Cruise Ship Tendering – Top 6 Pro Tips

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A cruise line may require people to “tender” to be able to go on land. There have been several cruise lines – like Royal Caribbean, Disney Cruise Line, and Norwegian Cruise Line – that have had to implement this, and many passengers find it fun.

There are advantages and disadvantages to cruise ship tendering, and while not all itineraries have a tender port, there are a few that contain multiple ones.

What Is Cruise Ship Tendering?

Tendering is when smaller passenger ships or lifeboats are used to transport passengers from the cruise ship to a port. It occurs when the cruise ship is too large to dock in a port, or if the port is already occupied by another ship. Passengers can find out prior to booking a cruise if it is tendered, as this is outlined in the itinerary.

Guests Going on Tender
Guests Going on Tender (Photo Credit: Yingna Cai / Shutterstock)

The reasons for using a tender boat are that large ships may not be able to fit into certain ports. While this doesn’t prevent them from visiting these destinations, a tender is provided so guests can cross to land. They are also used for small ports where mid- or large-sized ships can’t fit. Lastly, there may be shallow waters, and safety is always a top priority.

Will You Know Prior to Booking Your Cruise if There Is Tendering?

If you’d rather not tender from a cruise line, you can view the itinerary prior to booking excursions to see if they are tendered or docked. You can avoid cruises that use tendering if you go to city ports, where the chances are you will not have to tender.

Top 6 Pro Tips for Cruise Ship Tendering

Here are some tips to follow when tendering on a cruise ship.

Tip #1: Don’t Be Quick to Go on the First Tender

We recommend that you disembark slowly. This allows you to enjoy a leisurely breakfast aboard the ship and go exploring after the rush of guests has left. Tendering is more enjoyable when you aren’t facing a long line up.

Half Moon Cay Tender Boat
Half Moon Cay, Bahamas (Photo Credit: Ihor Koptilin / Shutterstock)

If you sign up for an organized shore excursion, you will probably meet on your ship before tendering together. In other situations, you may need to meet on land. You will need extra time to do this.

Also, listen to the announcements on your ship carefully. Collecting a tender ticket prior to boarding is one way to keep minimal waiting times.

Tip #2: Go to the Top Deck or Front of the Tender if You are Prone to Motion Sickness

If you are prone to seasickness, place yourself in the front of the tender at the top or by the windows. The breeze will make you feel much better. When embarking on your tender, crews will direct you to a seat if you request to be placed at the top or front of the boat.

Top of Tender
Photo Credit: Solarisys / Shutterstock

Furthermore, if you do get motion sickness while on small boats, it is advisable to take medication one hour prior to tendering.

Tip #3: Refrain from Taking the Last Tender to Return

Avoid coming back one or two hours prior to the last tender, as this is the busiest time. If you can return a few hours earlier, you can skip the queues. You can do this last minute for the last tender, but it isn’t advisable.

Tip #4: Avoid Booking Independent Excursions with Early Starts

If you do not have priority tendering, you may want to avoid any excursions with an early start, as you may not get an early tender.

Photo Credit: Ihor Koptilin / Shutterstock

Without being able to reach land, there is a chance that you may miss your activity. This is where priority tendering comes in handy – passengers are not left behind when it comes time to disembark.

Tip #5: If You Have Mobility Issues, You May Not Want to Tender

There is usually a gap when transferring between boats. Some people don’t have the ability to step across safely. Therefore, if you aren’t sure footed, don’t have a long stride, or use a wheelchair, you may want to avoid tendering. Most boats are not wheelchair accessible.

If you do have issues with mobility, let the crew know in advance if you require assistance. Some cruises can’t transfer those in wheelchairs due to safety reasons but they will try to accommodate people with mobility challenges.

Tip #6: Sit on an Exposed Upper Deck

If there is an upper deck, grab a seat in this location. The view is unobstructed and breathtaking. Tender boats tend to be a ship’s lifeboats. However, tendering can be arranged through an outside company. With tendering, there may be several tenders going simultaneously.

Cruise Tenders
Cruise Tenders (Photo Credit: Joni Hanebutt / Shutterstock)

Passengers are usually required to queue onboard before being loaded into the tenders upon arrival. A lifeboat itself can carry 150-200 passengers. They aren’t cramped, and the largest ones are tendered.

How Does Tendering Work?

Most cruise lines have a ticket system if you would prefer to exit shortly after anchoring. This system provides a tender time to disembark from the ship. If you wait one or two hours, you may not require a ticket and are able to tender when you would like. Some cruise lines offer loyalty status, which enables passengers to receive priority tendering.

There is no ticket system to return to the ship. Guests return to where they got off, display their cruise card, and patiently await the next boat.

Advantages of Tendering

The advantages are that you can take gorgeous photos of the cruise ship, explore small islands and remote ports, and get a free boat trip!

Disadvantages of Tendering

Transit times to and from the boat are not long. However, when you consider wait times, loading, and other things, the entire experience takes time. The process is slower compared to traditional docking where you simply walk off the ship.

Holland America Line Life Boats Being Used at Tenders
Holland America Line Life Boats Being Used at Tenders (Photo Credit: Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock)

Additionally, the boats aren’t all that comfortable, and you will need to wait in a queue to get a return tender.

What if I Have Mobility Issues?

When transporting someone from the cruise ship to the tendered boat, there are several steps involved. There is also a gap to step across from the ship to the boat. For those with limited mobility, this can be difficult.

With some cruise lines, passengers may be required to prove they can step over a set distance prior to entering. This may be the same for those with babies and small children.

Do Tenders Operate in Poor Weather?

If a port is tendered, there is a higher chance of it being skipped in poor weather conditions. The boats are small and won’t provide a pleasant trip in strong winds. Cruise lines cannot take a chance on guests leaving the ship and being unable to return. It’s better to err on the side of caution.

Read Also: Rough Seas on a Cruise Ship – How They Handle it


Cruise ship tendering can be an enjoyable experience if you know how to navigate through the process properly. If you booked an early excursion, ensure that you have priority tendering. After all, you don’t want to miss your activity, so you will need to be sure you get on the boat right away. Keep in mind the other helpful tips we’ve given for a leisurely and enjoyable tender experience.

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