Testimony of Christian C. et Françoise H., passengers on board the CMA CGM BOUGAINVILLE, in the frame of a Cargo Cruise they went on, in June 2016.
« It was a dream I’d had since 1994. At that time, I bought Hugo Verlomme’s book Guide for Cargo Cruises. One often postpones his/her most amazing projects! »
How did you hear about the “Cargo Cruise” service?
In 2014, by chance, we watched a documentary on French TV Program Envoyé Spécial, entitled “My holidays on board a cargo vessel”. It was about the one-month-long journey made by a passenger on board a CMA CGM containership. We then made some researches about the CMA CGM Group on the internet, and the day after, we contacted The Traveller’s Club, the agency in charge of the “Cargo Cruise” service, who provided us with the necessary guidelines to plan our trip.
Why did you choose a cargo cruise instead of a « regular » cruise?
« We love the sea. When I was younger, I used to practice sailing. »
There were no choices to be made, no questions to ask ourselves. We did not want to travel on a floating hotel, which would exclusively sail by night, among 3,000 passengers, following a concept aiming at making you forget that you actually are onboard a vessel navigating the open ocean!
How was your boarding?
« First, we were warmly welcomed by the smiling 2nd Officer. »
Our arrival on board, in the Port of Algeciras, Spain, was safe and unhindered. The steward showed us our cabin, gave us the meal schedule and the practical information. Then, a young and very thoughtful security officer got us acquainted with security guidelines to be followed during the journey. After that, we were free.
Tell us more about the journey itself…
« The CMA CGM BOUGAINVILLE was coming from China and would finish her rotation in the Port of Le Havre (France), right after the call in Zeebrugge (Belgium). »
We left Algeciras on 25 June 2016, heading towards Zeebrugge, the last call of our journey, which we would reach on 8 July. Between Algeciras and Zeebrugge, we stopped in Southampton (UK), Dunkirk (France), Hamburg (Germany) and Rotterdam (the Netherlands). That is to say a total of two weeks on board the CMA CGM BOUGAINVILLE, a 400-meter long and 54-meter large containership with a capacity of 17,722 containers.
« Speaking English allowed us to relate an American, a German, a French and two Belgians! »
Life onboard is mainly cadenced by scheduled mealtimes which we were having in the officers’ dining room. There was a table reserved for passengers. We were served continental and invigorating dishes.
We had barely boarded the CMA CGM BOUGAINVILLE when we met the other passengers. One of them was Madeleine Guillou, author of an article in the book we had bought for preparing our journey the best way. She was on her way back from China, after three months spent at sea. She was finishing the second part of her world tour on board a cargo vessel. She introduced us to the customs and way of life on board a cargo vessel, which helped us feel like at home from the very first minutes. We have kept in touch since our return on the ground and wish that we’ll have the opportunity to see her again.
« We sort of become a ‘’monk of the sea’’. Silence and contemplation. Words are not easy to find when it comes to transmitting our exact feelings at the moment. »
Inbetween meals, while navigating the sea, we spent our time walking from the bow to the stern in high wind (2 x 400 meters in total!), listening to the sounds produced by the vessel -the wind blowing in the containers was making an impressive noise-, staying on the quiet walkway, contemplating the permanently changing sea, asking questions to the seafarers, watching them work, reading, not speaking much, etc. It was an extraordinary experience. We were feeling out of time and, at the same time, asked ourselves a lot of questions regarding the world we live in. This is what made the charm of this singular and appealing experience.
« In the early hours of the journey, off the coast of Gibraltar, we were escorted by a dolphins’ family and, from the bow of the vessel, we could contemplate the mountainous outline of Morocco. »
Off the Portuguese coastline, a few whales spurting water from their blowhole joined us. Finally, while we were sailing up the Elbe River mouth, during 75 kilometers at a 5-knot speed, surrounded by cows to the port side as well as to the starboard side, we could see the busy Port of Hamburg growing slowly and slowly.
Each time we were about to call, we would quickly reach the walkway, at any time of the day or at night, so as to witness a wonderful but spectacle, while keeping quiet: harnessed to the powerful tugs softly towing and pushing us, the vessel would enter the port under the careful and focused eye of the pilots. When the call happened by night, as it was the case in Rotterdam, we would remain speechless, starring at the luminous agitation of the port. A real firework.
« While experiencing so many new things, we were as fascinated as children in front of a candy shop! »
Another highlight of this journey was the visit to the vessel’s engine room, a pure power-generating, steel-made, noise- and heat-producing cathedral. Ah, such an enormous gold transmission shaft… Incredible!
« The crew was very available and good at explaining. »
A longer journey on the high seas would have probably allowed us to get to know the seafarers better. Each and every of them was always smiling, very efficient at work and obliging towards us. We often think of them. They can live for nine months far from their families!
In three words, how would you describe this experience?
Contemplation, astonishment, freedom.
Would you be willing to use “Cargo Cruise” again?
For sure! We are ready to set off again tomorrow!
« We have a unique wish: that cargo vessels keep their personality as merchant ships and that passengers on board respect this working place. »
 Le Guide des Voyages en Cargo, Hugo Verlomme
 “Mes vacances en cargo”, Envoyé Spécial, Carnets de Voyage, 02/06/2011
 Voyager en cargo – 25 portraits de bourlingueurs, ‘’La valise de Madeleine’’, Madeleine Guillou
Read more “Cargo Cruise” Testimonies on the Cargo Cruise section:
Testimony of a passenger onboard CMA CGM BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
Two travellers tell about their experience along Le Havre-Pointe à Pitre
Onboard a cargo during 28 days – Interview of a passenger
Cargo Cruises : discovering the world in a new way!