The Travel Editor replies: Travelling on a cargo ship is not as easy as it once was. These days there are far too many rules and regulations for ship's captains to be able to take people on board on a discretionary basis.
Nevertheless, there is one company which acts as a kind of agency between ships and potential fee-paying passengers. Strand Voyages (tel: 0171-836 6363), representing 38 cargo shipping lines, produces a brochure detailing regular sailings from UK ports to destinations throughout the world. You get your cabin and all meals, but without any of the glitz and razzamatazz of a full-blown cruise. For company, you will have merchant seamen rather than tourists.
You have not mentioned whether you have a particular destination in mind, but possibilities include the following. To the USA there is about one sailing a month to Wilmington. The crossing takes nine days and costs pounds 645 one way - which is, in fact, a bargain, when you consider that this includes full-board accommodation.
There are also plenty of crossings to Canada, Mexico, South Africa, Pakistan, the Far East, the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand. Strand Voyages tells me it has a few berths available for sailings to New Zealand and Australia departing this week, travelling via the Pacific (you'll see the Panama Canal and Tahiti en route). The five-to-six week crossing, which in this case departs from Le Havre or Antwerp, will cost slightly less than pounds 2,000.Reuse content