Mary – passenger on board HS Beethoven

I love meeting new and interesting people and I am always looking forward to welcoming new passengers on board the container vessels I am travelling on. I sometimes imagine a lot of things about them before the actual meeting face to face, but I am always taken by surprise and amazed at their real life stories, no matter how different from one another they might be, regardless of their ages, countries of origin, reasons for travelling on a freighter or perspectives on the world.

I met some extraordinary people among the passengers on board our vessels and many of them became my dear friends with whom I am still in contact, thanks to the Internet. The happier I am to spend time with them, the sadder I become when we have to say goodbye and the more I wish this time never comes at all. But all good things come to an end, voyages at sea begin and end, passengers are leaving the vessel, new ones are coming and I am always glad to be a part of this never ending circle.

I am always sad when I have to say goodbye to certain people after a few days or weeks spent together, but sometimes my sadness is beyond words and my heart is really aching like I am losing a piece of it. Some people enter my heart and remain there forever, as happened with a very special lady who accompanied us during the voyage around New Zealand.

Mary chose this kind of travel for the adventure it brought along and she assured me this voyage was beyond her expectation and she  enjoyed every minute of it. She spent her time on the bridge, on deck, in the Recreation Room, in the galley and everywhere else, keeping an eye on things and interacting with everybody on board.


She had a lot of fun and she is ready to remake this trip – on another vessel, with different crew and in a different region of the world. I know this voyage was a wonderful experience for her, but I also know that having her on board was like a ‘good luck charm’ for all of us.

For me, her presence on board was more than a gift.

Thank you, Mary, for the wonderful time we spent together while admiring the sea from our favourite spot, close to the bow or visiting the ports on our way, while cooking in the kitchen or enjoying a glass of wine in the Recreation Room – even if the movie which was on TV was not one of our choice.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES– Mary and me visiting Auckland –

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES– Mary and us in Napier –

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES– Visiting a persimmon orchard in Napier –

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES– Our last day together in Tauranga –

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES– Fish and chips in Tauranga –

I will always remember and cherish these precious moments and I hope we’ll be able to repeat them together somewhere, sometimes in the near future.

Here is Mary’s story about her voyage on board HS Beethoven.

Thank you, Mary, for sharing it with us:

‘Remember that you do not have to stay on board if you are not happy or feel unsafe! Just leave at the soonest port you can…’

This was the advice a concerned friend gave me (a sixty y.o. plus woman) the day I left to join a container freighter.
In April – May 2015 I booked for fourteen days travel on the HS Beethoven, from Brisbane to various ports in New Zealand. As my first cargo ship journey it more than met my expectations. It gave first hand insights into port and cargo procedures, the workings and computerization of a modern bridge, the backgrounds and personalities of people who crew these ships and make their life at sea, and the sheer enormity of the engine room.
Now, at no stage during the journey was I anything but happy and safe, befriended, stimulated and excited. My friend’s advice was wise but not at all necessary.
It was a wonderful experience, meeting my enthusiasms for adventure, new friends and cultures and the best of memories. As a working container freighter of 283m, the Beethoven was far more my style, than a thousand passenger cruise ship called Princess This or Queen That!
Freighter travel appealed to me because it offered an alternative or antidote to group travel, where a particular irritation is that everything is done in so much haste and with so many others. On board a freighter you are not one of hundreds of passengers. You can explore ship board life in full. You can become part of it, even better.
Booking procedures were undertaken online through a small travel agency specializing in freighter travel. There were several indemnity and insurance forms, a medical certificate for a doctor to complete as to my fitness for the level of isolation, and the usual personal information and passport forms. I took out travel insurance separately, but the insurance company asked no questions as to the mode of travel.
When my first choice of vessel / journey from Australia was withdrawn by the shipping company, the travel agent searched and found another. Port procedures for where and when I joined the vessel were rather daunting and took some sorting. However, I flew from Melbourne to Brisbane and once at the relevant gate at the Brisbane docks, it was straightforward. Customs and Immigration officers were waiting for me, just for me!
My friendships with the crew whom I soon met, were warm and welcoming. In this case, the wife of the captain/master travelled with him and her company was a delight. Possibly on other vessels there might not be such an acceptance of passengers on a working ship.
It was obviously important to respect that the crew, whether on the bridge, the deck or in the engine room or galley, all had jobs to do. Some were chatty and sought out conversation, others tended to focus on their work.. At least, those who were happy to talk spoke English, so my German phrasebook was not needed. English was the common language among the crew who were drawn from Romania, Montenegro and the Philippines.
Although the Australian seasons were changing to winter, the four days across the Taman to New Zealand were calm, almost tropical. There were no storms, only calm seas and the slightest of occasional swells and rolling (to my mild disappointment). I had my port hole open at night for the breeze. Also coming through with the sea air was the rattling and clanking of the containers on the deck of the Beethoven. A metallic, nightly symphony.


I was the one passenger and had my own ensuite cabin. It was formerly officer accommodation and was comfortable in the space and privacy provided. The bedding was minimal, for me, with a very hard mattress and thin pillow. (I had to find a compromise or I could not sleep, so used the cushions from the sofa and the spare towels as an extra pillow.)
Food from the galley was adequate, not gourmet, but often surprising – for example, tasty soups, calamari and pizza. I learned that there is a tight budget allocation per person, regardless of rank. The cook was keen to please me, a semi-vegetarian. An abundance of cheese, cabbage and garlic was on endless offer! Any particular needs a passenger might have can be addressed once you get to a supermarket at the first port of call.
A chance to cook in the galley was a great experience, as it is no ordinary kitchen. With my new female friend, the captain’s wife, we enjoyed some afternoon baking.


For fun, the 30th birthday of one of the officers was marked by a galley cooked birthday cake shared among all twenty five on board. Who would guess a ship’s captain would be a chocolate icing expert?

Over the fourteen days, apart from being able to get onto land and briefly explore a few port towns during the cargo operations, I established a daily routine. Lots of climbing between decks, hours on the bridge watching and talking and studying instruments, maritime regulations and charts.


Delving into the enormity, noise and smells of the engine room.


Walking up to the bow to look for sea life and to enjoy the sun.



Reading in my cabin, writing up a diary and even cutting hair for some of the crew… I was content!

Yes …I recommend such an adventure to travellers who seek in-depth experiences and who want unique, memorable adventures, not pampering. I am going to do it again… just where? The most important thing I identified was to book with a company and sail with a crew who accept a passenger and absorb you into their fascinating, working life! ”




MKH 22.5.2015

One Response to Mary – passenger on board HS Beethoven

  1. Eugene D says:

    What a wonderful story of adventure and frienships made. Just what Mary loves a unique adventure holiday. Good for you M, I wish I was there.

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