Passengers From San Francisco
By Guy Span
A number of freighters have small
accommodations for passengers and if you want to get an
intimate look at life on the sea, this should be considered.
The ships are mostly container and bulk carriers who have
this accommodation due to a quirk in the laws governing most
ports. The quirk is that if you carry passenger
accommodations, you go to the head of the line at the Panama
Canal and get the first available berth in most ports. This
major advantage is enough to justify a fair number of
passenger cabins being offered.
A major cost for ship owners is the
downtime at ports waiting for an open berth and having
passengers puts you first out, ensuring consistent
schedules, regardless of the landside problems. But life
onboard a freighter is not quite the coddled cruise on a
regular passenger liner. You dine with the international
crew, the library is small, and you are lucky if there is a
gym or a pool. In some cases, you arenít even sure of the
itinerary, as ports of call may change with the cargo
(tramps). There could even be a container in front of your
And port calls are held to the minimum
time needed to load and unload, but if you can live with
these disadvantages, you will have an amazing experience.
Here are some of your choices: Australia New Zealand Direct
Lines (ANZDL German Owned), sailing every three to four
weeks from Oakland and Los Angeles, with stops in Tauranga,
NZ, Melbourne and Sydney, Australia, back to Tauranga, then
to Suva (Fiji) or Manzanillo, Mexico and then back to San
Francisco. Prices run from $1,275-$2,125 per person one way
and $3,570-$4,990 round-trip.
Some companies charge by the day so your
fare may vary. Hanjin and Senator Lines works in this
fashion, sailing from San Francisco and other West Coast
ports weekly to Pusan, South Korea, Tokyo and Osaka, Japan,
Taiwan and Hong Kong, with a return to one of the West Coast
ports. The average voyage is 35 days with a rate somewhere
between $100 to $113 per day.
Hanjin and Senator Lines also offers a
more exotic 84-day round-trip that takes in the above
itinerary with a side trip which adds Singapore, Sri Lanka,
and then through the Suez Canal to Le Havre, France,
Hamburg, Germany, Holland, England, back through the canal
to Viet Nam, then Yantian, China, Hong Kong, Japan, and then
back to Los Angeles. There is space for five to eight
passengers and amenities sometimes including a pool,
exercise room/spa, and bar lounge.
Even more surprising, there are some ships
with no fixed destinations (called tramps) that pick up
their cargo (and destination) after unloading at a port.
Oldendorf Carriers is one example, and they sail (with
approximate dates) from Los Angeles and Vancouver, BC. While
you may not be certain of where you are going until close to
sailing time, you will pay between $40 to $50 per person per
day for this bargain adventure.