Alternative cruising: unwind on a cargo ship

- By Travel Like A Pro, 02/04/2023

"Several years ago when I was biking past the Baudouin Lock, made eye contact with a Filipino on a passing ship and we waved at each other, the question occurred to me, 'What would life be like on such a cargo ship?' The answer to that question came by sailing along on one of those ocean-going giants from Antwerp via Liverpool and Halifax to New York. It was a fan-tas-tic experience!" dixit Joris Van Bree, the man behind CptZeppos.

Detoxing on board

But there is not only the positive note among the staff. "I think that sailing along on cargo ships is a highly enriching experience especially for the passengers. More than that: in my opinion, it perfectly matches the needs of today's people to unwind, digitally detox and get away from the rat race of every day for a while."

On a cargo ship there is no entertainment, but there is fitness. Above all, there is the ship (200 to 300 meters long), the ocean, the view of infinity. Joris Van Bree: "You are constantly on the move: while the ship cleaves through the swaying waves, you fill the seas of time on board yourself. That kind of freedom and tranquility can be quite beneficial, because it gives you the chance to (re)connect with yourself and nature." Whether it's passengers who are at a crossroads in their lives, privately or professionally, or entrepreneurs who want to get their business together for a change without being disturbed, the type of passengers who want to sail on cargo ships is quite diverse.
"We don't advertise, but we do info sessions. So it is quite surprising to find that and how prospective passengers find us anyway. Just recently a retired person who had once sailed from South Africa to Antwerp. He insisted on doing the trip again in reverse."


The palette of motivations also falls under the heading of sustainability. "Do not underestimate the efforts that shipping companies make in this regard! But in any case, more and more people prefer not to fly or travel far by car, and by extension are looking for a more sustainable travel formula. Only thing is that since corona our range has been cut anyway. Some shipping companies or certain shipping routes (especially outside Europe) do not allow passengers for the time being. That is a pity, because I believe very strongly in the potential of this type of voyage," it sounds.

"We currently have two ideal starter voyages, each departing from and returning to Antwerp or Terneuzen. Those cargo ships sail towards Finland. We also offer the possibility to embark your car or camper towards Scandinavia or Bilbao and sail along for a few days. As I said, we are not yet able to take passengers to New York or other destinations outside Europe, such as a trip from Miami to the Panama Canal and back. But I know: if we could do that again and we would announce in our newsletter that goes to about 2,000 people worldwide that you can sail again to the Big Apple or from Miami, it will be very busy months."

"There are an increasing number of people who prefer not to fly or travel far by car, and by extension are looking for a more sustainable travel format."

- Joris Van Bree, founder of CptnZeppos

Barely any competitors

When asked, the business manager of CptZeppos comments that only a handful of companies worldwide specialize in the sector of co-travel on cargo ships. "It's a small world. I myself am now part of the Port of Antwerp-Bruges community, which fits nicely with this travel story. But there are definitely opportunities for growth. Suppose a shipping company like MSC, with its 600 cargo ships worldwide, would allow passengers to travel on each of its ships, so you have a couple of cabins at your disposal each time, then Antwerp or even Rotterdam suddenly becomes very interesting as a base of operations for those who want to undertake such a relaxation trip."

And what is actually the price tag of such a trip? Joris Van Bree: "The price doesn't matter in this case, people don't ask about that either. The essence is mainly: we sell a dream." Read: you get to sail along, your accommodation and food on board are arranged. And the rest is enjoyment.

As mentioned, most extra-European and distant routes are on hold for now. But those who want to dream away already will certainly find inspiration on the website. The only requirement for those longer tours is time... (EB)



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