The following article is being re-printed with the permission of Ed Kirk, Editor of Travltips Magazine. It originally appeared in the May/June issue, Vol. XXXIV, NO.2. These types of voyages differ from the traditional containership cruise, especially the tramp, which requires a high degree of flexibility on the passengers part. Any freighter agent should be able to book the voyages described below.

Weekly sailings on "banana boats" from England to Suriname, South America and Belize & Honduras, Central America are offered by Fyffes Shipping Group. Elders and Fyffes is the shipping division of the Fyffes Group who have been importing bananas since 1888 and shipping them in their own vessels since the early 1900s.

The Voyage to Suriname
Passengers are accommodated on three white banana boats that operate in a rotation of weekly departures resulting in a 28-day round trip voyage from Southampton. (A fourth ship is under charter, but does not carry passengers). Here is a picture of a typical banana boat operated by Horn Line. Vessels usually depart on Tuesdays and call at Flushing, Netherlands before sailing to Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname. On arrival at Suriname, the vessels remain on the coast for about four days, first discharging general cargo and then changing piers to load bananas for the return voyage to Southampton.During their stay in Surinam, passengers can either stay on board or disembark and stay in a small hotel and discover the culture and remarkable flora and fauna of this tropical region. Fyffes plans to have a local tour operator visit the vessels when in Suriname and offer passengers some excursions.

The three 4,000-ton vessels are the Coppername and Cottica-sister ships built in 1990-and the Jarikaba, built in 1985. Each vessel carries seven passengers in three double cabins and one single cabin. All are air conditioned and have private facilities with shower. Other amenities include a TV with video, refrigerator, telephone and a private safe. Passengers share the officers' lounge that has a bar, television, books, videos and games. These are traditional vessels and real "banana boats!"

The Voyage to Belize and Honduras
Four vessels operate in a service that provides weekly departures from Southampton (usually on Wednesday). After calling at Flushing, Netherlands, these ships sail to Big Creek, Belize where they remain for two days. A boat ride away from Big Creek is the holiday resort of Placenta which has palm-fringed beaches. From Big Creed, the vessels sail to Puerto Cortes, Honduras where there will be plenty of time for exploring. After leaving Honduras, the vessels return to the UK, often calling at Waterford, Ireland before arriving at Southampton.

The four banana boats operating this 28-day round trip voyage are chartered by Fyffes from Albion Reefers, Ltd. The English Star, Canterbury Star, Scottish Star and Auckland Star, all sister ships of 15,000 tons, can carry up to six passengers in three comfortable double bedded cabins. All cabins have private facilities with shower, TV, video, refrigerator and hair dryer. While the accommodations are larger than on the three smaller vessels, they are reported to be not as well maintained and some refurbishment is being planned.

One-way voyages can be taken on either of the itineraries. This may appeal to North American resident who can the fly home from Suriname, Belize or Honduras. Also passengers can sail out to any of the ports, disembark and stop over at any of the destinations for as long as they like and the pick up another vessel and sail back to the UK.

Officers on the Fyffes vessels are mainly British and the crew Filipino. The age limit is 70. The reported cost of the voyage is about $100.000 dollars a day p/p. (Based on my own personal experiences I would not recommend any voyage, to any country, within plus or minus twenty degrees of the equator during the winter in the northern hemisphere. I just returned from a voyage to the South Pacific, 17 degrees south of the equator, where it is now "winter"; the heat and humidity was nevertheless truly oppressive. I lived in New Orleans, Louisiana, for many years, notorious for its hot and humid climate, however, I never experienced the humidity and heat found in truly tropic regions. As a point of trivia, I had a banana tree in my back yard that keep me in bananas during August and September; that is one of a couple of reasons that Louisiana is know as the furthermost north "Banana Republic"). For details on the exact cost of these voyages and sailing dates, contact your favorite freighter travel agent.

Tramp Steamer Voyage.
The m/v Global Mariner is a 12,000 ton general cargo vessel managed by Northern Marine of Glasgow, Scotland. This vintage British freighter will now carry passengers as she operates in a unique service as Britain's cadet training ship while also engaged in the carriage of general cargo.

Navigational and engineer cadet officers will gain practical seagoing experience as the vessel plies the world's oceans with "tramp" cargos. A tramp ship is not deployed on a regular trade route, but acts as a "free agent" contracting for individual cargo shipments. Since an itinerary for a tramp ship cannot be confirmed in advance, passengers must be totally flexible with their arrangements and be agreeable to book a voyage on the vessel without knowing where it will be going. They must also be prepared to fly to and from the terminus ports of the voyage.

The main advantage to tramp travel is the likelihood of longer port time than would occur when aboard a containership operating in trader lanes. A tramp freighter may carry a variety of bulk and break-bulk cargoes whose handling could require more than a single day, thus allowing passengers extended time for touring in the countries visited. Also, since this type of cargo is carried in holds rather than stowedd on deck, cabin views are unobstructed.

The Global Mariner was built in 1979 by Sunderland Shipbuilders, UK, for Bank Line. She was originally named the Ruddbank and was employed on Bank's around-the-world trade route. More recently, the vessel was used by the International Transport Federation of workers who outfitted her for use as an exhibition ship. The IFT has now made the ship available as the British cadet training ship.

Initially, passengers accommodations will consist of one large owner's cabin-recently refurbished-which is comprised of sitting room, separate bedroom with twin beads and an en suite bathroom with shower. Other amenities of this spacious, forward facing cabin are a small refrigerator and a TV/VCR.

Plans call for the refurbishment of two single cabins in the near future. Eventually another double suite may also be added.

Facilities on the British-registered ship are reported to be reminiscent of traditional freighters from earlier days. There is a large passenger lounge with a TV/VCR, a small library and bar. A spacious dining room, small outside swimming pool and deck chairs are also available for passengers.

The daily fare is reported as being about $110.00 p/p. Passengers may book for what ever duration they choose, within guidelineses to be established by the ship's agents. The age limit is 79.

It is important to stress the unusual nature of a tramp voyage to prospective passengers and emphasize the need for complete flexibility. Passengers for the initial voyage will depart from Tampico or Veracruz, Mexico. However, the vessel's itinerary is not know at this writing. This a voyage for adventurous travelers who understand the contingencies and accept the concept of sailing wherever cargo dictates. Contact your freighter travel agent for up to the minute information and booking arrangements.

June, 2000