A downside of travelling by container ship


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So far I’ve enjoyed it. 30th June 2013 marked my first week on board and when at sea I’ve: swam in the pool, endured Barry Manilow love songs in karaoke and hung out with the Philippeno crew, watched many sunsets from the Bridge, always get excited to see a Pilot board and exit the ship – James Bond style – and have just started to play table tennis…I’m getting quite good.  Now we have a new Captain and Chief Engineer, they’re both very talkative and lunch & dinner times are interesting. My last post talked about how the Captain is very internationally minded and believes in keeping the crew happy.

The karaoke was fun though
The karaoke was fun though

A happy crew means a happier place to work and live, and the job gets done better.

 I wish more employers thought like him !

But there is a downside, as I’ve discovered in Barcelona: My Genoa post talks about how lucky I was in Italy as the container terminal was, at maximum, a 45 minute walk from the town, both in Genoa & La Spezia.
30JUN we were supposed to be berthed in Barcelona, Spain at about 17:00, but didn’t arrive until about 20:30. Apparently this is not uncommon in Mediterranean ports.

They play salami with us.They say one time but the ship could be sitting outside port for a good two to three hours until the Pilot comes. Not like in Asia: they say 17:00, they mean 17:00.

says the Captain. I’m unsure what ‘salami tactics’ are…maybe he’s been at sea for too long, or maybe it’s a Swiss thing – I’ll let you know.

By the time the ship docked in Barcelona, it was too late to go into town and we leave early tomorrow morning. And the container terminal in Barcelona is located near the airport: about one hour away from the city centre. Unfortunately it’s not as if you can leave the ship and walk out the gate here and hop onto public transport…as the Captain says: “They have put us in the middle of the bloody Sahara out here” (apparently last time they docked a little nearer the cruise terminal.  Barcelona has a new container port now, located quite far from the city).
So no chance to go ashore this time and, most importantly for me, no access to internet! It’s not possible to pick up a Wi-Fi signal in container ports unfortunately…you have to go to one of the Seafarer’s Clubs usually located in the cargo area…but today was Sunday and, according to the agent, it was closed…or wait until you’re in town.

So, ladies and gentlemen, you’ll get this post (and my last posts) as and when you can.As a passenger, be prepared that: depending on the ship’s schedule, you might not get the opportunity to necessarily go ashore, or even to go to the little club reserved for seafarers that DOES have internet if it’s a Sunday evening in Spain (Barcelona).
But all in all, for meeting people and getting to understand different cultures, have time to yourself and for being allowed up onto the Bridge frequently (not allowed on cruise travel due to the high volume of passengers) to watch sunrise/set, walk to the front to sit in the Castle and dolphin spot, I’d say container ship travel is the way to go. I certainly like the people I’ve met so far: hearing their stories, learning about life in different cultures, getting good at a different sport (table tennis) and writing, writing, writing.


  1. Looks like fun Rebecca! It’s quite something to hear the lives of these sailors, many never see their families for 6 months and are constantly travelling the world going to different ports of call. I remember seeing a ship load in Montreal – was -30C in February, the Bangladeshi crew were on deck, their beards frozen, the vessel looking like a giant block of ice with the frozen runoff hanging off the deck. They were loading wheat – next port of call was Lagos, Nigeria where it was +30C. Talk about adventure travel!
    Frank (bbqboy)

  2. Yes, it amazes me to hear of their worldwide exploites – and how different each country is. I loved my time at sea – and the people are very peaceful, kind people too. It’s something about spending so much time amongst nature I think…it soothes the soul

  3. Hi Rebecca! Very nice blog. I am a merchant mariner ( I sail as Second Mate ) and it’s nice to see somebody understand and appreciate the job we do. We spend a lot of time away from our loved ones and even though life at sea is beautiful and very enjoyable it can also have it’s harsh moments. Most people don’t know what we do, most people don’t even realize we are out there even though we bring a lot of the goods people consume on a daily basis. Anyway, thanks for your posts, really enjoyed them. Keep up the good work!