Freighter cruises FAQ
What documents do you need to obtain before starting your voyage? What do you have to look out for on your shore excursions? Can you shop on board? Is there electric power supply in the cabins? What clothes should you take with you? ...
Answers to these and many other questions can be found here in our Freighter Cruises FAQ.
DEPARTURE OF SHIP
- Cargo ship schedules can change at short notice: changes of a few hours to several days may occur. In a few exceptional cases, there may also be delays of up to two weeks.
- The duration of berthing times in port depends on various factors, such as weather conditions, extent of loading operations or delays as a result of occupied berths.
- Contact your travel agency to obtain confirmation of the exact arrival and departure time of the ship three days before the planned departure date.
- Please always bear in mind that the vessel won’t wait!
MISSING THE DEPARTURE OF THE SHIP
- If you have missed the vessel, the locally based ship agency will try to help you. If there are any problems, you can also contact the embassy and your travel agency. You have to bear all costs incurred if you miss the departure of the ship.
GENERAL SHIP FACILITIES
- Each ship has a recreation room, bar and small seawater swimming pool or whirlpool, which is filled only with water of the relevant quality and temperature (not in port). The pool is emptied when there is a strong seaway. You are also allowed to use the sauna, fitness room, laundry and drying room and general areas.
TRAVEL TO SHIP IN GERMANY and TRAVEL TO SHIP OR EMBARKATION OUTSIDE GERMANY
- If you require a longer journey to the port, to be on the safe side plan one or several hotel overnight bookings at the port. We will gladly help you find accommodation.
- Owing to the strict guidelines of the ISPS Code, every passenger and accompanying person at the terminal has to be registered. It is not possible to enter the port without prior registration by NSB at the gate. This regulation now applies worldwide.
- Please do not expect any big “reception committee” on board, as the crew is usually very busy while the ship is berthed. As soon as the vessel has left the port, you will be briefed on all procedures on board.
- Please make a point of noting the safety regulations in the port! Driving into the port in private vehicles is not allowed.
- After registration at the entrance to the terminal, you are taken up to the ship via a shuttle bus or specially designated taxis. The bus is mostly requested at the port entrance by the personnel there. However, this service is not offered in all ports.
- If travel to the ship/departing from the vessel with your own car is nevertheless permitted, the vehicle may not be parked in front of the ship, where gantries and lorries or shipboard cranes are in operation.
- If in exceptional cases the vessel is lying in the roads, passengers must embark via motor boat.
- Please have your travel documents, passport and vaccination certificates ready if necessary to give to the Captain immediately after boarding.
Additional information for embarkation outside Germany
- You will receive in advance the address and telephone number of the charterer’s local shipping agency. This is seldom an NSB agency. You can obtain exact details of the berth and berthing times at the agency. The agency also usually organises handling by customs or immigration. If you use additional services of the agency, e.g. transfers, these have to be paid for immediately (in cash) on the spot.
- In some ports, the local agencies or authorities may demand additional embarkation or disembarkation fees, which may also have to be settled at once. Please keep the original vouchers carefully!
- In some ports, e.g. Rotterdam, the customer must also report in person to the waterways police before embarkation or after disembarkation. In Antwerp, for example, travellers from non-EU countries must report to the waterways police. Your travel agency will give you further details.
- If you plan to leave the ship again, please find out the departure time in advance from the Captain to ensure you know the deadline for being back on board. Please make a note of the telephone and mobile phone numbers of the ship and possibly leave your own mobile number so that you can be reached if there are any changes at short notice.
WORKING ON BOARD
- All work is performed by the crew. For various reasons, passengers are not permitted to work on board or to cover the costs of a passage by working.
- There is no doctor on board. The vessel has a well-stocked ship’s dispensary and a treatment room. The Captain and officers have the necessary skills to give first aid and are also able to provide further treatment.
- You should ensure that you take an adequate quantity of important medicaments you will need during the voyage (daily) with you on board. The ship’s dispensary is not equipped to meet such a requirement.
- Left, left side of vessel
- On longer voyages, grill evenings are staged now and then on deck on many ships. This is a welcome break from routine and an opportunity for socialising, not only for the crew.
BOARDING THE SHIP
- If you board the vessel in a German port, loading/unloading operations, taking on provisions, possibly a change of crew and minor repairs will all be taking place at the same time. Please appreciate that this work has absolute priority.
- Please don’t expect any big “reception committee” on board, as the crew is usually very busy while the ship is in port. As soon as the vessel has left the port, all procedures on board will be explained to you.
- On board, please contact an officer or the gangway watch – someone will show you to your cabin.
- Take great care when boarding the ship: the gangway may be slightly wobbly or inadequately supported. Watch out for your clothing, as ropes and stays can be greasy. If you have any heavy or bulky items of luggage, ask a crew member to assist you.
- At the ship’s gangway, you will be registered by the crew’s gangway watch. If the safety level has been raised as a consequence of specific occurrences in port and on board, your luggage may be searched.
LANGUAGE ON BOARD
- The shipboard language is English. German is almost always spoken as well.
CONTAINERS and CONTAINERSHIPS
- Containers are standardised metal boxes used in specific sizes worldwide. They are usually 20 and 40 ft containers (a 20 ft container is 6.06m long and 2.44m wide and high. A 20 ft container unit is also called TEU (Twenty Foot Equivalent Unit)).
- Containerships are designed exclusively for transporting containers, in which goods of all types are carried. NSB does not organise any cargo/container transport services.
- Containerships managed by NSB have a ship’s command that is mainly German, but in some cases the personnel are also from other European countries. Officers come from Germany or European countries. Most of the remaining crew members are from the Philippines.
- Deviation insurance is mandatory for every person on board and is automatically taken out by us. Deviation insurance assumes the shipping company costs if the vessel is forced to change course owing to the illness, accidental injury or death of the insured person. However, treatment, transport and similar costs for the insured person are not covered by the deviation insurance. To cover these costs, an international travel health insurance for ship voyages incl. return transport is essential.
- The cost of insurance on NSB ships is €105 per person for voyages lasting up to 14 days and €160 per person for voyages of 15 and more days. The prices can vary at other shipping companies.
THEFT IN PORTS OR WHILE THE SHIP IS BERTHED
- It is a regrettable fact of life that there are thieves everywhere in the world, not just in “exotic” ports.
- We therefore recommend that you close your cabin door and windows carefully in port, even if you remain in the cabin. While in port, please also lock cupboards containing valuables, such as a camera.
EMBARKATION AND DISEMBARKATION FEES
- If you embark or disembark outside Germany, the local agency may charge a fee. As an embarkation and disembarkation flat fee is already charged on booking, the fees are refunded on presentation of the receipts.
The embarkation and disembarkation fees do not include transfer and similar costs.
- All cargo ships carry a limited number of usual shipboard canteen goods customarily provided on board, e.g. specific brands of cigarette, alcoholic beverages, lemonade, juices, chocolate and personal grooming products. The store has fixed opening times, about which you are informed on board. However, no items can be sold in port, as the store is closed by the customs. The items purchased must always be paid for in cash, either when the goods are handed over or at the end of the voyage via the Captain. Currencies on board are the euro and the US dollar. Payment by EC card, credit card or traveller’s cheque is not allowed.
- As the range of items in the store is limited, you should cover your personal travel requirements yourself if at all possible. In the course of a voyage, one or several articles may be sold out, and these can then be replenished only with the next delivery of provisions.
- If you have any special requirements (specific types of cigarette, etc.), contact your travel agency promptly before beginning your voyage, as it may be possible to order specific items in advance via the ship’s chandler.
ELECTRIC POWER SUPPLY
- The electric voltage on board NSB ships is 220 V alternating current, 60 Hz. The sockets on board meet the German/Central European standards.
- Passengers are permitted to take photographs everywhere on board provided that they do not thereby disturb the crew’s work. Taking photos may be prohibited in some areas, e.g. in the Panama or Suez Canal. Please find out about this in good time by asking the Captain! Taking photographs in ports is generally strictly prohibited on the basis of the ISPS Code and is punished by the authorities with stiff fines and sometimes even prison sentences.
- Passengers must take an adequate supply of films and batteries with them, as these cannot be bought on board.
- There are no leisure animators on board cargo ships. Every passenger is responsible for his or her leisure activities and entertainment. Various leisure activities are possible on board: you can bask in the sun in a deckchair, read, browse in the small ship’s library, watch a DVD in the common room or do something for your health by spending time in the swimming pool, sauna or fitness room.
You can watch the crew at work and in the evening challenge a crew member to a little game. In fact, there are no limits to your leisure activities, as there is always something to see, learn or do on a ship. Many passengers also enjoy keeping a travel diary.
- You can, of course, also take your own CDs, DVDs or a world receiver with you on board.
- All leisure facilities on board are communal facilities shared with the crew.
DANGEROUS AREAS ON BOARD
- IN PORT …
Going on to the decks and into the holds during loading/unloading work is prohibited owing to the high accident risk! Going on to the relevant superstructure decks may also be prohibited when the crew is taking on stores and provisions.
- WHEN THE SHIP BERTHS OR DEPARTS OFF …
While the vessel berths or departs in port, passengers are not allowed to be on the fore ship or aft ship, as this is where the docking lines are and handling these heavy lines can be dangerous, even for seamen. On these occasions, you are best advised to remain on the superstructure decks, where it is safe and there is a good view of everything going on.
- AT SEA …
During maintenance work on deck, you should consult the first officer concerning the areas on deck where it can be dangerous, e.g. when machines are in operation, and should thus be avoided.
As the weather at sea can change very quickly, you should always expect a sudden seaway. Make sure that everything in your cabin is secured to prevent any items falling down and causing injuries. You are always advised to wear non-slip shoes on board. Please always use the internal stairs or lift (if available) in a seaway, as steps on the outer decks are slippery with saltwater in bad weather and thus constitute a high accident risk.
In general, you should always exactly follow all instructions issued by the port and ship personnel.
PETS AND BICYCLES
- It is generally not allowed to take pets on board.
- Motorcycles and cars are also not permitted.
- Bicycles can be taken on board free of charge after making a suitable inquiry, although NSB assumes no liability.
- - International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code
- A passenger’s cabin is his or her domain for the entire duration of the voyage, and the passenger is responsible for ensuring that everything is “shipshape”. The steward usually cleans the cabin once a week, but you should bear in mind that he is concerned mainly with another working area, which means that he is scarcely capable of providing any additional cabin service.
- Cabins are always outer cabins.
- Bed linen and hand towels are provided.
- Under certain circumstances, the view from the windows of the cabin may be restricted or even blocked by containers or life boats stowed in front. An unobstructed view from the cabin window can therefore not be guaranteed. More information on this point is provided in our ship information sheets.
- While passengers are disembarking, the new intake may already be waiting. If such a change of passengers is imminent, please vacate your cabin promptly before the ship berths.
Occasionally your cabin may still not be completely ready when you arrive on board. If something is missing, e.g. bed linen or hand towels, just contact the steward or another crew member.
- You should avoid entering the cabin of a crew member if the door is closed, as this indicates that the seaman wants to rest. Owing to the shift work on board, some crew members also sleep during the daytime. However, if the door is open and the crew member is also in the cabin, you can knock and enter on request.
- It is essential to take non-slip shoes (e.g., sailing or gym shoes) for the voyage.
- We recommend windcheaters or wind- and weatherproof clothing suitable for the trip and season. If every type of climatic zone is passed through on the voyage, you need to take a warm pullover and trousers and a rainproof jacket as well as light cotton clothing such as shorts and T-shirts.
- There is no dress code on board – we recommend light casual wear.
- Please avoid wearing bathing dress or shorts at meals.
BRIDGE AND ENGINE ROOM
- You have to ask the Captain or chief engineer for permission to enter these areas. It is not permitted to enter the engine room alone.
The engine control room and bridge are nerve centres of the ship, which you should make a point of seeing. It is normally possible to access the bridge. In adverse weather conditions, when the vessel is berthing or departing and at port entrances and exits, you will probably not be permitted to enter the bridge or engine room, as the Captain and officers have to concentrate fully on their work. Please appreciate this.
When on the bridge, the passenger should avoid the workplace of the officer of the watch to ensure that his work is not obstructed. This ruling also applies when the ship is out at sea.
In time, you will develop a “feeling” that tells you when a visit to the bridge is likely to be welcome.
- Incidentally, it is not usual to knock before entering the bridge when the vessel is at sea. Greet those already on the bridge – particularly when it is dark – just loudly enough to make yourself noticed or understood. If it is night, after coming on to the bridge wait until your eyes have accustomed themselves to the darkness.
- Please never enter the bridge from the wing of the navigating bridge at night, as this can cause potentially dangerous misunderstandings with the bridge crew members, who may also fear a pirate attack in some areas.
COMMUNICATIONS WITH THE SHIP
- Passengers can receive mail during the voyage. The specific postal address can be found in the “port agent list”, which is attached to the travel documents.
The names of the recipient and the ship must be written in large, legible letters on the envelope. Find out in advance from the post office about the mail delivery times to ensure that the letter arrives promptly. It is advisable not to send valuables owing to the risk of theft.
Although you can always hand mail over to the port agent, we cannot guarantee that it will arrive or even be passed on by the port agent.
- It is simpler and faster to phone or send a fax message. However, this is also comparatively expensive and should thus be reserved for urgent cases.
- The e-mail system on board may be used for a fee to send and receive e-mails following registration on board. As administrator of the private e-mail addresses and the software, the Captain is technically also able to read e-mail traffic. However, he is urged not to do so out of respect for users’ desire for privacy.
- Payment is in cash (euros or US dollars).
- There is no internet access on board.
- Passengers may take shore excursions on their own responsibility. They have to organise these themselves. Excursions must be carefully planned, as the ship’s berthing times are usually quite short. It is best to obtain the relevant country information or travel guides in advance. Crew members may also give you tips for a shore excursion. In exceptional cases, shore excursions are not permitted in a few countries/ports.
- Before leaving the vessel, please always first ask the ship’s command whether you can go on shore and, if this is possible, find out exactly when you have to be back at the latest. It is best to take along a mobile phone so that you can be reached if there are any changes to berthing times. You should always note the designation of the berth, the mobile phone number of the ship and the telephone number or address of the port agency.
- During a shore excursion, you have to pay for taxi rides, drinks and meals, excursions and other services immediately in cash. If you want to order a taxi, please contact the ship’s command, which will try to order one for you via the local agency.
- The vessel may enter the port in the evening and depart the next morning. Sometimes the ship’s berth is far from the city or delays occur with clearance. Under these circumstances, it is sometimes impossible to organise shore excursions.
- Before every shore excursion, please find out how safe the particular port is and whether or not certain areas should be avoided.
- We recommend that you take with you small notes, in euros and US dollars, e.g. for taxi rides and tips.
- Even if you are unable to exchange money into the national currency, small notes are better. Before the trip, please ask your bank for information on the various valid currencies and foreign exchange regulations of the countries involved (e.g., taking foreign currency in and out of the country). It is not permitted to exchange foreign currency outside official exchange offices in every country.
- Unfortunately, there is crime everywhere in the world, and it can be particularly prevalent in some places because of extreme poverty, so always be wary on shore excursions. Don’t wear any showy jewellery, take with you only sufficient money for the excursion and try to avoid carrying a handbag.
It is best to keep valuables close to your body. Seamen usually distribute their money for shore excursions on various points of the body. You should also make a point of carrying your photo equipment inconspicuously.
- As berthing times are very expensive in the various ports, the charterer of your ship will do everything to ensure that the vessel completes loading/unloading operations as quickly as possible. A ship usually berths for 6-24 hours. A berthing time of up to two days can be expected in some ports or if a particularly high volume of cargo has to be transhipped. Berthing times can also be at night. Under some circumstances, it is then not possible to go on shore.
- The containerships managed by NSB are liner vessels, which (as a rule) circulate between specific ports on a route fixed by the charterer within a regular schedule, i.e. they normally operate according to a predetermined timetable.
- Pilots assist the Captain on all dangerous shipping routes and in channels and port entrances and exits. Pilots are informed about the current local conditions and advise the Captain on the manoeuvres required. It may not be possible to visit the bridge if a pilot is on board, as passengers would disturb the concentration of crew members or obstruct their visibility.
- Smoking is usually permitted on board. However, there are restrictions, e.g. in the mess or recreation room. Smokers are requested always to be considerate to non-smokers.
- See “Safety on board”
- Every traveller is personally responsible for procuring any necessary visas, tourist cards, passports, vaccinations, etc. Our notes in the specific travel descriptions and visa information are non-binding.
- Generally, a medical certificate issued no longer than 30 days prior to the commencement of the voyage is required (see NSB travel conditions).
- A passport valid at the end of the voyage for at least six more months is always needed. In quite a few countries, a passport with a further 12 months’ validity is required.
- For the passage through the Suez and Panama Canal, a certificate for a valid yellow fever vaccination is also demanded by the local authorities. The port authorities of the Suez and Panama Canal require these vaccinations, although according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) they are not in fact necessary. On entry by cargo ship, a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate is also required by other countries (e.g., China, Latin America). The regulations of the individual countries must always be observed.
- Vaccinations are provided by your public health department or family doctor or a tropical institute.
- All passengers should inform themselves promptly about infection and vaccination protection as well as other prophylactic measures. You may have to obtain medical advice on thrombosis and other health risks. In the interest of your health, please inform yourself adequately, for example by consulting your public health department, doctors with experience of travel problems, specialists in tropical medicine, medical travel information services or the Federal Centre for Health Education.
- Occasionally entirely different visa regulations apply for all ports called at during the voyage. Passengers must find out what is required well before the beginning of the voyage from the responsible authorities, consulates or embassies of the specific countries or the travel agency.
It is essential that you point out that the entry is by cargo ship! There may be different regulations for entry via passenger vessel or aircraft.
- Other visa and vaccination regulations may apply for passengers without German citizenship. Please contact the responsible authorities, consulates or embassies for information.
- IMPORTANT: Immediately on embarkation, please hand over – unsolicited – all travel documents, including passport, vaccination certificate, insurance declaration, to the Captain or the ship’s officer responsible.
- When you end your trip at your port of destination, you must observe the specific entry regulations for passengers on a cargo ship. Please ask well before your trip the specific embassy or consulate concerning the papers required for your stay in the country of destination. Often on entry you already have to possess a valid ticket for leaving the country or continuing your journey. Please ask your travel agency for information before starting your voyage.
- Shipboard currencies are the euro and US dollar. The NSB exchange rate is fixed monthly and is readjusted on the first day of each month.
- Money cannot be exchanged on board. Only cash is accepted. EC cards, credit cards and traveller’s cheques are not accepted.
- In a seaway, please make sure that all open doors of the ship are securely fastened on a hook, thereby avoiding any unnecessary noise and reducing the risk of injury.
- Please make sure that all moveable objects are secured in the cabin or safely stowed. Make certain that sensitive items such as radios or alarm clocks are firmly secured. Even in fine weather, a seaway can occur at any time. Seating can always be secured.
SAFETY IN PORT
- A container port is first and foremost a place of work, involving a great deal of activity, with work generally having “the right of way”. The visibility of operators of van carriers or crane operators, for instance, is frequently very restricted because of their height above ground and the dimensions of cargo and containers. If you move about on the port site, always keep well away from all means of transport. Use marked ways where provided. You should be particularly attentive at corners, exits of sheds and other places where visibility is restricted.
- In most ports, going on foot is strictly prohibited by the authorities because of the high accident risk. Transport in the port area is mostly via a shuttle service or specially marked taxis.
SAFETY ON BOARD
- “Safety First” really is the name of the game! Dangers and accidents can be avoided only by exercising caution and observing all dos and don’ts. You are thus informed of the safety regulations on board and the use of life saving equipment while still in port or shortly after departure. As a passenger, you are also obliged to take part in any fire drills or boat manoeuvres. In such cases, you have to follow the instructions of the officer on the spot.
- Fire protection is vital on board a ship. Smokers in particular have to take care not to dispose of cigarette butts or ash in wastepaper baskets. Never smoke in your bunk. Always follow the instructions of the officers, who with their long experience can identify and assess dangers promptly.
- When explosive materials are being transported, smoking on deck is, of course, always strictly prohibited. Smoking is also often strictly prohibited in ports because of the presence of containers with hazardous goods. Stiff fines may be imposed if this ban is ignored.
- On the right, right side of the ship
SUEZ AND PANAMA CANAL
- It is basically not possible to embark or disembark in the Suez and Panama Canal.
- All travellers passing through the Suez or Panama Canal as passengers on a cargo ship have to provide a valid certificate of yellow fever vaccination (see also “Travel documents”).
This vaccination is required by the canal authorities. Although according to WHO these vaccinations are unnecessary, other regulations apply here for cargo vessel passengers. A passenger without a vaccination certificate may be excluded from the voyage.
- It may be necessary to put passengers as crew members on the crew list. Passengers must follow the Captain’s instructions.
TDW (tonnes dead weight)
- 1 deadweight tonne = 1,016 kg. This is a measurement of ship capacity, for fuel, ballast, cargo, passengers, etc.
- You decide whether or not you would like to give a tip. It is up to you to determine how much you tip. If you are satisfied with the service, it is welcomed if you show this during the voyage. The Captain will gladly give you details. After consultation with the Captain, you can, for example, donate a crate of beer for a forthcoming grill party (see “Barbecues”). The steward or cook also appreciates a tip.
- Passengers take their meals with the ship’s command (daily “Captain’s dinner”) in the officers’ mess. Please note the following three set meal times (subject to change):
European and Asian home cooking is provided by the Philippine cook. In other words, passengers can expect hearty seamen’s fare, which the cook prepares for passengers and the entire crew without making any distinctions. Apart from bread, jam, cheese and sausage, a warm dish is nearly always served in the mornings and evenings. The drinks usually provided with meals (tea, coffee) are included in the travel price. Other drinks cost extra.
It is not possible to prepare special dishes for diabetics or vegetarians.
The cook has to make do with the provisions available up to the next replenishment. You should therefore not insist on the cook meeting any additional requirements.
- We recommend you take out travel cancellation insurance. An accident insurance and valid international health insurance with return transport (rescue flight) and 24 hrs hotline is essential.
- We advise you also take out luggage and third-party travel insurance. Our travel agency will gladly give you details.
- The ship’s laundry (tablecloths, etc.), bed linen and hand towels are washed once a week.
- You can wash private clothing conveniently yourself in a separate laundry equipped with a washing machine, a supply of detergent and a drier. A drying room is also provided. Please ask a crew member when it can be used.
VALUABLES AND CUSTOMS
- Valuables such as jewellery, money, etc. can be entrusted to the Captain for keeping in the ship’s safe.
- Foreign exchange, photos and valuables, etc. must be declared on a customs list on arrival in a port. To avoid difficulties, you should find out in advance what items have to be entered in the list in each case .
- If you carry technical equipment such as a laptop or other valuables (e.g., photo equipment or expensive jewellery), please take proof of purchase and have yourself given a customs visa in your home country prior to departure in order to avoid any complications with the customs and the imposition of import duties when reimporting the items.