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Traveling by freighter is a good alternative to cruise liners for those with time on their hands.

It is a rediscovered and fast growing form of holiday travel. You would be surprised at the many container ships willing to take you to ports and destinations all over the world. Most freighters take from eight to 12 passengers, sometimes only two.

Your anchorage in some remote palm-fringed romantic locale can be for days; or you can be in and out of the world’s major ports within hours. Sailing dates, ports of call and the duration of voyages are liable to be changed, curtailed or lengthened without notice.

Freighter trips take anywhere from 10 days to four months. Most last between 30 and 45 days. Cost generally runs between US$100 to $125 a day – and there is no extra charge for trips that take longer than expected. Some freighters do not take passengers over 79 years (because of the lack of a doctor aboard).

These are working ships, yet unlike cruise liners, the Bridge is almost always open 24 hours a day for those who want to know more about navigation. You’ll usually find a dip-pool on freighters, but there are some with saunas and even small gyms.

Remember, there are seldom any pre-planned activities, cruise-ship-style diversions or regimented gaiety. Meals will vary from freighter to freighter from the ordinary to the sumptuous, even exotic. They’re usually taken with the officers, so mealtimes are invariably early to fit their “watches”: breakfast from 7.30 to 8.30, lunch from 11.30 to 12.30, dinner from 5.30 to 6.30.

The cabins on freighters are usually very generous, at least twice the size of standard cruise ship cabins. There is always a large lounge with TV and a selection of videos, a small library and a bar, often self-help.

Here is the profile of a typical freighter traveler:

• Your are middle-aged or a lot more. You may not be oblivious of time but you have time to spare.

• You do not have to be organised. You prefer the informal and the relaxed to the dictated ritual of the big cruise ships. You may even like a lot of privacy.

• You can live without fancy-dress dances, bingo nights and competitions, or sitting through lectures on the love-life of the newt.

• You prefer dressing informally to the often demanding dress code of the cruise liners.

• You like reading. You’ll certainly have enough time for it.

• You feel you will enjoy the experience of sharing your mealtimes with the ship’s officers and be part of a working ship.

In the various ports you will probably have to fend for yourself, exploring on your own, arranging your own land tour excursions .... remember, this is not a conventional cruise!

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