The Cargo Trip

I crossed the Atlantic Ocean on a Container Ship

  • Day 1: Rotterdam
  • Day 3: Le Havre
  • Day 13: Phillipsburg
  • Day 15: Port Of Spain
  • Day 18: Degrad Des Cannes

Passenger on a container ship: a story of life on board a cargo ship, while crossing the Atlantic Ocean

I have tried to tell the story with quite many details, as I understood some people were really interested in this kind of travel.

A few words before starting:

Knowing day after day that the world exists around you and that at the same time you are apart from it, that it is neither good nor bad and that it will last a little while, is an opportunity to feel the rhythm of time differently.

The outside world imposes so much less constraint, time belongs to us so much more.


Organization prior to departure

June 2019, I was in Athens, Greece, when I definitely made my mind about this Journey.

Even though I hardly remember how I decided to switch from an usual flight ticket to that way of travelling.

I think I started to do more searches about that project in Portugal, a few weeks earlier.

I had to pay 25 % of the total amount to book my ticket.

A medical certificate was needed ; I had to convince a Greek doctor, whom knew nothing about myself, to certify I was able to travel.

Finally, I knew the departure was scheduled at the end of November with CMA CGM shipping company on the Europe Brazil line. (You will find a link to the company’s website further.)

I understood it would take a while to cross the Atlantic Ocean, then I started to plan a Journey into the Journey.

In addition, regarding to these prior formalities, about 45 days before departure you are supposed to contact them and provide additional documents:

  • Discharge of responsibility
  • Another more recent medical certificate (Neuropsychiatric condition, Sensory capabilities… )
  • Visas if needed : it was not my cas as I am an European citizen, and I was leaving Rotterdam in Netherlands for French Guiana in France
  • Also clear the payment (75%). I will give a few details about the cost of that journey further.

Get on board: first impression

Before I could reach the dock, I had to got first to the immigration office in Rotterdam to do some paperwork.

[ For the record, there is a Maritime Taxi service that allows you to cross the river to reach the boarding zone on the other side; this avoids falling back into road traffic and it is very practical in addition to being very pleasant. ]

First impression in the car alongside the ship on the quay …

I feel that the adventure on board is going to be huge but I also think of the sequel in South America, and I want to believe that it will be at least equally huge

I was surprised that no one really assisted me to get on board, there was a long ladder to get there. Although, I knew that was part of the plan because this is how it is described:

“The passenger shall be able to climb the access gangway on his/her own”

I just went on board like everybody else and that was the best introduction possible!

Minimum requirement: passport verification.

Yeah… that’s it, this has been planned for a long time, really, and today I am getting on that ship.

A few rules

Not to forget: The primary function of the boat is the transport of goods

It’s a work place, and you are not like on a cruise boat the center of all attention; work is.

That day , as all passengers hadn’t arrived, they waited until next day to give all information, though they told us quickly about a few main rules.

Main ones: you don’t go outside on the upper deck if you have not called first the office and check you can. You go outside you call, you come back you call too. And there (outside) you have to wear your helmet and you high visibility jacket (yellow jacket) all time.

My cabin

I was shown my cabin, as I describe often when I guess how curious people are about those details: imagine a standard hotel, comfy room, big bed, private bathroom.

  • Air conditioning
  • Full cleaning once a week + daily service
  • Fridge
  • Sheets + towels provided
  • 220V current

And a desk of course… So much expected…

Other passengers

I looked forward to meet the other passengers… I met my first mate, a Dutch retired doctor, a delightful woman! Like I said I had to wait the day after to meet the third passenger: an other Dutch doctor, actually both are friends.

That’s how it works when you travel by yourself, you can’t expect anything and just hope you find good persons along the way. I was lucky enough that time, my comrades were lovely.

The Crew

Remember it’s a work place, no one is really there for you.

That’s the deal, you are welcomed on board if you respect that principle.

What you understand is there are moments when it’s OK for the crew to share some time or talk a bit with you. And depending on their roles on the ship you will meet some of them more frequently.

But I have to say and I am not selling anything, right, that all guys were nice.

On board there were Filipinos, French and Romanian people, at 95% from these 3 nationalities (I am not sure if I forget anyone), a little bit less than 30 workers in total.