At the end of September 2011 I left Ireland and embarked on a trip around the world without flying. 851 days later, I’ve passed through 21 countries to find myself in Busan, South Korea. Here’s what it took to get here:
- 2 cruise ships
- 2 motorcycles
- 11 ferries
- 20 tuk-tuks
- 30 taxis
- 35 buses
- 63 trains
That monster is the Hanjin Chicago, a cargo ship which will take me across the mighty Pacific Ocean, from South Korea to Peru, leaving Busan on January 29th and arriving in Lima some 26 days later.
I’ve received a lot of questions about this leg of the journey. Here are my answers to the most common…
How much is this costing you?
It’s not cheap. My 26-day stay aboard the ship, with all meals included, cost me $3,540/€2,605. Factor in all the associated banking fees, travel insurance, plus a doctor visit to verify I’m in good health (there’s no doctor aboard the ship), and the final cost is more like $4,200/€3,080.
The good news is that I won’t have to spend a penny on board for 26 days, and I’ll have all my meals cooked for me. Plus, you know, ocean views and all that.
Why is it so expensive?
Best I can figure, it’s because the freighter companies don’t care. They’re carrying multimillion dollar cargoes, and they only have room for 3-6 passengers on each ship. It’s not exactly big business for them, so they probably charge a high price to make it worth their while.
Was this your only option for crossing the Pacific?
No. My ideal was to hitch rides on sailboats, but that would have taken 2-3 months to get all the way across, which was more time than I wanted to spend at sea. (If I was willing to spend that long, something like this would have been epic.)
There were numerous other cargo ship options, but this trip aboard the Hanjin Chicago suited me best.
How do you go about booking something like this?
You google around for “cargo ship cruises” and see what’s on offer. They’re not hard to find. Here are five sites with listings for cargo ships that take passengers:
- Maris Freighter Cruise and Travel Club
- Freighter Expeditions
- Cargo Ship Voyages
- The Cruise People
- Sea Travel Ltd.
I booked my trip via Sea Travel Ltd. Getting everything organized requires a lot of emails back and forth and you have to send them a bunch of documentation, but it’s all fairly straightforward.
Will you be sleeping in a shipping container?
Apparently not. I’ve booked a single cabin aboard the Hanjin Chicago, with a private bathroom and shower. If the pics here are to be believed, it will be quite cozy. I’ve also learned that I’ll be the only passenger on board, so I might be able to blag an upgrade to a double cabin 😉
What is there to do aboard the ship?
Well there’s no Internet access, so I won’t be able to get my usual work done. There is a fitness room aboard, but I’m not expecting anything fancy, maybe just a few dumbbells and a ping-pong table. There’s also supposed to be a sauna and a “seawater swimming pool,” but again, I’m not expecting much. They’re not exactly catering for holidaymakers here.
I’ll keep myself busy though. Mainly I’ll be doing a lot of writing, brushing up on my Spanish, and reading many a fine book.
Will you be interacting with the crew?
The common language on board is English, so I should be able to chat with the European captain and officers, and the Indian and Filipino crew. I’ll be sharing meals with them every day, and I’m allowed on the bridge pretty much whenever so I’ll probably hang around there from time to time and ask which buttons I can push.
Also, it seems I’ll be something of a novelty as I’ve been told most people who travel aboard cargo ships are between 60 and 79 years old. My contact at Sea Travel Ltd. says young pups like myself are usually in too much of a hurry to consider spending 26 days at sea.
What cargo is the ship carrying?
No idea, but I’m hoping for zoo animals. Life of Ni.
Will you be stopping off at many ports along the way?
The first 18 days are at sea, as we go right across the Pacific to Manzanillo in Mexico. We have one more stop in Mexico after that and then we hit Callao/Lima in Peru and I disembark.
I’m not 100% sure if I’ll be allowed off the ship in Mexico. Apparently I have to speak with the port authorities and figure it out with them. I don’t believe we’ll be stopped for very long though, maybe 12 hours at the most, and we might arrive at night.
Here’s a map of the route:
If you feel so inclined, you can keep track of the ship’s position here.
Will you be writing about your experience?
Yes, I’ll happily tell you all about it, but since I won’t have Internet access at sea you’ll have to wait until I arrive in Peru at the end of February. Make sure you’re signed up to my Travel Ninjas mailing list below so you won’t miss the update.
Now, please excuse me while I go make final preparations for the trip. I need to find a volleyball and some ice skates to bring along with me. You know, just in case.
Oh, and your questions and comments are very welcome below. Just keep in mind that I’ll be offline for four weeks soon after this post goes live, so moderation and replies will have to wait.