Europe to Oz by Sea

If you’d been going to Australia in the first half of the 20th century, you’d probably have caught the fortnightly P&O liner from Southampton to Sydney, taking several weeks.  These days, there are no regular passenger ships from the UK or Europe to Australia, only occasional round-the-world cruises and regular freighters which take a limited number of passengers.

  • How long does it take? By regular cargo-ship, the voyage from Tilbury (UK) to either Sydney or Melbourne (Australia) or Auckland (New Zealand) takes 32 to 42 days.  Most cargo shipping lines go to Sydney or Melbourne in Australia via the Suez canal, starting from Tilbury (UK), Hamburg (Germany), Rotterdam (Netherlands) or Dunkirk (France), though some head west via the Panama Canal.

  • How much does it cost? A voyage from Europe to Australia or New Zealand generally costs around £3,200-£4,000.  Looked at another way, that’s £100 or so per day for all food, transport and accommodation, which isn’t bad!

  • What’s travelling as a passenger on a freighter like? Ships typically carry up to 12 passengers in comfortable single or double cabins, often with en suite showers, fridge & TV, there’s a lounge & dining room (or passengers share the officers’ dining room), but obviously freighters have far fewer passenger facilities than a conventional passenger or cruise ship.   There’s often an age limit, with shipping lines not taking anyone over 75 or 80 years old.

  • How do I find out more, and buy a ticket? For general info on long-distance passenger travel by cargo ship, try the following sites: (a UK agency which books cruises and freighters, including several UK-Australia passenger-carrying freighter services), CruiseAZ &, or

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