Rome (Civitavecchia) To Baltimore, Transatlantic In Grimaldi Lines’ Twelve-Passenger Grande Congo

Grande Congo photograph copyright Frank Behrends

The Grande Congo and her sister ships can carry up to 12 passengers each

As well as Fiats, Italian-built Jeep Renegades and containers, each ship in Grimaldi Lines’ Civitavecchia-to-Baltimore service is fitted to carry up to twelve passengers. Rachel Slade crossed the Atlantic with her two stepsons on the Grande Congo in July. Here is what she wrote to us on her return to the US:

I just wanted to take a minute to thank you and Miri for a memorable journey and tremendous service.

We took a Grimaldi ro/con ship from Civitavecchia to Baltimore in July 2017. I cannot overstate how polite the master (Captain Francesco Rago) and crew were, and how welcome we felt during our 12-day cruise across the Atlantic. The food was delicious, and the espresso on the bridge every evening was unforgettable. The master taught my stepsons how to use a sextant and identify steering stars, and we learned a lot about Italian food and politics. We look forward to traveling with Grimaldi again someday.

But getting underway was a journey unto itself, and the whole ordeal gave me a chance to see how hard The Cruise People work to make sure their customers have a positive experience in the very unpredictable world of commercial shipping.

I first booked a ship through The Cruise People from Lisbon to Jacksonville for June. Within weeks, that entire shipping route was cancelled, forcing Miri to scramble to find me room for three passengers on another ship crossing the Atlantic during the high season. She finally found a Grimaldi ship, scheduled to leave Italy on June 21. We booked our flights from Boston, and waited in anticipation.

One day before we left the States, Kevin contacted us to let us know the ship would be delayed a couple of days, with a June 24 departure. Not a problem–we booked an AirBnB in Civitavecchia.

Then things got worse. When we got to Rome, I contacted the port agent who informed us that the ship had been rerouted to Turkey and wouldn’t leave Italy until July 1.

Kevin spent considerable time working with the shipping company to get the details, and helped us get a deduction on the cost of our passage, which was truly appreciated, considering the fact that we had to spend 10 extra days in Italy. It was a heroic effort, and made me feel that even in this era, some companies truly care about their clients’ experience.

When we finally got on the ship and headed out to sea, we were thrilled and relieved. Suffice it to say that we had terrific weather–sunny, warm–including a few days when the temperamental Atlantic Ocean was as flat as a sheet of glass. We truly appreciated the chance to unplug from the world for a week!

Thank you again for everything.

Grimaldi Lines Owners cabin bed room 1

The bedroom in a Grimaldi Lines Owners Cabin

For others who may be interested there is a sailing from Civitavecchia about every 11 days. The present ships on the route feature an Owners cabin and five Inside cabins and one-way fares from Italy to the USA are as follows:

Owners Category EM2: €1,700 (about US $1,905) per person for two
Outside Category DE2: €1,300 (about US $1,455) per person for two
Inside Categories DI2/BI2: €950 (about US $1,065) per person for two

Owners Category EM1: €2,300 (about US $2,575) for sole occupancy
Outside Category DE1: €1,700 (about US $1,905) for sole occupancy
Inside Categories DI1/BI1: €1,200 (about US $1,345) for sole occupancy

The duration of each voyage is about 11 days to Baltimore or 14 days to Jacksonville. The latest schedules call for departures from Civitavecchia on August 16 & 30, Sept 13 & 27, Oct 12 & 23, Nov 8 & 23, Dec 11 & 25.

For further details on booking a voyage with Grimaldi Lines or any other cargo-passenger service please contact Miri Lopusna at The Cruise People Ltd in London on +44 (0)20 7723 2450 or e-mail


Salerno Exchange Port For Israel For Passengers From The US, Transatlantic By CMA CGM And Transmed by Grimaldi Lines

With an increase in the number of passenger-carrying container ships working CMA CGM’s Amerigo Express Transatlantic service to four, Salerno has become the new exchange port for Israeli-bound passengers from the US.

CMA CGM’s transit time from Miami to Salerno is 17 days and Grimaldi Lines then operates weekly sailings from Salerno to Ashdod that take 9 days. Grimaldi ships return from Ashdod to Salerno in 5 days and CMA CGM then takes 19 days from Salerno to New York, and another 7 to return to Miami via Norfolk and Savannah.


The UK-flag CMA CGM Amber is one of four ships connecting Miami to Med ports that include Salerno, and returning via New York

The Transatlantic service is operated by the CMA CGM Amber and CMA CGM Coral, carrying five passengers each in an Owners cabin and three Singles, while CMA CGM Florida and CMA CGM Georgia each carry six passengers in two Doubles and one Twin cabin. These ships also offer a connection to Morocco by disembarking at Algeciras and taking the ferry across to Tangiers.

Grimaldi Line’s Italian-flag Grande Ellade and sister ships supply the link between Salerno (shown here) and Ashdod

The Transmed link is supplied by Grimaldi Lines’ Euro-Med service that also connects with Southampton and ports in Scandinavia and North Europe. Five ships, the Gran Bretagna, Grande Ellade, Grande Europa, Grande Mediterraneo and Grande Scandinavia, carry up to twelve passengers each in an Owners cabin, an Outside cabin and four Inside cabins.

For further details on how to book this service please call Miri Lopusna at The Cruise People Ltd in London on +44 (0)20 7723 2450 or by emailing

Grimaldi Lines Announces 12% Reduction For Europe – South America Departures In May And June 2017

Grande Francia

The Grande Francia and sister ships carry twelve passengers each

Grimaldi Lines in Naples has announced that for departures in May and June only, on the South America line, Antwerp/Hamburg/Tilbury – Montevideo/Brazil ports – Antwerp/Hamburg/Tilbury, and for full round voyages, a special reduction of 12% will be granted off passenger fares. This reduction does not apply to passages to and from Dakar.Grimaldi Lines South Atlantic routes

The full rotation of ports is Tilbury – Antwerp – Hamburg – Dakar – Vitoria – Rio de Janeiro – Santos – Paranagua – Montevideo – Santos – Rio de Janeiro – Vitoria – Dakar – Tilbury. Passenger vehicles are also accepted, but to and from Montevideo only.

Six ships are employed on this run, the 56,700-ton Grande Amburgo, Grande Brasil, Grande Buenos Aires, Grand Francia, Grand Nigeria and Grande San Paolo. Built in 2002-03, these sister ships carry up Grande Amburgo deck planto twelve passengers each in one Owners Cabin with double bed and separate dayroom, three outside cabins with twin beds and two inside cabins with upper and lower berths, all en suite. There is also a small gym and passengers dine with the officers.

For further details on any Grimaldi Lines voyage please call Miri Lopusna at The Cruise People Ltd in London on +44 (0)20 7723 2450 or email

Grimaldi Lines Announces Latest Rome To Baltimore and Jacksonville Passenger Dates (15.05.17)

Grimaldi Marocco © John Skelson

Grimaldi Lines’ Grande Marocco class ships carry 12 passengers each betwen Rome and Jacksonville via Baltimore

Grimaldi Lines last year announced a new cargo-passenger service between Civitavecchia (for Rome) and Baltimore, which has now been extended to Jacksonville, Florida..

Grimaldi is offering service between Civitavecchia and Jacksonville on ships carrying cargo including new automobiles for Fiat-Chrysler, including the Jeep Renegade. It may be possible later to book accompanied privately-owned vehicles as well. These ships carry up to twelve passengers each, the maximum allowed on a cargo ship.

One-way North Atlantic fares for 2016-17 are as follows:

Owners Category EM2: €1,700 (about US $1,905) per person for two
Outside Category DE2: €1,300 (about US $1,455) per person for two
Inside Categories DI2/BI2: €950 (about US $1,065) per person for two

Owners Category EM1: €2,300 (about US $2,575) for sole occupancy
Outside Category DE1: €1,700 (about US $1,905) for sole occupancy
Inside Categories DI1/BI1: €1,200 (about US $1,345) for sole occupancy

The duration of each voyage is about 11 days to Baltimore (14 days to Jacksonville) and there is a sailing about every 11 days. A new schedule has now been released, with departures from Civitavecchia as follows): May 25, June 8 & 30, July 5 & 19, August 2, 16 & 30, Sept 13, Oct 1, 15 & 28

These ships feature an Owners cabin and five Inside cabins.

For further details on booking a voyage on Grimaldi Lines or any other cargo-passenger service please contact Miri Lopusna at The Cruise People Ltd in London on +44 (0)20 7723 2450 or e-mail

Direct Europe-Australia Cargo-Passenger Trades Close – The End Of Direct Cargo-Passenger Service Between Europe and Hong Kong – Grimaldi Lines’ New Transatlantic Cargo-Passenger Service

The Cruise Examiner for 11th January 2016

Grande Napoli © Ingo Seidlitz

Grande Napoli is one of 7 ships in Grimaldi Lines’ North Atlantic service between Rome and Baltimore

Since our last cargo-passenger update on March 17, 2014, there have been many changes to these trades. A scheduling and slot sharing agreement called Ocean Three, which includes CMA CGM, China Shipping Container Lines and the United Arab Shipping Company, has seen many ships and routes change. Most significantly affecting passengers, the trades between Europe and Australia have lost all direct cargo-passenger connections save one lone ship that is full. Partly because of this agreement and partly because of increasing ship sizes, Hong Kong is no longer served direct from Europe either, meaning passengers must now embark or go ashore in nearby Yantian or Chiwan. Meanwhile, on the positive side, Grimaldi Lines has returned to the North Atlantic passenger trade for the first time in half a century with a new seven-ship cargo-passenger service between Rome’s port of Civitavecchia and Baltimore.

FOR THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                                                                              (See previous columns)

“Shipping Network” – Holidays in the hold – The Cruise People’s Kevin Griffin says take a trip on a cargo ship to get under the skin of shipping

This article appears in the December 2014 issue of “Shipping Network,” the official magazine of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers.

Holidays in the hold    by Kevin Griffin

CMA CGM Andromeda © Walter Rademacher

The UK-registered 2009-built CMA CGM Andromeda carries ten passengers in two twin cabins and three doubles

As many shipping people are aware, there are about 300 passenger-carrying cargo ships on world trade routes, ranging from shortsea vessels to the world’s largest container ships. These vessels, all built in recent years, are limited to a maximum of twelve passengers each, above which they must carry a doctor.

Still, it never fails to surprise us the number of people engaged in shipping who do not realise that cargo ships might carry passengers. Twice, we have had booked passengers to board in Long Beach who were told by the local agent that their ships did not carry passengers!

As container ships displaced cargo liners in the 1970s, much cargo-passenger activity faded away, but over the years the practice has been revived as the concept was introduced to container ships. The first container line to carry passengers was Hamburg-Süd in 1985.

The changed nature of the chartering of container ships today can, however, cause problems for would-be passengers. While once owners operated their own ships, today’s fleets are divided into owned, leased and chartered vessels, and since 2008 many of the latter have been operating on some very short charters.

This particularly affects Germany with its shipowning tax saving plans. When ships change charterers or are withdrawn from one route and moved to another this causes problems for passengers This is something passengers are made aware of when they book of course, but it’s still a disruption.

To take a German example, Niederelbe Schiffahrtsgesellschaft Buxtehude (NSB) turned to passenger carrying after an unusual start. Managing newly-built container ships owned by many individuals investing in the 1980s and 1990s ‘KG’ tax saving schemes, it set aside accommodation for the owners’ holidays.

But when investors did not make use of the cabins NSB offered them to the public. It now operates about 40 passenger-carrying container ships on routes that are determined by charterers such as CMA CGM, Evergreen Line, Hanjin, MSC and Zim.

Chairman’s call

CMA CGM owns 75 passenger-carrying cargo ships, 30 of which are registered in London. After adding the privatised CGM to CMA to form CMA CGM in 1996, chairman Jacques Saadé decided that new container ships should have passenger accommodation, usually for eight or 10 passengers. This was his way of commemorating famous French liners such as the Normandie and the France.

CMA CGM’s Panama Direct Service between Europe and Australia and New Zealand is fully booked eighteen months in advance. A round voyage takes 84 days and one-way bookings are also accepted. But while cabins for voyages to Australia are full, trade with China means that there is still plenty of space for those wishing to travel to and from the Far East. CMA CGM carried 874 passengers during 2013.

Grande Costa d'AvorioFor its part, Grimaldi Lines provides passenger accommodation in about 35 cargo ships. As they are of a unique design, they are the only cargo ships offering inside cabins. Other lines have a maximum age limit of 79, but Grimaldi will accept passengers up to 85. Its most popular services run from Tilbury to South America and from Southampton to the Mediterranean and Scandinavia.

Hamburg’s Rickmers Line, meanwhile, operates nine multi-purpose heavy lift ships in round-the-world service. Spending more time in port, they are popular with passengers. Passengers join in Singapore, sail to ports in Southeast Asia and the Far East, transit the Panama Canal and call on the US eastern seaboard before crossing the Atlantic to Antwerp, Hamburg and Genoa. Those wishing to sail all the way round the world can connect to Singapore from Europe or North America by container ship.

Polsteam operates to the Great Lakes and has a fleet of 11 ships that accept passengers. Carrying steel from IJmuiden to the lakes and loading grain out, they offer the last opportunity to travel on a “tramp” bulk carrier.

In light of the popularity of passenger transits on cargo ships, why have some owners such as Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd taken themselves entirely out of the passenger game, while others such as CMA CGM, Grimaldi and Hamburg-Süd have upped their ante with more ships? When Hapag-Lloyd bought out CP Ships in 2005, for example, it took 21 container ships out of the passenger game.

One reason owners like passengers is that in a poor market a few passengers can add a few hundred dollars a day to the time charter return. Another, more altruistic reason, is that their officers and crew feel less isolated and disconnected from the real world, a worthwhile reason indeed. Fares average about €100 per person per day.

Kevin Griffin MICS is managing director of Griffin Maritime Co Ltd and its affiliate The Cruise People Ltd. Further details at

Cruise Examiner Special – Slow Boat To China: Travel By Cargo Ship – Cruise Shipping Miami News To Follow Next Week

THE CRUISE EXAMINER at by Kevin Griffin

The Cruise Examiner for 17th March 2014..

Freighter Map

The subject of travel by cargo ship has received a good deal of coverage in the world press this quarter. In late December, The Financial Times dedicated most of a page to a feature called “A Freight Adventure.” In late January, the Wall Street Journal (above) did the same with a story entitled “Travel the World on Cargo Cruises.” And last month’s issue of The New Yorker carried a six-page essay on a voyage in a Rickmers Line multi-purpose cargo ship. So this week we bring you an update on that market, as published in “Pennant” magazine for May 2014.

Most of us know Slow Boat to China as part of the title of a popular 1948 song, but recent world events have made a revival of this expression quite appropriate. A decade ago, for example, a round trip from Le Havre to half a dozen ports in China and back on CMA CGM’s French Asia Line took 56 days (with 8 ships in a weekly service). Today, due to “slow steaming” in an effort to cut high fuel expenses, the same voyage takes 77 days (11 ships in the same weekly loop). On the same route, a one-way voyage from Southampton to Shanghai that used to take 25 days now takes 45. The situation is similar for Hong Kong.

CMACGMChopinatseaThese longer voyage times are mainly the result of higher fuel costs, as the amount of fuel consumed (and the cost) rises exponentially as speed is increased. It has been estimated, for example, that by reducing speed from 25 knots to 20 knots a container ship carrying 8,000 twenty-foot-equivalent containers from Europe to the Far East can save 2,550 tonnes of fuel, or about $1,785,000 on a single voyage. The other benefit of slow steaming is substantially reduced emissions.

There are now about 300 passenger-carrying cargo ships trading on world routes, ranging from small short-sea vessels to the world’s largest container ships. These vessels are limited to a maximum of twelve passengers each (above which a doctor must be carried) and many have been built in recent years. Passengers dine with the officers, are allowed to visit the bridge and on French and Italian ships table wine is complimentary with lunch and dinner, while other lines sell wine and beer at genuinely duty free prices.

cma-cgm-marco-polo2Although some think that there are fewer cargo ships carrying passengers today than in the past this is not true. There has actually been a renaissance in cargo ship travel. Admittedly, many lines have dropped out of this trade over the past fifteen years, in particular companies such as Bank Line, Blue Star Line, CP Ships, Fyffes, Geest, Hanseatic Shipping, Egon Oldendorff and P&O Nedlloyd. But many of these more traditional lines only operated between one and four ships each, while today the chief players operate fleets of dozens of large new container ships.

CMA CGM, for example, operates 75 passenger-carrying cargo ships. After adding the privatised CGM (the French Line) to his own privately-owned CMA to form CMA CGM in 1996, chairman Jacques Saadé decided that new container ships should be built with passenger accommodation, most often five to seven cabins for 10 to 12 passengers. This was his way of commemorating the heritage of legendary French liners such as the Ile de France, Normandie and France. In fact, CMA CGM’s passenger section got its start in the Public Relations department. The line carried 662 passengers on its container ships in 2012.

While the Transatlantic services of the Cunard Line and the Queen Mary 2 are well known, very few know that CMA CGM still operates its own historic trans-Atlantic service, one that dates back to 1862, year-round every week of the year. This is the French West Indies Line, whose four ships each carry 12 passengers on a 28-day round voyage that begins in Le Havre and takes in Martinique and Guadeloupe.  One-way voyages are also available.

cma-cgm-manetWhile cabins are usually available on the French West Indies Line, CMA CGM’s popular Panama Direct Service from Tilbury to Australia and New Zealand is fully booked eighteen months in advance. A full round voyage take 84 days but one-way bookings can also be made. An interesting route for North Americans is CMA CGM’s Columbus Loop service, which connects New York with Seattle and Vancouver via the Suez Canal and the Far East. New York to Seattle is 60 days while Seattle to New York is 52 days and crossing North America by rail will complete a world circuit.

Hanjin Amsterdam © VesseltrackerGermany’s Niederelbe Schiffahrtsgesellschaft Buxtehude (NSB) started carrying passengers in a different way. As its newly-built container ships were financed by individual investors, accommodation was set aside for the use of these shareholders. After some time, however, NSB found that the shareholders were not making use of the cabins so it put them on sale to the general public, and now operates about 40 passenger-carrying container ships. One of its more interesting routes is the Hanjin Lines service between Italy, the Far East and California, a full round voyage of 91 days. La Spezia to Long Beach is 42 days and includes calls in Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong and two ports in China, while Oakland to Naples is 44 days with calls in Pusan, three ports in China, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Grande Costa d'AvorioGrimaldi Lines of Naples once operated passenger liners in the trans-Atlantic trades and retired its last cruise ship, the 11,879-ton Ausonia, in 1996. Today it provides passenger accommodation in about 35 cargo ships. All of these carry the maximum of twelve passengers allowed on a cargo ship, but as they are combination container, vehicle and roll on-roll off carriers of a different design, Grimaldi is the only cargo ship operator offering inside cabins. While other lines have maximum age limits of either 75 or 79, Grimaldi will accept passengers up to 85. Its most popular services are from Tilbury to South America (a 51-day round voyage) and from Southampton around the Mediterranean and Scandinavia (a 35-day round voyage).

LubieThe Polish Steamship Company, which operates into the Great Lakes, has a fleet of 11 ships that carry passengers. Carrying steel from Europe and loading grain out of the Great Lakes, these offer the last opportunity to travel on a bulk carrier. As the destinations for the outbound grain cargoes are not known until the last minute, it is almost like an old-fashioned tramp voyage. The cargo could be bound for anywhere in Europe or possibly even North Africa and the destination is not known until just a few days before sailing.

RickmersAntwerpThe Rickmers Line, meanwhile, operates nine multi-purpose heavy lift project ships in a round-the-world service. These ships carry project and general cargo and heavy lifts as well as containers, and tend to spend more time in port than pure container ships. Each is fitted to carry up to seven passengers. Passengers join ship in Singapore and sail to Vietnam, Shanghai, Dalian, Xingang, Qingdao, Masan in South Korea, Kobe and Yokohama, cross the Pacific and transit the Panama Canal. They then call at Houston, New Orleans and Philadelphia before crossing the Atlantic to Antwerp, Hamburg and Genoa. Depending on the cargo, calls can also be made in Indonesia, Thailand or Taiwan. Passengers wishing to sail all the way round the world need to connect by container ship from either Europe or North America and then change ship in Singapore.

As well as long-haul cargo ships, two island supply routes, one each in the Atlantic and Pacific, carry passengers.  Unlike pure cargo ships, these ships carry doctors, which makes them convenient for passengers above the age limits who are still fit. One ship will soon be retiring while the other is due to be replaced by a larger vessel.

St HelenaThe British-flag RMS St Helena trades from Cape Town to the islands of St Helena and Ascension about every three weeks, carrying a maximum of 156 passengers. As well as supplying the islands, she carries workers between St Helena and Ascension. An airport is due to open in St Helena in February 2016, however, after which sea travel will no longer be a necessity. As the St Helena is approaching twenty-five years of age and will be retired when the airport opens, now is the time to make this voyage before it is too late.

Aranui 5The French-flag Aranui 3, on the other hand, carries about 200 passengers and is due to be replaced. Sailing every three weeks from Papeete,Tahiti, to the Marquesas and Tuamotu Islands, the Aranui 3 operated at 90% of capacity in 2011, carrying 2,200 passengers. Her replacement, Aranui 5, now being built in China, is due to enter service in June 2015. Aranui 5 will carry 296 passengers, of whom 228 will be cruise passengers. Many of the cabins will have balconies and there will be 62 deluxe cabins on Aranui 5 as compared to just 24 on the Aranui 3.

As only thousands cruise in cargo ships compared to the millions that travel on cruise ships, just a few specialist agencies book them. Typical fares are in the region of €100 (about £87 or $145) per person per day and a further good source of information is The Internet Guide To Freighter Travel at

For further details please call Miri Lopusna at The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail

FOR FURTHER DETAILS                                                                               (See previous columns)