CraSh Williams' Blog

Thoughts following our journey on Grande Francia, stuff they don’t tell you and things to take…

Posted by Cool Your Jets IV on December 20, 2010

It really is a cool way to travel and in the brochures and marketing information it really does make out that you will get to see various exotic ports en-route to your final destination, though in our experience, it’s not always the case. As a passenger you’re literally there as a guest of the ship, we used to joke that the cargo was more important than us the passengers – granted we could have taken a cruise though the element for adventure is seriously lacking, particularly if they’re carrying 1500 plus passengers (though the opportunity for on board adventure is high!!)

Alongside, Montevideo

When not at sea, we found ourselves being sat off a particular coast, waiting for nightfall – though our schedule would state an early morning arrival/berth, this rarely happened. Docking close to midnight saw us relegated to mere observers – fair enough, the ship has to unload its cargo and maybe the local immigration officer is not about to authorise our disembarkation but what really frustrated was getting up early the following day, receiving our passports and being told to be back on board by 11am or 12 noon – literally a few hours to explore.

Galling as you’d already spent 12 hours staring at said city from the bay and by this time you’d already been alongside for several hours throughout the night. Briefly going ashore and having come back on board at the correct time, we would then find ourselves spending a minimum of five hours plus still sat alongside, with the ramp down – being adults and also accepting the fact that if we miss getting back on the boat then that’s our responsibility, why oh why could we not have spent a whole day in each place?

You are told that as a guest of the ship, that your going ashore is not guaranteed – just be aware of this fact before considering. As an example, we were not allowed ashore in neither Conakry nor Freetown which meant we were confined to ship for a total of (after leaving Dakar, Africa and arriving in Santos, Brazil) – 11 days in total, a third of our journey and during this time we were alongside Conakry and Freetown for near on four days…

On Board Security!

With this in mind its essential you go fully prepared and my suggestions for what to take are listed below:

 • Several good books. The ship does have a library though mostly trashy or the likes of Archer/Forsyth

 • Maybe several magazines, Private Eye and the like

 • A Lap Top. Ideal for preparing notes prior to a brief run ashore – I’d also have several movies plus loaded, pre-recorded TV shows and music

 • USB stick

 • A good pair of speakers and subwoofer for said Lap Top. We used Edifier MP300 Plus

 • DVDs

 • MP3 Music Device

 • Shortwave Radio. Best piece of kit I took – I listened to Radio 5 Live as far as the Canary Islands and the World Service all the way down to Argentina. Mine was the Roberts R9968

 • Binoculars. A must for looking at Whales, Sharks, Dolphins, Turtles and for spying on people when docked in port

 • Own wine, beer or spirits. They do sell alcohol on board though no harm in having your own!

 • Cafetiere and own coffee. Given this was an Italian ship; we only ever had Nescafe which was crap. Thankfully I’d bought my own coffee and coffee press

 • Tabasco, mustard etc.

Be fully prepared to sit with the same people for breakfast, lunch and dinner – in our case this meant 90 sittings.

I’ve not had 90 dinners with all my best friends combined!

Fortunately we had a quite a good group though there are times when you check yourself because of something that’s said. Best way I feel is to avoid politics and religion, keep it to the good old British favourite, the weather!

Partying with the Crew

Given all of the above, it truly is a great way to travel and the memory will live with us for a long time. The nights we partied with Fillipino Crew – disco lights being set up on the port side with music blaring with cold beers, being on the Bridge as we passed the Equator to seeing Dolphins, Whales, Hammerhead Sharks and Turtles, having the whole ship to explore and meeting some wonderfully interesting people!


3 Responses to “Thoughts following our journey on Grande Francia, stuff they don’t tell you and things to take…”

  1. Renee King said


    Thanks for the dose of reality regarding freighter travel. It looks like you are still happy to have done it and would recommend it still. You’ve offered great tips and advice for everyone who is considering doing this and I appreciate your candor and straightforwardness.


  2. Kit said

    Mate, here I am. You couldn’t really contrast any further between things there and here except that my current travel advice here in Britain mirrors yours. Especially regarding the mp3, books and spirits! Took 3.5 hours to get to work yesterday, and a crushing 5 hours to get home, including a 20 mile taxi ride, a 5 mile yomp and an average temperature of -10!

    I’m going to read the rest of your posts in a bit, but I’ve sent you a skype invite, and will talk to you both soon.

    Good on you mate,


  3. […] – a cool part of town in Buenos Aires. We’d left the UK a few months before, taking a cargo ship from London to Buenos Aires (a journey time to 32 days) to live in Argentina, aiming to learn […]

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