to get from Antigua or Barbados to the States. I spend almost half the year on boats, and this is the only "cruise" I would consider taking.
posted by Yorrick at 7:16 PM on September 14, 2005

Have you considered joining the Ocean Rowing Society?
posted by alms at 7:25 PM on September 14, 2005

Holland America cruises westbound from Europe to NE USA. The site doesn't list 2007 schedules, but this summer you could have taken an 18-day cruise from Rotterdam to Boston, starting on August 2nd.
posted by xo at 7:27 PM on September 14, 2005

Cruising sailboats leave when the weather window opens in the autumn from La Paz and other ports on the Mexican Pacific coasts, heading across the Pacific, generally island hopping (Marquesas, Tahiti, etc etc) across to New Zealand or Australia. Many of those are looking for crew, and some for inexperienced crew. You will be expected to pay for your expenses, although some these days apparently want payment above and beyond, which sucks a bit.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:32 PM on September 14, 2005

Wait a few years, travel by train may be possible? Discovery channel has information of a Transatlanic tunnel, not sure if it is related.
posted by quam at 7:46 PM on September 14, 2005

Apparently the Atlantic Tunnel may be a hoax.
posted by quam at 7:52 PM on September 14, 2005

This guy is circumnavigating the globe without making use of air travel. He crossed the Atlantic on a cruise ship and will be crossing the Pacific by freighter.
posted by jackmakrl at 9:30 PM on September 14, 2005

I have no personal experience with this or with this company, but Travltips has been the company name I've seen most often over the years in connection with freighter passage.
posted by Vidiot at 10:06 PM on September 14, 2005

you can sometimes book passage on repositioning cruises, which is when a ship crosses the atlantic (generally) to change from a caribbean season to a mediterranean season (or vice versa, or any number of other routes) for much less than the cost of a traditional sightseeing cruise.
posted by judith at 11:51 PM on September 14, 2005

Thanks for asking this. I watch freighters passing by on the Indian Ocean every day, and I've wondered if its possible to travel with them. Might be a fun experiment to go from South Africa to Madagascar, for example.
posted by Goofyy at 4:30 AM on September 15, 2005

quam : "Wait a few years, travel by train may be possible?"

I very highly doubt that anything will ever come of that proposal, especially having it done within a "few years." It probably won't be until at least 2010 that a new rail tunnel between New Jersey and New York (under the Hudson River) is done, so I don't see an orders-of-magnitude trans-Atlantic tunnel being completed at any point in my lifetime.
posted by Godbert at 7:32 AM on September 15, 2005

Goofyy, I've had this site bookmarked for a long time. It's a long haul for me to get from California to South Africa, however.
posted by namret at 9:33 AM on September 15, 2005

Apparently the Atlantic Tunnel may be a hoax.

Yeah, but it's a great 'alternate history' book by Harry Harrison.
posted by Rash at 12:52 PM on September 15, 2005

Cunard does around-the-world cruises and you can sign up for just the segments you want, including Atlantic crossings and Pacific crossings. Probably not your least expensive option though.
posted by zanni at 1:25 PM on September 15, 2005

Response by poster: Update: through talking with several freight carriers at the port of Seattle, I found out about the Alaska Marine Highway, a system of ships that ferry passengers and their vehicles north, rumor has it all the way to Anchorage.

From there, peoples' ideas run out ship-wise, so my best bet will probably be to fly with Magadan Airlines, who fly over to Komchatka. From there, one flight more takes me to Vladivostok.

At least this way I wouldn't be flying from Seattle to NYC to Moscow to Vladivostok - in other words, this way I'd be continuing my journey West rather than backtracking. I'm still looking for a company where I could ride a ship to Japan, because from Japan there is a ferry service to Vladivostok. We shall see... and thanks for your posts!
posted by lorrer at 8:14 PM on September 16, 2005

Response by poster: Also there are freighters from Seattle to Japan, and thereafter I can take a ferry to Vladivostok.

I'll probably take a cruise or freighter back from europe to north america, then take a train to NYC or syracuse, whichever makes most sense at the time.
posted by lorrer at 2:47 PM on September 19, 2005

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