Marco Bitran

MV CMA CGM Amerigo Vespucci in Hong KongMV CMA CGM Amerigo Vespucci in Hong Kong

Nearing port in Hong Kong.
Ben Mack/ Expert

TL; DR variation: it was an adventure– one that was far more luxurious than I could have ever thought of, and just as unforgettable as I was hoping.

Here’s how I did it– cruising through the South China Sea from Malaysia to Hong Kong aboard the CMA CGM Amerigo Vespucci– and how you can, too.

While cargo ships are (naturally) mainly for carrying cargo, a variety of shipping companies now provide passenger travel, too.

Amerigo Vespucci outside view

A portion of the Amerigo Vespucci.
Ben Mack/ Expert

About 90%of international trade— we’re talking trillions of dollars’ worth of goods– is brought by ship. Several of the world’s greatest shipping companies– like France-based CMA CGM— also offer traveler travel aboard their vessels.

A number of specialized travel business set up journeys on cargo ships. One of the very best is the one I utilized, New Zealand-based Freighter Travel.

Amerigo Vespucci Hong Kong view

A view of Hong Kong as seen from the Amerigo Vespucci.
Ben Mack/ Expert

Googling how regular individuals can travel on a cargo ship, my searches led me to Freighter Travel Established in 1993, a genuine selling point is the company does not do package journeys– you contact us, and then they deal with you to develop the travel plan of your dreams, or at least one that works within your boundaries for where you want to go, for how long, and your spending plan. Rates can vary from a few hundred dollars for a brief trip to tens of thousands for a months-long, around-the-world journey of a lifetime.

Not understanding what to anticipate, I phoned cofounder Hamish Jamieson I needn’t have actually fidgeted: he was extremely friendly, and simple to work with– and had simply the ideal concept for someone who had actually never ever been at sea prior to however wished to go someplace with warm weather and a friendly team.

My journey started southwest of Kuala Lumpur in Port Klang, Malaysia. The destination: Hong Kong.

Route of Amerigo Vespucci

The approximate route the Amerigo Vespucci drew from Port Klang, Malaysia to Hong Kong.
Google Maps

Our journey– or a minimum of the portion for which I was to be on board– was approximated to take about 8 days. The route was expected to take us through the Strait of Malacca in between Malaysia and Indonesia, around Singapore, and north through the South China Sea off the coast of Vietnam, prior to entering Chinese territorial waters and arriving in Hong Kong.

The ship I was to cruise aboard was the CMA CGM Amerigo Vespucci. At about 1,200 feet long, it’s bigger than an aircraft carrier.

Port Klang

The Amerigo Vespucci in Port Klang, Malaysia.
Ben Mack/ Insider

Integrated In 2010, “big” just hardly describes the Amerigo Vespucci Named for the Italian explorer, the 1,199- foot vessel can hold a mind-blowing 13,83020- foot shipping containers on board.

As big as the ship was, I was informed there were only 34 crew members aboard.

Amerigo Vespucci crew members

Crew members in the bridge on the Amerigo Vespucci.
Ben Mack/ Insider

Including myself, there were only 3 passengers– and each of us had an entire cabin to ourselves.

Before I could go to my cabin, I participated in a security instruction, that included things like how to put on a special suit if the ship were sinking.

Amerigo Vespucci immersion suit for safety briefing in ship's office

I put on an “immersion match” as part of the security briefing in the ship’s workplace.
Ben Mack/ Expert

Having actually never ever been at sea previously, I found the safety briefing useful. I did question however, what the point of the so-called “immersion fit” I practiced placing on would be if the ship sank in the middle of the sea and I had absolutely nothing to keep while trying to stay afloat.

My cabin was on the F deck of the ship. It was far larger than I was anticipating– and far better.

Amerigo Vespucci cabin on F deck

The two beds in my cabin on the Amerigo Vespucci’s F deck.
Ben Mack/ Insider

In the beginning glimpse, my cabin appeared like a big hotel room. There were two soft twin beds nestled in one corner, closets, plenty of power outlets, generic nautical-themed pictures hung on the walls, a personal restroom with a toilet and shower that had hot water, and other amenities you ‘d anticipate in a hotel space. There was likewise a big desk, coat rack, a coffee table, sofa, and plenty of plush chairs.

The only things that hinted my room was on a freight ship: the laminated sheet on the coffee table with information about how to desert ship and react to different onboard emergency situations, the fact the furnishings had straps anchoring them to the thick-carpeted floor … and, of course, the view of the sea.

There were also plenty of unanticipated features on board, like a fitness center.

MV CMA CGM Amerigo Vespucci  gym on A deck

The fitness center on A deck.
Ben Mack/ Expert

Like numerous hotels– and cruise ships– the Amerigo Vespucci had plenty of things to do outdoors my space. The fitness center wasn’t big, however seeing as there were so few guests and crew, there was never anyone else in there when I was.

There was even a small library.

MV CMA CGM Amerigo Vespucci library

The Amerigo Vespucci’s library.
Ben Mack/ Expert

” Diverse” is a recommendation to explain the selection of literature and DVDs the library had. Tom Clancy, John Grisham, and Michael Crichton novels were plentiful– but not as abundant as Clive Cussler, author of the maritime-influenced “Dirk Pitt” adventure stories.

Incredibly complicated-looking computer system systems kept the ship working on course– and monitored the thousands of containers on board.

Amerigo Vespucci bridge instruments

Instruments on the Amerigo Vespucci’s bridge.
Ben Mack/ Insider

As somebody without a science, engineering, technology, or sailing background, I hadn’t the smallest idea what most of the instruments on the ship did– which is why I didn’t dare touch any of them.

We left Port Klang at night. The adventure was underway.

MV CMA CGM Amerigo Vespucci top

A portion of the Amerigo Vespucci.
Ben Mack/ Expert

With surprising quietness, considering how big the ship was, a fleet of tugboats helped us pull away and leave port. We appeared to be moving agonizingly slow, however I was impressed such a big thing as the Amerigo Vespucci might move at all.

I ‘d never ever been on a ship at sea prior to, so I was stressed over seasickness. The Amerigo Vespucci was so big, I hardly felt anything at all.

Amerigo Vespucci containers

Containers on the Amerigo Vespucci.
Ben Mack/ Insider

Sailors stated the voyage I was on was considered a “light” run– the Amerigo Vespucci had “only” about 7,500 containers on board throughout the journey.

I was allowed to see much more of the ship than I was expecting. My favorite place was on the bridge with the crew.

Amerigo Vespucci bridge

On the bridge of the Amerigo Vespucci.
Ben Mack/ Expert

For a ship of its size, the Amerigo Vespucci’s bridge was oddly relaxing. Being so high up, it had a remarkable view of much of the containers and the surrounding seas for several miles.

The team were incredibly friendly.

Amerigo Vespucci crew

A member of the team on the Amerigo Vespucci.
Ben Mack/ Expert

As we sailed, they told me about themselves, how they concerned work aboard the ship, showed me how they did their tasks, and what much of the instruments on board did, like how the automated navigation worked and the computer system that kept track of where each of the countless shipping containers on the ship were, what remained in each container, and where each container was supposed to eventually go. It was fascinating to discover, even for a non-technical individual like myself.

At one point, we were alerted about a scary event involving gunmen firing on a vessel.

Amerigo Vespucci bridge warning message

An alerting message that came in about an attack on another freight ship.
Ben Mack/ Insider

The publication that came through on the Telex device on the bridge was alarming: on January 3, about 6 people on 2 speed boats opened fire with automatic rifles on a freight ship several hundred miles southeast of where we were, near Basilan Island in the southern Philippines. While no-one was injured in the event, and the ship was able to get away, the publication specified the ship sustained some gunshot damage.

Meals were taken in a great dining room– and served by a French-trained chef.

MV CMA CGM Amerigo Vespucci officer's dining room

The officer’s dining room, where passengers also consumed.
Ben Mack/ Expert

Each of the 3 meals served per day offered a selection of French wines and cheeses, in addition to fresh baguettes, citrus fruits, and pastries.

Even better: the food was all included in the price travelers paid to come aboard.

Going Through the Singapore Strait, things opened up a fair bit once we went out into the South China Sea on day three.

Amerigo Vespucci in South China Sea

The Amerigo Vespucci in the South China Sea.
Ben Mack/ Expert

The sea actually was, a minimum of at daybreak and sundown, a bit similar to wine in terms of its coloring. And it was really, practically impossibly vast– a vastness I just began to comprehend when, for a number of days, the only thing to be seen on all sides was a seemingly unlimited parade of blue waves.

As the days went on, I developed a routine– one that included great deals of time on the bridge speaking to the crew and scanning the calm seas.

Outside Amerigo Vespucci at sea

Outside the Amerigo Vespucci at sea.
Ben Mack/ Insider

Normally waking up around dawn, I ‘d refurbish prior to having breakfast, then bring a book, note pad, and pen with me as much as the bridge to check out, compose in my journal, and chat with the team when they weren’t busy. After lunch, I ‘d usually do the very same for the majority of the afternoon, and following dinner would generally be sleeping not long after taking in the sunset from either the bridge or the outdoor deck adjacent to it. I was such a common sight in the bridge, crewmembers joked if I would like a task to stay on board. Their offer was appealing.

Undoubtedly, I was on the bridge a lot due to the fact that there wasn’t a lot else to do. Nights were peaceful– there was no bar or bar on board the ship like one may expect at a cruise.

Hugging the Vietnamese coast, at one point almost a week into the voyage we passed near the Paracel Islands, which China has actually been heavily militarizing. The crew kept a close eye on our position.

Amerigo Vespucci bridge map

A map of the Vietnamese coast on the Amerigo Vespucci’s bridge.
Ben Mack/ Expert

We weren’t boarded, however understood Chinese marine vessels were all around, given that they were plainly marked on the Amerigo Vespucci’s expensive radar. During this time, the crew appeared visibly tenser, and kept cross-referencing navigational charts to make sure we didn’t roaming off-course. We did not.

On day seven before reaching Hong Kong, we made a stop for the day in the close-by mainland China port of Chiwan.


The port of Chiwan, China.
Ben Mack/ Insider

Part of the bigger Shenzhen and Pearl River Delta megalopolis (among the world’s most-populous areas), our stop at the port of Chiwan (to unload and handle containers, obviously) permitted some time to go ashore and check out the hectic streets and try some authentic Chinese food.

After numerous days at sea, it felt a bit weird to be on dry land again– but only for a short time, as by evening the other guests and I had to be back on the Amerigo Vespucci to continue on to close-by Hong Kong.

Chiwan was not exactly a touristy location.

Chiwan daytime

A daytime scene in Chiwan.
Ben Mack/ Expert

There were not a great deal of touristy things to see in Chiwan– it seemed to mostly just be offices, shops, dining establishments, and towering, block-like apartment buildings. The most common color was grey. It was nice to walk and experience something brand-new, but I might also see why it was not a popular area with travelers– in reality, aside from Sidney, Theresa and myself, I didn’t see any other certainly non-locals the entire day.

At last, as dawn broke the next morning on day eight, we sailed into Hong Kong.

Amerigo Vespucci sailing into Hong Kong

The Amerigo Vespucci cruising into Hong Kong.
Ben Mack/ Expert

Much smaller vessels ran past all around us, and although we were moving gradually, it was still too quick: I quite desired this minute to last a little longer. I had never ever skilled anything like it.

I ‘d been at sea for 8 days. I was unfortunate to finally come ashore for great.

MV CMA CGM Amerigo Vespucci in Hong Kong

Nearing port in Hong Kong.
Ben Mack/ Expert

We finally docked between 10 and 11 in the early morning.



Way Of Life UK

Chevron icon It suggests an expandable section or menu, or often previous/ next navigation alternatives.

Learn More

Leave a Reply