A German friend of mine does it all the time. He speaks fluent English and so is not fussed much on which line he travels. He loves it and goes AWOL two or three times a year, generally from Bremen, leaving his wife at home. Being single, bi lingual and a hearty fellow he gets on well with all manner of crews and enjoys harbour sports with them as well. A perk which his wife probably suspects but being a woman sensible to the superior needs of man chooses to ignore. I would recommend the German ships from what I have been told and feel sure that since the Germans are an educated and civilised race of people, you'll have no difficulty communicating with the bridge officers in English.
Did a week long trip a few years ago, Rotterdam to Ireland and return. Polish Captain who swore profusely, Russian first officer who refused to speak to us and a Filipino crew. Spent most of the time on the bridge, steered the ship, sounded the horn and generally had a good time. Can be boring at times so take some books. Food was good and we ate with the Captain every day. You get plenty of exercise walking round the deck and climbing up and down the accommodation steps. Would deftinitely do it again.
....do modern freight ships ever stop anywhere interesting for more than a few hours? A friend's son became a deck officer having heard of his Dad's tales of stopovers in furrin parts, Bugis St in Singapore and other such salubrious spots. After a couple of years of 10/12 hour port stops to unload / load containers he gave it up to become an air trafficker.
Tiz called Tanker Blues,Tankers rarely lurk about in port for more than 12 hours,ergo serious cabin fever can ensue,once in port in Brazil for seven days because there was a revolution or summat going on,we thought christmas had come. On was skint after two days though.
Thanks again to all who have contributed and I am following up all links but this trip of mine is probably three or four years away. At the moment there are no schedules Melbourne-Singapore, 18 days, only via Auckland, 49 days!
As a lad I was brought up mid way between Portsmouth and Southampton, in the fifties, so for me it was either the merchant navy, 1st choice, or the Royal Navy but even with a few 'O' levels I couldn't get a place in the Navigation School in Southampton, competition was fierce, parents wouldn't sign the papers to let me go as a junior deck hand and I really didn't fancy the RN. Now I just want the experience of being at sea, as an observer, for a few weeks to satisfy my childhood craving. Not too worried about going ashore along the way. Watching all the ships come down Southampton Water going to far off places, (it was all published in the local rag), got in my blood! Eventually flying took care of the travel bug.
Mrs C, married to her worst nightmare - a pilot, hates flying with a passion. Back in the late 70's, she and her then husband travelled through Asia, Europe & the UK, over some three or four years. To avoid flying to Asia from Darwin, they travelled on a freighter of some sort, to Singapore.
After a collision at sea, near Singapore, they had to abandon ship.
I hate the sea more than she hates the air, this'll save me from ever being sunk!