What's the cheapest way to get from the US to England without taking an airplane?
July 10, 2008 11:50 PM   Subscribe

What's the cheapest way to get from the US to England without taking an airplane?
posted by archagon to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
posted by phunniemee at 11:57 PM on July 10, 2008 [12 favorites]

Pretty much that's right. The only other choice is a passenger liner, and there really aren't any like that anymore. Some cargo ships carry passengers, but not many, and it isn't as cheap as you might think because it takes several days. Fact is, air travel is the only reasonable way to do it. And if you book your tickets sufficiently far in advance, it'll be cheaper than going by ship, not to mention faster and a lot more comfortable.

Why would you not want to fly?
posted by Class Goat at 12:08 AM on July 11, 2008

Not as cheap as swimming, but less likely to chafe: concealing yourself in a pallet that goes into a shipping container. Still, not recommended.
posted by holgate at 12:23 AM on July 11, 2008

Best answer: I think you're looking at traveling by cargo ship. You can go what's called "working passage" and actually make some spending money for the time ashore, or on a select few freighters you can actually pay for a passenger berth.

Otherwise, it's pretty expensive.
posted by dhartung at 12:29 AM on July 11, 2008 [3 favorites]

Just out of interest you haven't mentioned why flying isn't an option?
posted by stackhaus23 at 12:34 AM on July 11, 2008

Cunard (whose website seems to be on the fritz at the moment) has regular transatlantic crossings in the Queen Mary. It certainly takes longer than air, but I would strongly dispute Class Goat's contention that it is less comfortable. Perhaps the only thing less comfortable than a transatlantic flight in economy class is a transpacific flight! Anyway, it's not cheap: prices vary depending on the cabin but the cheapest ticket is usually within a few hundred bucks of an air ticket.
posted by blue mustard at 12:35 AM on July 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

What I was talking about as "less comfortable" was traveling by cargo ship.
posted by Class Goat at 12:39 AM on July 11, 2008

dhartung writes "You can go what's called "working passage" and actually make some spending money for the time ashore...."

dhartung's second link says "Can I work on a freighter for all or part of my passage?
This is the most frequently asked question I get via Email. The answer is simple. NO!

dhartung's third link says "A common misconception is that if you are willing to spend an extended amount of time on open water you can score an inexpensive mode of transportation to your next travel destination."

I wouldn't want to work on any ship that let people on board as crewmembers who hadn't done their mandatory safety courses, except for sail training ships that are specifically intended for that kind of thing. And a transatlantic on one of them tends to cost in the region of £2k.

Cruise ship repositionings at the end of the season - eg leaving the Caribbean in the Spring to head for Europe - can sometimes be cheap, apparently, but I have no links to substantiate that today.
posted by Lebannen at 12:57 AM on July 11, 2008

I just took a freighter from Korea to the US. The price was actually within a couple hundred dollars of what a one way flight was going to cost me. For me it actually was more comfortable and reasonable that any flight has been. I had my own room and shower. I ate three meals a day with the officers, and the meals were so much better than any airplane food I have consumed. I was able to wander freely around the boat, except for a few areas. I spent much of my time on the navigation bridge watching the officers pilot and track the ship as it crossed the ocean. And the crew was very helpful and fun to be around, including allowing me to join in the karaoke night with them.

I would do it again if I have the time in my travel schedule.

Here is a good site to check out for prices and locations of departure/arrivals.
posted by vagabond at 1:02 AM on July 11, 2008 [14 favorites]

Best answer: The QM2 does 26 transatlantic crossings per year. Keep a lookout for the possibility of discounted passages - they make quite a lot of their money from selling you stuff while you are aboard so the overall price of the ticket may be quite cheap when business is slack.
posted by rongorongo at 2:13 AM on July 11, 2008

Best answer: Some private yacht owners take on amateur or, sometimes, slightly experienced paid crew for Atlantic crossings. If you have the time to find such a ride, and are OK being on a small vessel, perhaps entirely under sail, for 10 days to 3 weeks, you can check various yachting boards for opportunities.
posted by paulsc at 2:50 AM on July 11, 2008 [5 favorites]

One day, I am half planning on travelling the world without using planes. The US seems to be the hardest place to get to. I have thought about 2 possibilities:

1.Bering Strait, from alaska to Russia. You could then pick up the Trans Mongolian Railway to get across russia, and use trains and the channel tunnel to get to England. The wikipedia article mentions walking it...

2. Hawaiian island hopping - boat to Hawaii, boat through the polynesian islands, end up in Australia and onto Indonesia. This doesn't look easy either though...
posted by timmow at 4:59 AM on July 11, 2008

Ocean liners like the Cunard ships expect you to have two people in a cabin, and are nearly double if you're traveling alone.
posted by smackfu at 5:38 AM on July 11, 2008

Best answer: cunard isn't the only cruise line that does transatlantic crossings. lots of them do.

miami - london, 11 days, $850, for interior cabin, double occupancy, which is quite a bit less than what those freighters vagabond linked to are charging. and better amenities, certainly.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 5:52 AM on July 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Lebannen, perhaps my comments should have more precisely reflected the links, but working a passage is possible in limited circumstances.

Here's a review of a related book, Work Your Way Around the World. Working passage used to be quite common, but has declined for probably the very same regulatory reasons you cite.
posted by dhartung at 1:27 AM on July 12, 2008

Your two main options are to either travel by freighter or crew on a sailboat.

The freighters are expensive and luxury. They have converted spaces into quasi-luxury hotel rooms and fancy dinners. They can cost a few thousand.

Sailboats on the other hand are cramped and rugged. But since I' ve met people who crewed across the Atlantic without any experience, know that this is possible. Your best bet would to be check the forums, or go to some dock, hang around, and try to learn a bit and talk with some people.
posted by iamck at 5:23 AM on July 12, 2008

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