About that cargo ship….

dsc_6858.jpgWay back when we landed in Napier, we promised you more details about 5 days on board a freighter between Australia and New Zealand. After several unsuccessful attempts at summarizing our journals (even the short version started running to three pages), we decided to stick to the facts.

Name of Ship: CMA-CGM Utrillo
196 meters (small for a cargo ship)
Made in: China in 1999
25 men, made up of mostly Romanian officers and Filipino crew
Our route:
From Melbourne, Australia to  Napier, New Zealand. (The ship was carrying on to Panama, the U.S. and back to Europe)
In our cabin: Double bed. Sofa. Coffee table. Desk and chair. Wardrobe. Bar fridge. Ensuite bathroom.
Facilities: Ping pong table, library, swimming pool (filled with sea water), gym and TV room with a DVD player and plenty of movies.
Our fare: €500 per person
Other passengers:
Christiane, a 72-year-old French woman, going around the world in 80 days.
Best moment: It’s a tie. Was it the evening BBQ on the back deck with the crew, singing with the sailors, dsc_6844.jpgdrinking beer and watching a pod of dolphins swim alongside? Or maybe it was going up to the bridge at 5:30am on our last day to watch the harbour pilot come aboard and guide us into Napier as the sun rose.
Daily routine: Wake up at 6:30am. Breakfast at 7am. Ping pong until 9am. Then relax. Maybe walk around the deck or go up to the bridge to check our position. Eat lunch at noon, followed by more ping pong and relaxing. Evening meal at 7pm. Watch a film or go for a swim. Go to sleep at 11pm.
Typical meal: Hearty and meaty. Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes along with a large serving of meat, followed by desert. Salad, bread and a bottle of wine were always on the table, along with fresh garlic for the Romanians, who enjoy eating whole, raw cloves. For snacking between meals, there was always plenty of coffee, tea, water and fresh fruit.
None. Not even any queasiness. Our crossing was very smooth.
Fascinating fact:
It currently costs $60,000 a day for the 80 tons of fuel to run a small cargo ship. And that’s with relatively low fuel prices! The overall daily running cost for the ship is about $100,000.
Sobering fact: Be very careful when walking on deck to not fall off. You’re done for if you slip into the water because it’s very unlikely anyone will hear or see you. For this reason, don’t go out in bad weather. This advice was given to us by the first mate.
What we learned:
Sailors are quite gentlemanly, despite our rougher impression before we took this trip. We also were struck by just how much stuff we humans move around the world. Until you watch the volumes going through a port like Melbourne, you can’t quite imagine it.
Next time we’d take: Something to share with the crew.
Rating: We give our trip 9/10 points. The overall experience was far more interesting and relaxing than flying. We could take on as much baggage as we liked (100kg/person is the nominal limit). All the sailors were very polite, helpful and friendly. We found the experience of being at sea relaxing and the days flew by quickly. We only deduct points for the slightly heavy meals and because we realise that if we had encountered rough seas, we could have been fairly miserable. Overall we loved our time on board. Given enough cash and time, we’re not sure we’d ever return to the airport. We far prefer the seaport.


  1. Jayme
    18th February 2009 at 4:24 am #

    Sounds like heaven. Wonder if I could convince Donald to make our trips back to England by sea… I so hate flying.

  2. Dad
    18th February 2009 at 10:52 pm #

    We will be off in a few hours and stay overnight at the airport hotel, to escape the storm forecast for tomorrow. Hope that the planes can get out of Halifax and Montreal

  3. Becky
    2nd March 2009 at 4:09 pm #

    Glad to hear the trip went smoothly. I can tell you that on a 279m ship, rough seas are not really that bad – but you do need to ensure you don’t leave the computer on the tabletop! Anything not secured and on a flat surface in our cabin was on the floor in the morning. We were still finding fruit on our last day!
    If only it didn’t cost so much!

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