It had been a dream of mine for a while. Although I don’t have a bucket list, I do have a list of ten things that I want to do at some point in my life and crossing a sea or ocean on a cargo ship was one of them.
Something else on that list was cycling to the North Cape. After accomplishing that, I was on my way home and I decided I was going to make a detour across England. It was then that it occurred to me that this was also an amazing opportunity to check another thing off that list.
I was in Norway at the time and after some research I found that a cargo ship was actually the cheapest way to get to England. In other – normal – circumstances flying would have been so much cheaper, but I was traveling with a heavy bicycle. And after all, from the very beginning my intention had been to travel overland to Europe’s northernmost point and back.
In this post I want to explain a bit about how I found that ride on a cargo ship.
First of all I needed to find freight companies with routes between Scandinavia and the UK. Actually, the first thing I looked up were ferries from Scandinavia to the UK. There used to be one from Bergen, Norway, to Newcastle, which would have been great, but it got cancelled several years ago. There is only one left nowadays and it goes between Esbjerg, Denmark, and Harwich, England. The main reason I decided to cycle back through England was that I didn’t want to cycle through Denmark and Germany again. Esbjerg lies in southern Denmark, so that wasn’t an option. I then started to browse the internet, looking for other options. I visited some travel forums and in one particular topic they were talking about cargo ships, as an option to travel around Europe.
They mentioned DFDS Seaways, which is also one of the bigger ferry companies in northern Europe and the one that operates the Esbjerg-Harwich route as well. After checking out their website I was surprised at the number of freight routes they have all over Europe. This definitely was the company I needed!
I was a little south of Oslo and it was clear that the freight route from Gothenburg, Sweden to Immingham, England, was my best option. I dropped them an email and they responded within 48 hours, saying that I could get on board. All I needed to do was fill out a passenger reservation form. After I did that I almost immediately received an email with a booking confirmation and that was that! A big thumbs up for their customer service.
Excited and looking forward to the next stage in what was an absolutely amazing adventure, I spent my last couple of days in Scandinavia cycling to Gothenburg, staying close to the beaches and enjoying the warm and sunny weather.
How much did it cost? you ask. It was 2140SEK in total, which is about 250 euro, for a sea crossing of 1,300km, one night in a single en-suite cabin on board, four meals and as many snacks, (soft) drinks and coffee as you could eat or drink. There was free wi-fi, a large flat-screen TV, a living room, dining room, games and DVDs to watch. It was nothing less than fantastic.
Usually there are quite a few truck drivers on board, but because it was a Monday, they told me, there weren’t any. It was just me and a couple from England who were traveling by car. The journey lasted a little over 26 hours. I totally loved spending a night and day at sea. The only things you would see during the day were water, other freight ships and (the blue/orange flame of) oil or gas rigs. The North Sea is dotted with those rigs by the way; I saw a surprising lot of them.
It was a great experience for sure, and something that I would definitely recommend doing. I really, really liked it. So much that I will probably do something like this again in the future. It’s cheap, it’s fun and it’s just a cool way to travel. And… most importantly, it’s not a sardine can like a plane!
If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to get in touch!
UPDATE (December 12, 2016): I have been informed that it is no longer possible for non-commercial passengers to travel to Immingham by cargo ship, as there are no adequate passport control facilities at the harbor.