The Cargo Trip

Departure

The big thing is hearing the noise of the engines, understand this is going to be permanent. Constant noise and vibration, a good thing though.

Another rule on board is that you are allowed to go to the bridge (command room) but if you get there during any Manœuvre (French word) you have to remain really quiet and not to bother people at work.

Manœuvres are leaving an harbor, entering an harbor, crossing ships… Basically you don’t want to miss that part, I felt really lucky I could attend.

When you enter or leave an harbor, a local pilot is on board and leads manœuvres. Each harbor has its own specificity, it can be very tricky in some places to navigate. That’s why a pilot works with the captain during these phases.

Getting out Rotterdam takes quite a long time as the harbor is really deep into the land.

What I felt was a great sense of Freedom, like what you feel when you know you are leaving for a very long trip.

Busy oneself

I prepared myself for that new lifestyle.

Off grid, no Internet…

Journey to-do list:

  • Work: web development (local environment)
  • Writing
  • Gym: sport room checked
  • Documenting: videos, pictures
  • Movies on my hard drive
  • Explore the ship
  • Try to dream
  • Try boredom

To be honest, life is really peaceful for passengers on board; as we don’t have to work, we have a very light schedule, mainly based on meals.

I wouldn’t say it feels like a retreat because the boat is a very lively place; still, there aren’t many distractions and you have few temptations.

Remember nobody here was expecting to get on a cruise boat with casinos, swimming pools, massage…

Life on board

After a few days: the routine

I talk about routine as a passenger, the crew would say roster, shifts, schedules probably.

Meals

First thing to know: Passengers take their meals in the officer’s mess.

what you must understand therefore is that you don’t share that time with the other members of the crew, in my case officers were mainly Romanian and French, 1 or 2 were Filipinos.

Meals are to be taken:

  • Breakfast: 7-8 AM
  • Lunch: 1-2 PM
  • Dinner: 7-8 PM

There is 1 dish per meal, often some soup or other starters. There are always bread, fruits and fresh vegetables available.

If you miss the meal the kitchen staff will wrap your dish and put it in the fridge, this applies to both staff and passengers

There are snacks and instant coffee at any time.

Meals are important, I won’t lie; this being said they it’s a very good time to get to know the other passengers and the crew.

That’s when you can learn many stuffs about the work on board, provided that seafarers are in the mood for a chat, it is their break after all.

They opened the tax-free shop when into international zone. Good moment for us all, staff and passengers, because you can buy a few extras.

Coffee ceremonial

Coffee on the upper deck terrace, great souvenirs.

I do like coffee a lot, that was a glorious opportunity to magnify those little moments.

Gym 4Ever

Trust me, using a treadmill when waves have at least 8 meters troughs, starts to become a bit hazardous.

Not that you can’t, but clearly you understand how really useful are the side handles on these machines.

Simple life

That quiet life, this little parenthesis, was also, on my opinion, a good reminder.
Our system has evolved a lot the last decades and I appreciated very much to experience again living in an environment with less permanent pressure.
To be honest I am not even sure I ever experienced anything like that, recently I mean.

Seafarers life

Passengers can’t wander in all work places on the ship, but it’s OK on the bridge. Clearly a good place to learn a few things about navigation. When there is no stress there (which can happen), you can talk with officers on duty and ask questions.

I remember I attended an impressive maneuver , when ou ship crossed an other one. To make it simple it’s a bit like the highway code, meaning there are rules you basically follow.

But being able to follow that operation on the screens and get technical explanations live about all metrics, diagrams, etc.. was very interesting.

One thing is clearly important on board: Safety. During our Journey a few drills took place. Rehearsals of the worst case scenario, get your high visibility jacket, helmet and your life jacket.

We attended a demonstration on how to put on a survival suit.

We even got into the rescue boat once.

And one day we took a guided tour of the engine room and adjoining control rooms, an impressive area for newbies.