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What is a cruise ship tender?

If you’re new to cruising, you may have heard of tenders or tenders, but you may be confused about what they are.

What is a tender on a cruise ship? I’m here to explain (and it has nothing to do with chicken).

What is a tender on a cruise?

Celebrity Edge’s “magic carpet” makes it easy for you to bid. TIM AYLEN/CELEBRITY TOURS

Several cruise ports – including Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; Santorini, Greece; and Sorrento, Italy – do not allow ships to dock due to lack of infrastructure or shallow waters that could cause larger ships to run aground if they get too close to land.

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In other cases, cruise ships will sometimes anchor offshore if the port is crowded and there is not enough dock space. This often happens in Juneau, Alaska, which has only four berths but can accommodate up to six ships arriving on the same day.

In those cases, the ship anchors offshore and passengers must take a cruise ship to dock. On a cruise, tendering is the process of using smaller boats to carry passengers from their moored vessel to shore.

What is a tender boat?

Photo taken from aboard a small boat taking passengers from Half Moon Cay back to Holland America’s Rotterdam cruise ship. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/VOICE POINT

Depending on the port, shipping line and any local agreements that may be in place, tenders may be boats operated by people living in the destinations the ship visits, or they may be lifeboats the vessel itself, lowered into the water and used. for cruiser transport. Most lines call boats tenders, but some lines, e.g Festival cruise lineprefer the term “water shuttle”.

Tender sailings are free, but on some larger ships, to keep things orderly and fair, you may have to report in advance to get a tender number that tells you the order in which you can leave ship. Your ship will also tell you what time the last boat departed to return from shore to board the ship.

Living room, member of the cruise line’s loyalty program With top status, booked cruisers depart early on cruise-sponsored tours and other VIPs will often be allowed to board the tenders first to depart before regular passengers.

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Tendering versus on-the-road assembly: Pros and cons

The view from a tender boat taking passengers back to Carnival Firenze. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/VOICE POINT


The tender allows cruise lines to take passengers to more port destinations. Shuttles can provide access to ports you might not be able to visit because the water is too shallow or they don’t have piers equipped to accommodate cruise ships.

Additionally, if you are someone who enjoys taking a photo of a beautiful ship, the gentle boats will be a perfect vantage point to capture that beautiful ship photo.


Although cruise tenders allow ships to access ports without the need for berths, the process also has disadvantages. Passengers with mobility problems, especially those using walkers, scooter or wheelchair, it can be difficult to get on boats as they bob up and down on the water. (In most cases, walkers, scooters, and wheelchairs are allowed on cruise ships, and crew members can assist with soft boarding. Check with your cruise line to confirm know specific information.)

Tendering also takes time, meaning the disembarkation process will eat into the time you have to explore in port. You may have to wait in a long line to get on the train.

The boats can be stuffy and crowded, which is not an ideal way to end a fun day off. Cruisers are susceptible seasick often feel nauseous during these water trains.

Finally, port calls may be canceled entirely for safety reasons due to inclement weather. If the water is too turbid to safely allow passengers to gently board the boat, the cruise line will bypass that port of call.

Bottom line

Tendering on a cruise provides a way for passengers to visit ports where there are no docks. You can help set expectations and minimize challenges for yourself if you understand that ports of call can be canceled or disrupted due to weather conditions and that they can pose challenges for restricted passengers. restrict mobility.

If you use a walker, wheelchair, or scooter, check with your cruise line for their policy on bringing such devices ashore in case a tender is required.

Once you book, many cruise lines will list in their itineraries whether each port is a port of call or a port where your ship will berth at the dock. If you have trouble finding that information or need it before booking, contact your travel agent or cruise line through the accessibility page on their website.

Have more questions about the itinerary? TPG has the answer:

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