🚢 Ships | Just for the heck of it -- Traveling on a Cargo Ship

For my next trip back to the USA, I would like to try traveling as a passenger on a cargo ship. I am aware that some shipping companies offer this service. Has anyone tried this before or know anything regarding where to inquire more information about this?

I’m thinking one of the following itineraries:
Keelung → Los Angeles/Long Beach
Kaohsiung → Los Angeles/Long Beach

Why, you might ask?
Just for the heck of it.


I heard about this, got no idea how to book it but I heard it makes flying look cheap. Boats is how rich people travel now, us commoners have to settle with flying economy (I mean steerage).

Otherwise I’d love the idea of say going to the EU by boat.

@Taiwan_Luthiers brought it up a couple of years backend I’m sure I sent links to companies that offer the service. I think there was a bit of a discussion on it.


You mean one of those big shipping tankers? I saw a documentary on it before. The conditions are pretty bare bones, nothing like a cruise ship but just a simple bed, not much amenities on the ship since it’s running a small crew, and they occasionally take a few extra civilian passengers. I think you can approach them directly to negotiate a deal. Maybe try emailing or cold calling a shipping company that stops by Taiwan.

So any idea the costs and if they’d even do it at all? It seems it’s asking for liabilities. Cargo ships can be pretty dangerous at times, especially with piracy and stuff. Also captains and officers might not even want civilians around, because there’s probably a ton of exploitation going on with ship crews. There’s no labor law on the high seas. I had read about there being a ton of exploitation in cruise ships already.


And there’s the added risk of bridge collisions.

I have a relative who did this and said it was fun (senior crew and guest facilities are a lot better than the slave-level conditions for the foreign labour) but it was arranged by the senior engineer at minimal cost. There are the agencies that specialise, but best bet - as mentioned - is to contact the shipping line.


just done a deep dive and found the old post ( not that deep only last year)

I have a friend who did Europe to Sudamerica but just a normal sailing boat, around 10 people.

We did one when I was a young boy. Western Canada down to the US. It seems like a good experience. But be aware of your sea sickness realities. For me, I find large vessels way better than medium ones. But still. A week long puke voyage from hell that I have very little memory of now. But many stories! And that was just southern BC down past Oregon (apparently where things got bad).

I like the idea quite a lot. I wish my stomach wasn’t so prissy! Seems like a really fun experience. go for it, but bring some sea sickness chemicals!!!


No, no boats, cruise ships, yachts or whatever. I’m talking about cargo ships, freighters, container ships that usually would have a small crew and operate out of container ports and are part of the global shipping industry.

I’m aware that some companies do have rooms available for regular passengers. I don’t care about the size of the room, I’m just down for the experience, just for the heck of it. I’m also aware that they don’t necessarily advertise these rooms and that you are stuck with their departure schedule which might not necessarily be a set schedule. I guess I’ll have to go with emailing or calling some of the ones suggested here.

Yea I’m down for the experience too, just no idea the cost or whatever. Also what restriction of what you can bring or whatever…

A friend of mine used to do this from Australia to Thailand. He said he liked it because you could just get on, drop anchor (pun intended) and just have a slow ride on the seas. He was long retired with plenty of time. He showed me a picture of one of the cabins he had, which looked like a fine, basic, maybe 3 star hotel room as I remember, clean and comfortable enough. He said he ate what the crew ate at their meal times which was just basic fare and he wasn’t a fussy eater. He just liked taking a slow boat to China, as it were. He was a reader and brought books and liked his own company, a must if you do it solo.

This was one thing about it; he had to wait for the cargo company to contact him as to when he would go to port for the return trip. I would meet him once a year and witnessed this and it could be 2 or 3 days +/- off from the target date IIRC. This about 15 years ago to so who knows what it’s like now.

But it did look attractive if you’ve got a lot of time and flexibility. I remember later reading an article about a young woman who did it and I think it was in our local media. Can’t offer advice on how to arrange it but I imagine info is out there on the internet. Good luck.

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The best way to do this is actually get a job as a sailor. Sign a contract for one voyage, and they’ll pay you to live on the ship.

Of course, you’ll have to work during the day like paint the railings and clean the toilets, but you’d be bored out of your mind if you were just sailing as a tourist and didn’t have a job.

As I understand it, most jobs are just guard duty. You just walk around and make sure the containers are secure. You probably won’t actually be cleaning the toilets.

The pay is pretty good too, considering room and board is provided, and you have nowhere to spend your money.


Is it actually easy to get a job as a sailor, as in physical requirements, medical, etc.? I doubt you can just go and ask anyways, and it seems ludicrous that you can just sign on for one voyage, I would think they’d want commitment. Oh and there’s no labor laws on the high seas, so don’t be surprised if you’re exploited. (I realize I may be wrong on many counts but it just seems like there’s likely limited protection if stuff goes sideways on a ship).

Sailing to the US East coast might be more interesting, but if your destination is California then you’d have a long, cross country trip ahead of you. But definitely an adventure.

Thanks to Iran, the Suez Canal/Red Sea/Gulf of Aden route is pretty much out of commission these days. If bound for the US E coast you’d probably “get to” go around Cape Agulhas. Supposedly a somewhat white-knuckle event even today. Big story for the grandkids either way.

Good luck, and please keep us updated.

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I think I’d want a voyage to the EU, but if it’s crossing the Suez canal then it’s going to be dicey. I don’t want to end up running into Captain Jack Sparrow on the voyage.

Yes. Shouldn’t be a problem as long as you’re healthy.

Nope. Most contracts as deckhands in the shipping industry are on a per voyage basis because they don’t want to keep paying you while you’re home between voyages. They’d rather hire someone else who is ready to go out to sea again.

Usually once you return home after a 3-6 month voyage, you spend the next 3-6 months unemployed to spend your hard-earned money. Once you run out of money you sign another contract to go on another 3-6 month voyage.

Not much to tell. You literally spend the whole day sitting in your cabin watching Netflix, or wander around the corridors. Most decks will be off limits to you.

Doesn’t seem like there would be much point doing it, and paying several times the price of a flight ticket, if the person just does as you suggest and uses the whole time to watch Netflix in their cabin.