The Costs

The cost of a freighter cruise is calculated on the basis of a daily rate, with most voyages priced between US$100 - US$130 per day.

The daily rate charged by freighters is much cheaper than ordinary cruise ships, which usually charge around US$200 - US$400 per day.

Although the daily rate is cheaper, you need to bear in mind that freighter voyages tend to be much longer than regular cruises. This means that a freighter cruise will usually cost more than a typical 1 or 2 week standard cruise vacation.

Low Season Fares

Most shipping lines offer lower fares for passengers willing to travel during 'out of season' periods, which can provide an opportunity to save money.

However, crossing the North Atlantic during the winter, or cruising the Caribbean during the hurricane season, will increase your chances of meeting some pretty rough weather!

Single Fares

Unlike regular cruise ships, which charge single person supplements of around 50-100%, freighters rarely charge single passengers more than 10-15% extra.

A number of shipping lines will actually charge the same price for a single cabin as the per person rate for someone sharing a double cabin - sometimes they even charge less - so for singles, this makes freighter cruising one of the greatest travel bargains available!

Last Minute Fares

As a general rule, discount prices for last minute bookings are simply not available on freighters. Shipping lines are not interested in messing around with prices, they prefer to set the fare at a sensible rate from day one and thats the price it stays at.

Agents also find last minute bookings very difficult - there is a lot of administration involved forwarding insurance details and medical certificates etc to the shipping lines, who are usually based in Europe, which all takes a lot of time.

Having said this, cancelled cabins do sometimes become available and may be offered at a slightly reduced rate - but it is very rare. There may also be cabin availablity if a ship unexpectedly has to be repositioned.

All is not lost, however, because you can effectively get a last minute deal by booking a tramp ship, rather than one of the regularly scheduled liner services.

Tramp ships roam the world, with no fixed schedule, from contract to contract - which means you can seldom book more than a couple of weeks in advance. If you are flexible enough in your travel arrangements to be able to book a tramp voyage, fares are often available from as little as US$80 per day - but don't forget that the same port taxes and deviation insurances will have to be paid as on a regular liner service.

Port Taxes & Deviation Insurance

Both of these taxes are mandatory and will be added to the price of the basic fare by your agent. The total cost of both these charges combined, will usually be around US$300.

It is important to note that deviation insurance does not provide any coverage for you personally - it covers the shipping line for any expenses they incur if they have to deviate from their schedule for a passenger emergency.

A small number of shipping lines include the cost of deviation insurance and/or port taxes within the basic fare, so make sure you check the small print when comparing voyages.

Health Insurance

Travel health insurance, including emergency evacuation cover, is also mandatory. All of the booking agents will insist on this being in place and will be happy to arrange it for you.

The cost of health insurance will depend on the length of your voyage, but it will be no more expensive than a comparable health insurance policy for an ordinary vacation.

Trip Interruption & Cancellation Insurance

This insurance is not mandatory. It provides personal cover for expenses incurred if your freighter voyage is cancelled or significantly delayed - for example, you may miss your flight home and have to pay for extra airline charges, hotel accommodation and food.

It is advisable to read the terms of these policies very carefully to establish exactly what is covered. They provide cover only for trip cancellation and interruption - not for routine events that occur all the time on freighters, like changes to ports of call.