Emma Cruises

Cruise Ship Tendering – 5 Tips You NEED to Know

If you’re taking a cruise you may have to ‘tender’ to get to land. I’ve been on a number of cruises where this has been the case and I actually find it quite fun.

There are many benefits as well as disadvantages of tendering on a cruise. Not all itineraries have tender ports but some may have multiple.

What Does Tender Mean on a Cruise Ship?

Tendering is where guests use a lifeboat, or smaller boat, to get from the cruise ship to the port. Tendering usually happens when the ship is too big to dock in a certain port or the port is already occupied by another ship.

Guests are able to find out prior to a cruise if a port it tendered as it is detailed on the itinerary.

Can you see before the cruise if you need to tender?

If you are worried about tendering or would prefer not to, you can usually see on the cruise itinerary before you book if the ports are docked or tendered. It certainly is possible to avoid cruises which require tendering. If you chose a cruise with city ports you more than likely, won’t have to tender.

When you book your cruise your itinerary will say if ports are docked or tendered. Below is my itinerary for my weekend cruise with Celebrity Cruises. At the end of this post is a list of the most popular cruise tender ports in the USA, the Caribbean and Europe. It is possible to find out if almost any port is a tender port

cruise ship docking or tendering

Cruise Ship Tendering Tips:

Don’t rush to get the first tender.

I would recommend not rushing to get off on the first tender, I much prefer to have a leisurely breakfast and an explore of the ship without all of the guests!

Tendering is much nicer when you don’t have to line up. If you are on an organised excursion with the cruise line you will, more than likely, meet on the ship and tender off together. In some circumstances, you may be asked to meet on land so make sure you’ve allowed extra time for this.

Head to The Front of the Tender or Top Deck if You Get Seasick

Go to the front of the tender by the windows (or the top) if you get seasick. The breeze will make you feel better. When embarking the tender the crew will usually direct you to a seat if you ask to be seated at the front or on the top, most crew will happily let you do so.

Don’t Wait Until The Last Tender to Come Back

Don’t come back an hour or two before the last tender, this will be the busiest time. If you can come back a few hours before you will skip the queues. Alternatively, you could leave it to last minute and get the last tender, but I wouldn’t be brave enough to do that.

Take Photos of The Ship From The Tender

Use the tender as an opportunity to take photos! It is rare that you will ever see a cruise ship from the ocean so make the most of it. It really is difficult to get an idea of scale until you are right beside the ship.

What boats are used as tender boats?

The tender boats are usually lifeboats from the ship but sometimes can be through an external company. When tendering it is common for multiple tenders to be running at the same time. Passengers will usually queue onboard and be loaded onto the tenders as they arrive.

Cruise ship lifeboats can usually hold around 150-200 passengers, they certainly aren’t cramped and only the biggest lifeboats will be used in the tender process.

cruise ship tendering vietnam princess cruises orange tender boat

Seasickness and cruise ship tendering

I am quite a travel sick person. I get travel sick in cars, coaches, boats etc. However, I have never have had any problem with tenders. The journey usually only takes around 10-20 minutes and for some reason, my body doesn’t think that’s long enough to make me seasick. There is also usually a breeze in the tender which makes me feel better.

If you do still feel unwell I would recommend taking some seasickness tablets.

13 Actionable Tips to Prevent and Treat Seasickness on a Cruise

The drawbacks of tendering:

It takes time.

The actual transit time isn’t usually too long but when you ad waiting for the tender at both ends, loading people into the boat etc the whole experience can take some time. It is definitely slower than docking in the traditional sense where you just walk off the ship.

  • The boat isn’t particularly comfortable
  • You normally have to queue up to get a return tender

The benefits of tendering:

  • You can take some brilliant photos of your ship!
  • Can visit small islands
  • I quite enjoy the tender, it’s like a free boat trip (sort of).

cruise ship tendering view from tender looking at cruise ship

How does tendering work?

Most cruise lines offer a ticket system if you want to get off soon after anchoring. The ticket system will give you a tender time to get off the ship.

Usually, if you wait for an hour or two you don’t have to get a ticket and can tender off when you like.

On some cruise lines having a loyalty status will get you priority tendering, I have this with Norwegian Cruise Line but I have never used it.

There is no such ticket system to get back on the ship, all you have to do is go back to where you got off the tender, show your cruise card and wait for the next boat.

cruise ship tendering golden princess asia view of ship from ocean

There are steps involved and a gap to step across between the ship and the boat. This can make it difficult for people with limited mobility.

Having said that I have been on cruises with my Gran who has never had any problem with tendering.

On some cruise lines guests may be asked to prove that they can step a certain distance before being allowed to tender, I believe this is the same if you have small children/babies, you must prove that you can carry/pass them over the gap.

Can cruise ship tenders operate in bad weather?

Tendering does mean that there is a higher chance of the port being skipped if the weather is bad. The tender boats are small and it wouldn’t be a pleasant ride in strong winds. The cruise line cannot risk having guests off the ship and it is too unsafe to get them back to the ship.. so a better safe than sorry approach is normally adopted.

Tender ports in the Caribbean:

Cap Cana, Dominican Republic Cienfuegos, Cuba Devil’s Island, French Guiana Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands Gustavia, St Barthelemy Half Moon Cay, Bahamas Saint Kitts, St Kitts and Nevis Saint John, US Virgin Islands Terre-de-Haut, Guadeloupe

Tender ports in the US:

Avalon, California Bar Harbor, Maine Gloucester, Massachusetts Icy Strait Point, Alaska Kona, Hawaii Island, Hawaii Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii Monterey, California Newport, Rhode Island Nome, Alaska Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts Santa Barbara, California Sitka, Alaska

Tender ports in Europe, Africa and the Middle East:

Agadir, Morocco Alghero, Sardinia, Italy Alter Do Chao, Portugal Argostóli, Nissos Kefalonia, Greece Bantry, Ireland Djúpivogur, Iceland Fishguard, Wales Flåm, Norway Geiranger, Norway Heimaey, Iceland Horta, Azores, Portugal Ilfracombe, England Isafjördur, Iceland Korcula, Otok Korcula, Croatia Korsakov, Russia Kotor, Montenegro Le Palais, France Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland Lüderitz, Namibia Mamoudzou, Mayotte Mgarr (Victoria), Malta Monte Carlo, Monaco Mykonos, Nisos Mykonos, Greece Náfplion, Greece Nanortalik, Greenland Nosy Be, Madagascar Ny Alesund, Spitsbergen, Norway Nynäshamn, Sweden Paamiut (formerly Frederikshåb), Greenland Petropavlovsk, Russia Plymouth, England Ponza, Isola di Ponza, Italy Port Elizabeth, South Africa Portoferraio, Elba, Italy Portree, Isle of Skye, Scotland Qaqortoq, Greenland Santorini, Greece Sarandë, Albania South Queensferry (Edinburgh), Scotland Split, Croatia St Helier, Jersey St Peter Port, Guernsey Stornoway, Scotland Taormina, Italy Tobermory, Scotland Trincomalee, Sri Lanka Ullapool, Scotland Visby, Sweden Zanzibar

Tendering is all part of the fun. You’re on holiday! Sit back and enjoy.

tender on cruise

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Eddie Thomson

Tuesday 2nd of January 2024

Bolivia City, Bolivia is a tender port as well.

You May Feel Movement on a Cruise Ship – Here’s When and Why – Emma Cruises

Thursday 19th of November 2020

[…] In some ports, you may have to take a tender to get to land. A tender is a little boat which takes you to land from the cruise ship. If this happens you won’t feel any movement when docking because the cruise ship will simply drop the anchor. To learn more about the tendering process, (and learn how to skip the lines), check out this post: Cruise Ship Tendering and Tips 2019 […]

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What is cruise ship tendering?

Ashley Kosciolek

If you're new to cruising, you've likely heard of tendering or tender boats, but you might 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 tendering on a cruise?

tender on cruise

Some cruise ports — including Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; Santorini, Greece; and Sorrento, Italy — don't allow ships to dock, due to either lack of infrastructure or shallow waters that would cause larger vessels to run aground if they got too close to land.

For cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG's cruise newsletter .

In other instances, cruise ships will sometimes anchor offshore if ports are crowded and there isn't enough dock space. This often happens in Juneau, Alaska, which has only four berths but can receive as many as six ships in port on the same day.

In those cases, ships anchor offshore and passengers are required to take a cruise ship tender to land. On a cruise, tendering is the process of using smaller boats to ferry passengers from their anchored vessel to shore.

What is a tender boat?

tender on cruise

Depending on the port, the cruise line and any local agreements that might be in place, tenders can be boats operated by people who live in the destinations ships visit, or they can be a ship's own lifeboats, which are lowered into the water and used to transport cruisers. Most lines refer to the boats as tenders, but some lines, such as Carnival Cruise Line , prefer the term "water shuttles."

Tender rides are free, but on some larger ships, to keep things orderly and fair, you might have to report ahead of time to get a tender number that will tell you the order in which you can disembark the vessel. Your ship will also let you know what time the last tender boat leaves to return from shore for all-aboard.

Suite guests, cruise line loyalty program members with top-tier status, cruisers booked on early departures of ship-sponsored tours and other VIPs will often be allowed on the first tender boat departures ahead of regular passengers.

Tendering vs. docking on a cruise: Pros and cons

tender on cruise

Tendering allows cruise lines to take passengers to a larger variety of port destinations. Water shuttles can provide access to ports you might not be able to visit otherwise because the water is too shallow or they don't have piers equipped to handle cruise ships.

Additionally, if you're a sucker for a great ship photo, tender boats provide a perfect vantage point to snap that scenic ship shot.

While cruise tenders allow ships access to ports without docks, the process does have its downfalls. Passengers with mobility issues, especially those who use walkers, scooters or wheelchairs , might have difficulty boarding the boats as they bob in the water. (In most cases, walkers, scooters and wheelchairs are allowed on cruise tenders, and crew members can offer assistance with boarding tender boats. Check with your cruise line for specifics.)

Tendering also takes time, which means the process of getting ashore will eat into the time you have to explore in port. You might have to wait in a long line for your turn to board.

The boats can be stuffy and crowded, which is a less-than-ideal way to end a fun day of vacation. Cruisers who are prone to seasickness often feel queasy in these water shuttles.

Finally, calls on tender ports can be canceled completely for safety reasons due to inclement weather. If the water is too choppy to allow passengers to board the tender boats safely, the cruise line will skip that port of call.

Bottom line

Tendering on a cruise offers a way for passengers to visit ports where docking facilities are unavailable. You can help to set expectations and mitigate challenges for yourself if you understand that tender ports can be canceled or interrupted due to weather conditions, and they can present challenges for passengers with limited mobility.

If you use a walker, wheelchair or scooter, check with your cruise line to see what its policies are for taking those devices ashore in the event tendering is required.

After you book, many cruise lines list on their itineraries whether each port is a tender port or one where your ship will tie up at a pier. If you have trouble locating that information or need it ahead of booking, reach out to your travel agent or cruise line via the accessibility page on its website.

Got more cruise questions? TPG has answers:

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Should Be Cruising

Everything You Need to Know About Tender Ports and Tender Boats on a Cruise

By: Author Carrie Ann Karstunen

Posted on Published: May 28, 2020  - Last updated: June 29, 2022

Everything You Need to Know About Tender Ports and Tender Boats on a Cruise

On a cruise, a tender port is one where the ship doesn’t dock at a pier. Instead, the cruise ship drops anchor offshore and passengers are ferried to land on smaller boats, called “tenders”.

Cruise lines usually specify which ports of call on each itinerary will be tender ports, and passengers have the opportunity to obtain tender tickets if they wish to go ashore.

When you’re planning a cruise, you might notice that some port descriptions will say, “ this is a tender port .” Or you might see that tender boats or “tenders” are mentioned.

Confused? Don’t worry. I’ll explain everything you need to know about tender boats and tender ports on a cruise.

Why do cruise lines have tender ports?

Some cruise ports have shallow harbors that don’t allow for today’s massive cruise ships to pull right up to a pier. Other ports only have a limited amount of berths at their piers, so any extra ships that visit just don’t have a spot available.

Or, as in the case of some cruise line private islands , they haven’t built a pier yet!

Why is it called a tender port?

Usually when we think of the word tender , it’s in the context of something being gentle and caring (a tender kiss), or soft (a tender cut of meat). But tender ports have nothing to do with being gentle or soft!

The word tender has been used nautically since at least the late seventeenth century , meaning a “small boat used to attend larger ones”. It actually comes from the Middle English verb  tenden , meaning “to attend to”.

On a cruise, “tender” can be used as a noun (“We’re going to take a tender to the island”), a verb (“We’re going to tender to the island”), or an adjective (“We’re going to take the tender boat to the island”).

In the most common usage with today’s cruise lingo , “tender port” is used as an adjective to describe a port that cruisers need to access via a small boat.

You might say something like, “Yesterday we had a tender port at Princess Cays , but thankfully this morning we can pull right up to the dock at Nassau “.

How do you know if a port will be a tender port?

Cruise lines will note in the itinerary if a port requires tenders. You’ll see this in your cruise planner on the cruise line’s website, or ask your travel agent if you’re not sure.

During your cruise, you’ll also get a reminder in your daily newsletter before visiting a tender port.

However, remember that cruise ports of call are always subject to change at any time. You might have a scheduled tender port changed to a docked port (or vice-versa).

Unpredictable weather can alter a cruise’s itinerary, causing the Captain to change ports or skip the port altogether.

What boats do cruises use to tender passengers?

Tenders on your cruise generally will be one of three types of boat:

  • Lifeboats from the cruise ship
  • Privately-owned boats from the port
  • Tenders owned by the cruise line kept at the port

Maximum occupancy on most tender boats is generally between 100 and 150 passengers .

So on a cruise ship that holds thousands of guests, tender operations can take quite some time, even if they use several boats!

How do you get a tender ticket?

Years ago when I was researching my very first cruise, I noticed there were a few tender ports on our itinerary. Wanting to make sure that all of our major expenses were pre-paid before we left for vacation, I started searching for instructions on how to pay for our tender tickets.

Silly me, tender tickets are free! But you do need to get them on board for each port as soon as you can. Tickets are issued on a first-come-first-served basis.

On most major cruise lines, you’ll need to get one tender ticket for your group or each member of your party for each tender port.

Read your daily newsletter carefully each day! It will list times and locations to pick up your tickets. Tickets often will be available the afternoon before you’ll be tendering, as well as the morning of.

Many cruise lines will set up an area (often in the theater) where a crew member hands out tender tickets to passengers during specific times. Be sure to note the times listed in the newsletter. You won’t be able to pick up a ticket at these locations outside of those times.

Tip: Pick up your tender tickets the day before you visit the tender port if you want a popular tender time. Early tickets go fast!

Are there any restrictions for tendering?

Tender boats don’t have age or weight restrictions for cruise passengers. However, if you have mobility challenges , you might not be able to board the tender.

Some cruise lines require that guests be able to step on and off of tender boats with only minimal assistance. Most tenders have at least a couple of steps you’ll need to use to get on and off of the boat.

Wheelchair-accessible cruise tenders with roll-on capability aren’t very common. Often, passengers who use a wheelchair and are unable to walk won’t be allowed to board a tender.

Some cruise lines specify that their crew will only carry a passenger on board in a wheelchair if the total weight is less than 100 pounds (45.5 kg). That rules out most people (except for some children) because they include the weight of the mobility device in the total.

Tip: For wheelchair users, reach out to your cruise line before you sail. Ask what their specific rules are regarding boarding a tender in a wheelchair . It’s also a good idea to speak with a customer service manager on board at least a few days before arriving in port. A timely heads-up might make them more willing to help you if they’re able.

Can any cruise passengers get priority tendering?

Passengers who’ve booked shore excursions directly through the cruise line will have priority tendering to make sure the tour groups meet their guides on time.

Some cruise lines also offer priority tendering to passengers who are at a high level in their loyalty program. Some also extend this privilege to guests staying in a full suite.

If you’re sailing on a Carnival cruise, you can pay a little extra for this perk! They allow passengers who purchase their “ Faster to the Fun ” pass to have priority tendering as well.

Priority access is only available for ship-to-shore tendering. When returning to the ship, all passengers wait in the same line.

Tip: Booked an independent shore excursion at a tender port? It’s a good idea to get the earliest tender ticket you can. Tender operations can run behind schedule, and your tour operator won’t wait very long if you’re late to the meeting point. It’s better to have some time to kill on land than to miss your excursion entirely!

Do you have to pick up a tender ticket to return to the ship?

You’ll only need a tender ticket to travel from the ship to shore. On the way back, you won’t need a ticket to return to the ship. However, you’ll need to wait in line, and those lines can be long at peak times!

Plan to return with plenty of time to avoid missing the last tender. Final tender times are published in the daily newsletter, and are also on signs as you’re leaving the cruise ship.

Tip: You might need to stand in a long line in full sun while waiting to board your tender. Reapply your sunscreen, and carry a hat and a lightweight layer to avoid a late-day sunburn. Some cruise lines will offer water while you wait, but don’t rely on that at every port.

What is open tender on a cruise?

If you missed getting a tender ticket or you overslept and missed your tender time, you’ll still have a chance to get to shore. (If you miss your tender time I’d still recommend asking if you can board with another group, but there are no guarantees.)

After all the scheduled tender groups are called, the tendering process will change to “ Open Tender “. From this time on, passengers without a tender ticket will be allowed to get off the ship.

Often, a specific time for Open Tender is posted, but this schedule can be pushed back if tendering takes longer than expected.

If you decide to wait for Open Tender, just know that you might have to wait for the remaining passengers with scheduled tender tickets to board their boats.

Will you get seasick on a tender boat?

Modern cruise ships, with their vast size and high-tech stabilizers, usually don’t cause passengers to feel much of the sea’s motion—except in stormy weather.

But small tender boats don’t have those things going for them, so they definitely can rock on the waves!

Some ship’s tenders are pontoon-style, which are known for their stability. But if the conditions are choppy, you’re going to feel it!

If you have a tendency to seasickness or motion sickness, be sure to take an OTC remedy (lots of cruisers swear by Bonine ) at least an hour before boarding the tender boat.

Or see your doctor before your cruise to find out if you might need a scopolamine patch or other prescription meds.

Most cruise tender rides last only about ten to fifteen minutes, so at least it won’t be a long, rough journey!

Read more: How to Avoid Getting Seasick on a Cruise

Why are tender ports skipped more often than docked ports?

If it’s stormy or the seas are rough, your Captain may choose to change ports or skip a tender port completely. Transferring thousands of passengers in and out of smaller boats in bad weather just isn’t a risk that the cruise lines want to take!

For passenger safety, the Captain is more likely to cancel a stop at a tender port compared to a docked port if the weather isn’t cooperating. If the weather is really bad, docked ports can also be canceled. It’s not only tender ports that can be nixed!

Weather conditions can change rapidly at sea. When you choose a cruise itinerary with tender ports, there’s a higher risk that your stop will be canceled or changed to another location.

Have a question that I haven’t answered about tender ports of call or tender boats on a cruise? Ask me in the comments below!

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Norwegian Joy ship at sea.

Monday 1st of April 2024

how deep must a channel be for 100 passenger tender boat be to go thru

Carrie Ann Karstunen

Saturday 6th of April 2024

Hi Al, I can't give you an exact number, mainly because tenders aren't always the same type of craft. However, they're often lifeboats - which usually don't have a very deep draft.

Friday 25th of August 2023

I've been all over the internet and can't find the answer. Perhaps it's glaringly obvious but...how do you know what tender to take back when returning to the ship?

Saturday 26th of August 2023

Hi Kevin, you just return to the spot where the tender from the ship dropped you off, and get in line for the next boat to go back to the ship. The cruise line will have signs and crew members there, and there's often a sizable line of passengers waiting, so you can't miss it! Hope this helps, and happy cruising!

Lynette Smith

Saturday 10th of September 2022

Do you know how high the tender steps are to get down and up. My husband has a hard time with steps do to his knees

Hi Lynette, thanks for the question. Tender boats on cruise ships can really vary. Even at the same port, you might be faced with a different type of boat at different times of day! I wish I could give you a solid answer to your question, but with variations from boat to boat I can only give you a general answer (I also don't know the degree of your husband's knee issues).

In general, to get on and off of most cruise ship tender boats, you'll have a short step or two up, then a few steps down. The steps going down into the tender (and back out again) are generally a bit steeper. It's usually not more than 2-3 stairs going in and out.

If he's fine with walking up or down a few (steep-ish) steps in potentially rocky wave conditions (with handrails and a crewmember lending a hand from the gangway to the landing), I'm guessing he'll be fine.

The one issue on some tenders that could pose an issue is if the lower level of the boat is full and you have to head to the top deck. Some tenders have a full flight of steep metal stairs (with railings) to access the top level.

My advice? If the boat looks full, let the crew know he can't climb the steps to the top deck before you board the tender. Best case scenario is that they ask for volunteers to move upstairs to make room on the lower level. Worst case is you'll need to wait to be the first guests on the next tender. Hope this helps!

Monday 5th of September 2022

Are there port fees at tender ports? If the ship manages to drop anchor but then is unable to run tenders due (for example) to bad visibility, are the port fees refunded?

Hi Dave, thanks for the question! Yes, at tender ports (just like docked ports) port taxes and fees are assessed. You'll have pre-paid these fees by the time final payment is due for your sailing. If any port stop is canceled, the cruise line will refund you the taxes and fees for that specific stop.

If (like in the scenario you asked about) your ship drops anchor but no tenders go out, guests will still be refunded for those fees. But usually, the captain would make the call for weather-related reasons well before approaching the port to drop anchor.

When foul weather causes the captain to cancel the original port and head to a different one, guests are responsible for taxes and port fees at the new port. So you might find yourself paying a little more at the new port, or a little less. Or you might just have an extra sea day if a replacement port isn't practical!

Wednesday 17th of August 2022

I had a stroke about a year ago, and am unsteady walking. Will I be able to board a tender?

Friday 19th of August 2022

Hi Rick, when you're boarding a tender, there's always a crew member or two there offering a hand to help steady you as you're transitioning from the gangway to the smaller boat. You'll often have to step up on a small portable stair before you step onto the tender, but you can mention that you need a hand on the steps as well so you don't lose your balance.

If the water is choppy during tendering, it can be a bit challenging to make the transition to and from the tender boat, even for those of us who are usually pretty steady on our feet. Some tender boats also have a second level, and I've had to go up some pretty steep stairs to find a seat if the first level is full!

I'd advise chatting with Guest Services at least the day before your tender port if the weather looks iffy or if you're worried about getting on and off, climbing stairs, etc. I've been on hundreds of tenders and they're all a bit different. Crowds and weather can also make a big difference in your tender experience, so asking ahead could really help you decide if the assistance that the crew can offer will work with your level of mobility. Hope this helps!

tender on cruise

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What Is Tendering on a Cruise?

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If you’re a cruise novice, you’ve likely never heard of cruise ship tendering.

What exactly is cruise tendering? Well, some cruise ship ports don’t allow large ocean liners to dock, in which case you have to take a smaller vessel to port. This is tendering.

Still confused? Let us explain and help you understand what it means to tender on a cruise ship

What does tender mean on a cruise?

A tender on a cruise refers to a smaller boat that takes the passengers and crew ashore. Tending is done when a vessel is too large to dock in a port of call, the water is too shallow or your ocean liner arrives later than other ships and there’s no more room left to dock.

Depending which cruise line you’re sailing with and the itinerary, tender boats can be either the cruise ship’s lifeboats or boats operated by a local company in the port of call.

Tender boats can often hold up to 200 passengers at once, so they’re quite roomy.

To avoid chaos, cruise ships typically use a ticketing system for tendering, particularly for the early groups. The ticket will list the time you can start disembarking.

Tickets aren’t required to come back on the ship, but you still have to queue up for the next tender.

» Learn more: The best cruise lines

What does tender port mean on a cruise?

A tender port is a seaport that requires a large ocean liner to use small boats to reach its shore.

Many cruise lines publish a list of tender port destinations, meaning you’ll have access to that information ahead of time. Tender ports should also be listed on your itinerary once you book a sailing on a tendering cruise.

» Learn more: What’s the best deck on a cruise ship?

Downsides of tendering on a cruise ship

You have to get in a queue.

Because a tender on a cruise ship is a much smaller boat than the cruise vessel itself, it’s going to take more trips to unload all the passengers, so you’re going to have to line up for a cruise ship tender.

Even though multiple tender boats can run at once, it’s still going to take longer to get to the shore than just walking off the boat right after anchoring at a pier.

If you’re looking to be among the first passengers to disembark, some cruise lines offer priority tendering for elite members or passengers who purchased a priority access package.

» Learn more: Is there Wi-Fi on cruise ships?

Mobility issues can hinder the cruise experience

Because tender boats are small and sometimes require stairs to get into, passengers with mobility issues might have difficulty disembarking a ship while tendering.

For example, wheelchairs aren’t allowed to be transferred from the ship in a tender, which means someone using one would have to skip certain shore excursions.

» Learn more: How to find excellent cruise deals

You might skip some ports in bad weather

Taking a small boat in rough seas isn’t the safest method of arriving on land, so there’s a chance that your excursion could be shortened or you might skip some ports of call altogether.

Safety first, meaning you might end up with an extra day or two at sea if the winds are strong or if lightning has been spotted in the area.

» Learn more: Does travel insurance cover bad weather?

Upsides of tendering on a cruise ship

You can take great photos of the ship.

If you’re a photographer, taking photos of the cruise ship is rather difficult when you’re on the cruise ship. Tendering provides some great vantage points for capturing the vessel and its size from unique angles.

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Option to visit remote locations

Cruise ship tendering allows you to visit ports that you normally can’t visit on a large vessel.

Additionally, because of their small size, tender boats can take you to some smaller islands or some hard-to-reach locations.

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Tips for cruise ship tendering

Avoid booking early-morning excursions.

If you booked a shore excursion through the cruise company, you have nothing to worry about because you’ll likely tender off together with other excursion participants earlier than others.

However, if you book an excursion with an independent tour provider, you need to factor in plenty of time to reach the shore in time for the activity. It’s best to get a tender ticket ahead of time.

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Use sunscreen

The whole tendering process can take quite a bit of time because you have to queue up on the cruise ship and then spend 10 to 20 minutes on a boat. You can expect the same on the way back.

We recommend applying lots of sunscreen to protect your skin from direct sunlight for extended periods of time.

Don’t wait until the last tender

We get it. You’re in a new port of call and want to maximize every minute of it enjoying the scenery and the activities. However, we don’t recommend cutting it too close to the last tender of the day to take you back onboard.

The ship will leave you behind if you’re not back in time for scheduled departure. Allow for a few hours ahead of the final tender boat to avoid queues.

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Take seasickness precautions

If you tend to get seasick, you might want to prepare in advance for potentially spending time in a moving boat.

Use motion sickness medicine to prevent nausea. Perhaps avoid drinking alcohol the night before. Once on the tender, find a seat in a more stable part of the boat, preferably with access to fresh air, and focus on the horizon.

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Cruise ship tendering, recapped

Those with cruise-run excursions and elite status usually get to disembark in the first groups, but the tendering process takes time for the rest of the passengers.

Cruise ship tendering sounds inconvenient, but it can happen on any cruise. The good news is that it allows you to visit more ports and gives you a unique perspective from a photographer’s point of view.

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  1. Cruise Ship Tendering - 5 Tips You NEED to Know - Emma Cruises

    What Does Tender Mean on a Cruise Ship? Tendering is where guests use a lifeboat, or smaller boat, to get from the cruise ship to the port. Tendering usually happens when the ship is too big to dock in a certain port or the port is already occupied by another ship.

  2. What is cruise ship tendering? - The Points Guy

    In those cases, ships anchor offshore and passengers are required to take a cruise ship tender to land. On a cruise, tendering is the process of using smaller boats to ferry passengers from their anchored vessel to shore.

  3. What does tender mean on a cruise ship? - Royal Caribbean Blog

    Tendering is the process in which a cruise ship anchors offshore and smaller boats are used to transport passengers from the ship to shore. If there is no pier that can accommodate a cruise ship’s size in a particular port, tendering is required.

  4. Cruise Ship Tender Boats: What You Need to Know - Cruise Mummy

    What Is a Tender Boat for a Cruise Ship? A tender boat is a small boat used to transport passengers from a cruise ship to the shore. It’s also known as a water shuttle. They’re used in destinations where there is no suitable place for the cruise ship to dock.

  5. Everything You Need to Know About Tender Ports and Tender ...

    On a cruise, a tender port is one where the ship doesnt dock at a pier. Instead, the cruise ship drops anchor offshore and passengers are ferried to land on smaller boats, called “tenders”.

  6. What is a Tendered Cruise Ship? - NerdWallet

    A tender on a cruise refers to a smaller boat that takes the passengers and crew ashore. Tending is done when a vessel is too large to dock in a port of call, the water is too...