Finding Fun On The Freighter
April 24, 2008 10:52 PM   Subscribe

I have booked room on a freighter from Pusan to Long Beach. I'm now looking for some tips advice on what to pack and or things I need to prepare myself for during my ten days at sea. Anyone taken the slow boat home before?
posted by vagabond to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Backgammon, cribbage, book/magazines, booze and pot. I've traveled from Seattle to Dutch Harbor many times via fishing boat.
posted by rotifer at 11:04 PM on April 24, 2008

Do you know what nationality/ies the crew will be? Either they will already have backgammon and cribbage or they are unlikely to want to learn the crazy foreigner's game.

Do you know what the company's alcohol policy is? Either you will be able to buy very, very cheap booze on board, or you will not be allowed to take any. And this isn't a fishing boat, so a slightly different level of intelligence may be expected when considering the possibility of involvement with illegal drugs and US Coastguard/Customs/Immigration.

I understand that on relatively smart ships you may be expected to dress for dinner, at the shirt-and-tie sort of level if you're male, however that translates if you're female. As a passenger you'll be eating with the officers, and they'll all be in uniform.

Apart from that, yeah, books, magazines, computer. Take books you can leave behind. There will be some books on board, but they'll all be ones other people were happy to leave behind. You may want to take an international adapter for the laptop charger, but if they're used to passengers they may have one or two available anyway. Again depending on the company, they may have internet/other email/satphone services available to you, but as a passenger you'll probably get charged through the roof for them, and I suspect part of the point of doing the trip is to get *away* from the world for a while, right?

I don't know how TV works on ships trading intercontinentally, but it's entirely possible that there will be satellite TV. If there are Philipino crew (and more than 25% of crews on ships trading internationally are Philipino) there will also be karaoke.

If alcohol is available and there are cadets on board, be nice and buy them drinks. The booze may be cheap but cadets don't have much money.
posted by Lebannen at 2:29 AM on April 25, 2008

However much you believe you are not likely to get sea sick I would recommend reading up about it and perhaps taking along some ginger in some form or other.
posted by rongorongo at 3:01 AM on April 25, 2008

Books, books, books. My second thought was to avoid carrying a camera, but then thought otherwise. What a great chance to do some studies of crew and operations at sea. Do you know what kind of access you'll have to the ship?

Otherwise, I'd bone up on card and board games. Might also want to have a go at learning a language from a crew member.
posted by michswiss at 6:44 AM on April 25, 2008

From the FAQ on the Internet Guide to Freighter Travel

So, what do you do on a freighter?

Read, get some sun, hang out on the bridge. There is no such thing as a cruise director or any kind of activities other then watching a VCR or doing your laundry. Meals are something I looked forward to as they provided an opportunity for some interesting conversation with the ship's officers. Remember, that a freighter is a working ship, passengers are secondary. Some ships have pools, often below the main deck. One smaller containerships I was on was only able to fill the pool half full to prevent the water from sloshing out in rough weather. Bring plenty of books or tapes. You can buy all the beer and hard liquor you want to mellow out, tax free. But, don't expect to find your favorite Scotch or Rye whiskey on board. Selections are limited, but there is enough booze on board to keep any hard core alcoholic happy. A carton of Marlboro's is about $10.85.

Also there's a good Freighter Forum here with some interesting threads for first time freighter travelers.
posted by sharkfu at 7:03 AM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would take a lot of books, plenty of suntan lotion, some snacks in case the food is bad and an iPod.

I would also differentiate myself by not writing a blog about it.
posted by rhymer at 7:56 AM on April 25, 2008

Books, games, a camera, perhaps some paper to write on (by hand), some photographs, a jigsaw puzzle?

And please -- I'm interested in doing the exact same route you mentioned -- how did you book your trip?
posted by suedehead at 8:48 AM on April 25, 2008

I met a couple who spent three months traveling by freighter, and they said that the played a lot of scrabble. They also said not to expect fellow passengers to have books to share.
posted by esnyder at 9:45 AM on April 25, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone so far for the tips. Suedehead, I booked it though Frighter World.
posted by vagabond at 6:53 AM on April 28, 2008

Response by poster: Just a follow up, I got off the ship a few days ago. Twelve days at sea from Pusan to Long Beach. I was the only passenger, so I got a lot of alone time. I also managed to spend a good amount of time talking with the crew. I was able to learn a lot about their way of life.

Finished three books including a couple long novels. Watched several movies including a few from their VCR collection. I would recommend bringing your own though. I was able to really catch up on some podcasts and even reorganized my iTunes collection. Yep, I'm a little nerdy at times.

As for the sunscreen didn't really need it as I only saw the sun two days, and really mostly on the last day arriving in California. Camera was used, and photos are posted online at Flickr.
posted by vagabond at 11:55 PM on July 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

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