Life aboard a Cargo Ship

Since I had no choice but to leave Australia I figured I might as well do it in a memorable way.

NYK Galaxy

I have also discovered I have a severe dislike of flying. Or anything to do with an airport. (especially the official bits)

There seemes to be many pro’s of travelling by ship.

  • You don’t have a luggage restriction And you don’t need to pull your bicycle apart and stuff it in a little box.
  • You have a room and a bed so you can sleep gloriously during overnight travel.
  • It is very relaxing, you go through time zones slowly so you don’t get jet-lagged.
  • You don’t need to wait in line for customs and quarantine. They come to you.
  • You meet some very interesting characters along the way.
  • It is great to see how life, work and play go together on a ship and in port.
  • All meals are included in the price…

But that’s where the one Con kicks in.

The price.

That and the fact it takes quite a bit of organising, but I have to say that Julie at freighterexpeditions has been extremely helpful,

I reckon the pros far outweigh the cons.

I absolutely loved the short trip that took me from Brisbane,

Bye Bye Australia

across the Tasman sea,

On the Tasman

to Auckland.


And now I don’t ever want to fly again. Which obviously is not going to work very well with my budget.

But well, I’ll see what might happen in the future 🙂

But let me tell you about the ship.

I didn’t know what to expect because this was for me a first. I’ve been on the Barge coming from Cape York and the ferry to Tasmania. So I had expected the room to be poky and tiny.

I was welcomed by the Captain


who took me to my room and told me to get comfortable.

Im Super Cargo!

The  ship was still loading and customs would come on board later in the day.

My room had its own bathroom, a comfy bed. A tv & dvd player. A kettle, a big couch and a table and a long desk & cupboard. Then there was still lots of storage space and if I wanted to I could run around in circles… It was bigger then most hotel rooms I ever stayed in!

My Room Aboard

But I didn’t need to run around in circles in my room for I was allowed to wander around the ship,

up and down the stairs all the way up to the bridge,


here the Captain, the first, second,

where are we going?

and third mates take turns making sure we won’t hit an iceberg or get lost.

I even got to steer the ship! It’s actually a bit harder than I thought but lucky there’s no trees out here I can crash into like I did on my driving-test  back in Oz. But, funny enough, when I steered a little out of course the Chief Engineer came running up from the engine room to see what the ### was going on. Oops.

Captain on the Bridge

But when he noticed it was ‘just’ me steering the ship it was alright. And he offered to show me the engine room too.

Chief Engineer

It is all the way down in the deep depths of the back of the ship, and it is absolutely massive!

Engine Room

So many wheels and odd bits and pieces I had no idea half the time.


But I knew what a piston is. And he showed me the piston that goes in the engine, it was about a meter wide!’ He told me the ship uses 60.000$ worth of fuel every day(!) and has its own fresh water making system. It’s all new and very interesting to me.

This vessel is registered in Germany. The Captain, the Chief Engineer and a Bunch of officers are German too. The rest of the crew came from the Philippines.

Crew Member

On the first day I met the other passengers.

There was a couple from France, Pierrette and Rudolf,

The French

And two Australian couples.

Kevin & Mary,

Kevin & Mary
who are well experienced with this kind of travel since they have been doing it for 30-odd years, and are very keen on revolving restaurants.

And Pam & Bernard, originally from NZ & South Africa.

We all had our meals in the same room as the officers while the rest of the crew had their separate mess-room.

For some reason the other 6 passengers sat at a table together, but I was placed next to the Captain

Sitting at the Captains table

and ate with the chief engineer, 1st mate and 3rd mate. Since they’re all German I struggled a little bit keeping the conversation going. Apparently they don’t talk an awful lot. The captain actually told me he preferred cargo much over passengers since containers can’t talk…

Dinner Time

The wonderful thing of being on ‘German Territory’ was that they had excellent coffee on board. Good bread as well.

All the meals were distinctly German too. Like the Tartar we were served on the 3rd night.


Nothing else but raw mince, a raw egg and raw onion. I was the only one of the passengers brave enough to eat it as it came. The others preferred it cooked. It wasn’t bad.

After a few days the Germans loosened up a little and I had a great evening over a few beers out the back of the ship.


Watching the stars and the moon rise over the big wide open sea was wonderful.


I liked the gentle rolling of the ship and it surprised me I never got seasick, slightly hangover yes. But not seasick 🙂

Sitting there chatting the chief engineer mentioned he hadn’t spent much time in Australia, but he really enjoys camping in ‘Outback Germany’ 🙂With Captain & Chief engineer

He has a farm back home so was particularly interested in the tractors and big farms I’ve been spending time at over here.

During the day while everybody on the ship is at work,

At work

or asleep, it is nice to have a look around. Find out what everybody is upto and trying not to be too much in the way.

At work

Or taking a dip in the pool, enjoying the sauna or use the little gym they have. I never set one step in the gym. But the pool, that gets filled up with seawater ever day was rather enjoyable.

the Pool

For me the trip could’ve last a lot longer, but on the last morning New Zealand was in sight,

New Zealand

A little bit sad.

But an amazing experience to arrive in the harbour of Auckland seeing so many little boats around and the whole hustle and bustle of a ship being steered in the right direction,

The Captain and the Pilot

first by a Pilot who came on board to get us near the docks.

arrival at Auckland

And then with two tug boats who towed us into place.


It was late afternoon and it was alright to stay one more night on board.

My final View

When I got on I had all my gear packed like I was going on a flight. But now everything was spread out all over my room. The quarantine officer didn’t seem to mind and sat happily chatting in the middle of all the mess while approving my pathetic attempts of cleaning bicycle and camping gear….

Quarentine Officer

Surprisingly my fully loaded touring bike didn’t fit into the elevator so the chief engineer came up with the wonderful idea to use the crane… He didn’t believe it would be easy for me to unpack it all. So I watched my bike dangling in the air about 15 meter above ground. Very scary indeed.


But all went well, well all except my pump breaking in two while the chief engineer tried pumping up my tires 🙂

Now I am more than ready for some exciting new adventures,

So watch out New Zealand…

Here I Come!


32 thoughts on “Life aboard a Cargo Ship

  1. Hallo mirjam.

    je houd het aardig vol he. heb je nog kontackt met lars gehad. hij krijgt helaas toch een prothese. ik blijf je volgen.


  2. Hoi Mir,
    Leuk stukje, een belevenis zo’n schip! Veel plezier daar en goede paasdagen! Hier alles goed, liefs van ons.
    xxx karin

  3. Hoi Mirjam,

    Leuk om de foto’s te zien na alle verhalen (en die 35.. 🙂 ).
    Ziet er geweldig uit! Da’s nog eens luxe reizen…
    En dan nu dus het Noordereiland onveilig maken… 🙂
    Zet hem op!


    pap & mam.

  4. Hi Miriam all the best of luck and safe travels around NZ it really is a awesome place ! (Met you in Marree Sa ) Pam and Paul xxxx

  5. Thanks Miriam for your enjoyable reflections on your o-going experiences -wherever they be! As a joint OZ/NZ passport holder I’m sure with your friendly attitude your going to “have a ball” in NZ.

    However be careful on the roads – some NZ drivers/truck drivers can be aggressive with cyclists.

  6. You were very lucky with your cargo. I now other travellers who spent weeks on crappy ships with no good company. Would you tell about the costs? I also wonder about the visa topic. Are you alowed to go back to Australia? Will you?
    I follow your blog with great enthusiasm and wish you all the best for your future travels. You’re a lucky girl.

  7. Great description and illustrations as always. Can’t imagine why the other passengers ate at one table and you dined with the Captain! Seems to be what happens to you where ever.

  8. Dag Mirjam,
    Terug in Nieuw-Zeeland. We zijn benieuw naar je volgend verslag. Hou je taai.

    Groet, Jans en Ankie

  9. Great to read. I am getting a ship from south America back to Europe next month, but i fear the luxuries won’t be as yours…but hope so.

  10. Dear Mirjam,

    have a safe trip to NZ.

    Happy Easter!
    Mother and daughter from Germany you met at the croc tent with Rick.
    Nüket and Nuriel

  11. Hoi Mirjam
    Ik lees vaak je verhalen, maar laat eigenlijk nooit een comment achter; maar nu wel! Leuk dat je weer in NZ bent!
    Ik wilde vragen of je goede travel tips hebt om met de kinderen te gaan fietsen in Azie (met z’n zessen!) Groetjes Helen (Southland)

  12. Hi Mirjam,
    I always read your posts with much envy. My friends and I met you at Copley and gave you a lift by car to Lyndhurst, where your bike was parked at a petrol station. Four of us were on Motorbikes.
    I can’t believe that it’s been 3 years since we last saw you and our group is preparing to do the trip along the Strzelecki Track again. I always think of you and your adventures. Have a wonderful trip across NZ and I will continue to read your posts with envy.

    Kind regards

  13. oh, so north island now, hu?! “O for awesome” as they say in NZ 😉
    If you check out Hawke’s bay, I made some very special friends in Hastings: not much to see there from a cyclist/adventure point of view – but excellent wine and amazing people!

  14. Hallo Mirjam,
    Wat een leuk verhaal over de tocht op het vrachtschip. Dat is wat anders dan fietsen. Je hebt er weer prachtige foto’s bij. Leuk hoor, ik geniet er telkens weer van.
    Hier blijft het aldoor nog winter. Koud, veel wind en heel het is erg droog, maar…… er komt verandering in zeggen ze. Iedereen verlangt naar een beetje warmte en een zonnetje. De winterkleren en jas zijn nog niet uit geweest.
    Geniet van je verdere tocht en ik kijk uit naar je volgende verhaal met foto’s.
    Groet van Heleen Smit.

  15. Okay then, “Oh for Awesome” blogging, a wonderful read through!
    I ride near everyday here in N.TX. on and off-road.. have not even dreamed of such amazing adventure much, so much to experience in this beautiful world. I am very happy for your serendipitous and personable writing, good on you for the sharing, wish you many safe and wonder filled travels.. Cheers!

  16. Hi! I’m interested in doing some freighter travel in the future and stumbled upon your blog. It’s really well written, with gorgeous photos! I’m very impressed. Can’t wait to read some more 🙂


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