The secret to booking travel on a cargo ship? It’s tricky. | News | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST
Cranes unload shipping containers from the ONE Swan at the South End Container Terminal in Halifax.

The secret to booking travel on a cargo ship? It’s tricky.

Container ships, cruise ships, cargo ships and other vessels bound for Halifax the week of Oct. 16-22, 2023.

Let’s make this abundantly clear: I am not a travel agent. But, I do aim to please. And this week, like many weeks, I received an email from a lovely Coast reader who wondered how they could book a trip as a passenger aboard a cargo ship. “I want to find out all I can on cargo ship travel out of Halifax,” they wrote. Had I ever looked into it before? No, not really. My exposure to cargo travel amounted, basically, to Kate Black’s excellent Maisonneuve piece about an environmentalist so determined to never fly again, that he resolved to travel from his home in New Zealand to his new home in Canada by cargo ship.

I wonder what that would be like, I thought to myself then. This latest email re-sparked my curiosity: How, exactly, would one get started? Thankfully, the internet is a generous giver—and the answer is fairly straightforward: There are websites entirely dedicated to booking travel via cargo ship. But not all cargo ships are readily searchable on these sites, and as of Oct. 16, none of the main sites showed vessels departing from Halifax. According to Business Insider, commercial cargo ships used to see roughly 4,000 passengers per year—a figure that has yet to rebound since the COVID-19 pandemic surfaced in 2020. Other cargo travel guides recommend reaching out directly to a ship’s agent or manager: Many ships have room for up to 12 passengers—though not all are currently accepting travellers.

So, here’s a recommendation: If you’re looking for passage aboard a cargo ship leaving Halifax, scan through The Coast’s weekly harbour report—and if a ship’s destination jumps out to you, reach out to its operator. Then tell us how it goes for you. Definitely do that.

Now, let’s move on to what’s coming into port this week.

Monday, October 16

What’s Monday without a sprinkle of hope—and after a weekend of playoff dreams dashed, no less? The Tropic Hope container ship arrived at the South End Container Terminal around 6:40am. It came in from the US Virgin Islands and will depart Halifax for West Palm Beach, Florida on Tuesday evening.

Earlier this morning, the Atlantic Star ro-ro/container carrier berthed at the Fairview Cove Terminal. It arrived from Liverpool, UK and leaves Monday afternoon for New York City.

click to enlarge The secret to booking travel on a cargo ship? It’s tricky.
Hummelhummel / CC BY-SA 3.0
The Atlantic Star container ship returned to Halifax on Oct. 16, 2023.

The East Coast oil tanker came in from Charlottetown, PEI around 8am. It’s docked at the Irving Oil Terminal and will depart late Tuesday afternoon for Saint John, NB.

Two cruise ships and two more container ships round out the day’s arrivals: The 450-passenger Seabourn Quest and 740-passenger Crystal Serenity cruise ships arrive in Halifax around noon and 5pm, respectively, while the MSC Melissa and ZIM Asia container ships come in from Baltimore, Maryland and Valencia, Spain. Both the MSC Melissa and ZIM Asia are late in their arrivals: The former is five days behind its schedule, while the latter is eight days delayed.

Tuesday, October 17

The most famous pearls in Norway have been missing since 1995. They belonged in a diamond-and-pearl diadem once owned by Queen Maud, a London-born princess who, as royals are wont to do, married her first cousin. He later became the King of Norway. Maud’s tiara was a gift when she married her husband, then Prince Carl of Denmark, in 1896; it has been described as a “masterpiece of jewellery art” and “one of the most important sparklers in Norway.” But nearly a century later, the tiara disappeared: Armed robbers stole it from a jewellery repair shop in London. It hasn’t been seen since.

The Norwegian Pearl cruise ship, by contrast, will be visible at the Halifax Seaport for most of Tuesday morning and afternoon. It’s slated to dock at Berth 22 as it travels onward from Sydney to Portland, Maine.

click to enlarge The secret to booking travel on a cargo ship? It’s tricky.
Bernd Sieker (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The Norwegian Pearl cruise ship, seen in 2006, visits Halifax on Oct. 17, 2023.

Elsewhere in the harbour on Tuesday, the Explora I cruise ship, High Wind oil tanker and ONE Wren container ship are all due for arrival. The lattermost of the three is two weeks behind its sailing schedule and set to arrive from Norfolk, Virginia.

Wednesday, October 18

Three cruise ships visit Halifax Harbour on Wednesday: The 200-passenger Ocean Voyager, 2,050-passenger Vision of the Seas and 3,690-passenger Carnival Magic are all due to reach the Halifax Seaport between 6 and 11am. The Voyager arrives after stops in Quebec City, the Magdalen Islands and Charlottetown en route to Portland, Maine. The Vision of the Seas, meanwhile, is on the return leg of a nine-day sailing trip from Baltimore to Boston, then on to Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

On time as ever, the Oceanex Sanderling ro-ro/cargo carrier makes its weekly trip from St. John’s, NL and will berth at the Fairview Cove Terminal.

The 264-metre-long MSC Nisha V container ship is expected to reach the South End Container Terminal, five days behind schedule from Montreal.

Finally, the Pete Best of ro-ro/container carriers, the Atlantic Sail, is due at the Fairview Cove Terminal around 6pm.

Thursday, October 19

One of the most famous battles of the Greco-Persian wars occurred in a narrow pass in the southeast of Greece known as Thermopylae. There, records recount, an outnumbered Greek army fought off three days’ worth of attacks launched by a much larger Persian army under the rule of Xerxes. It was later dramatized in the film 300—and is absolutely the reason why people still shout “This is SPARTA!!” at Gerard Butler. It also inspired shipping giants Wallenius Wilhelmsen, who named one of their fleet’s vehicle carriers after the site of the battle.

The Thermopylae arrives in Halifax after an eight-day voyage from Southampton, UK. It’s due around 5:30am.

The 261-metre-long Navios Indigo container ship is set to arrive in Halifax a half-hour earlier, around 5am. It left Valencia, Spain on Oct. 10 and will depart Halifax for New York City by early Thursday evening.

The 3,080-passenger Emerald Princess cruise ship is expected to arrive around 9am. It’s in the home stretch of a seven-day round-trip voyage from New York through Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Three more container ships, plus a ro-ro/cargo carrier, wrap the day’s arrivals: The ONE Falcon, Lagarfoss and NYK Rigel container ships are due from Suez, Egypt; Portland, Maine and Antwerp, Belgium, respectively, while the Nolhan Ava makes its weekly trip from St. Pierre and Miquelon. Of those four, the Falcon is four days behind schedule.

Friday, October 20

The comic opera Don Pasquale follows the follies of an old and petty bachelor who wants to marry and father a child so he can finally cut his nephew out of his will. Hijinks ensue. Composed by Gaetano Donizetti and Giovanni Ruffini in 1842, it remains one of the most popular operas performed to this day. And even if the eponymous Don Pasquale never produced an heir, it seems the old man begat a legacy nonetheless: The Don Pasquale vehicle carrier arrives from Gothenburg, Sweden around 5:30am. In Italian fashion, it’s late—nearly five days behind schedule.

click to enlarge The secret to booking travel on a cargo ship? It’s tricky.
William Murphy / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The Silver Shadow cruise ship, seen in Dublin in 2013, arrives in Halifax on Friday, Oct. 20, 2023.

Both the 380-passenger Silver Shadow and 4,260-passenger Norwegian Escape cruise ships are expected to arrive in Halifax, at Berth 23 and 22, respectively. The former is in the middle of a 10-day trip from Quebec City to New York, while the latter is nearing the end of a seven-day trip from New York through Rhode Island, Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

The CSL Tacoma bulk carrier is due to reach Halifax around 1pm from Freeport, Bahamas.

Finally, the NYK Meteor and CMA CGM Jules Verne container ships are expected to arrive at the Fairview Cove Terminal and South End Container Terminal, respectively, around 5am and 2pm. The former is inbound from Cartagena, Colombia, while the latter wraps a six-day crossing from Tanger Med, Morocco.

Saturday, October 21

No rest on Saturday in Halifax Harbour: Six ships, including two cruise ships, three container ships and a vehicle carrier are all set to arrive. The Vistula Maersk, MSC Pratiti and MSC Surabaya VIII container ships are en route from Montreal; Sines, Portugal and Freeport, Bahamas, respectively. Of those three vessels, the Surabaya VIII is the largest, with a carrying capacity of 108,350 tonnes.

click to enlarge The secret to booking travel on a cargo ship? It’s tricky.
Kees Torn / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The Vistula Maersk, seen in Rotterdam in 2019. The Maersk arrives in Halifax on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023.

The 500-passenger MS Europa 2 and 210-passenger Pearl Mist cruise ships are due at Berth 22 and 23, inbound from Newport, Rhode Island and Pictou, respectively.

Lastly, the Siem Confucius philosopher-turned-vehicle carrier reaches Halifax around 10pm on Saturday, wrapping a 10-day Atlantic voyage from Emden, Germany.

Sunday, October 22

Final stretch, here we come! The Italians have a word, meraviglia, for something astonishing and wonderful. Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “the state of mind produced by something unexpected or extraordinary.” The MSC Meraviglia cruise ship is, indeed, astonishing for its size—at 316 metres, it’s longer than the Halifax Common between Robie Street and the roundabout at Agricola Street. The 4,485-passenger ship arrives in Halifax around 9am.

The 210-passenger Star Pride cruise ship is considerably smaller. It arrives from Sydney, en route to Eastport, Maine.

Four container ships bring the week’s arrivals to a close: The NYK Constellation, ONE Crane, CTM Istmo and Tropic Lissette are all expected to reach Halifax between 7am and 11pm. The Constellation is eight days behind schedule from Caucedo, Dominican Republic, with a stop in Saint John, NB. The Crane, meanwhile, is 12 days late and currently docked in Jacksonville, Florida.

About The Author

Martin Bauman

Martin Bauman, The Coast's News & Business Reporter, is an award-winning journalist and interviewer, whose work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Calgary Herald, Capital Daily, and Waterloo Region Record, among other places. In 2020, he was named one of five “emergent” nonfiction writers by the RBC Taylor Prize...
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