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What Does Tendering Mean On A Cruise


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Lilllie Lau



When embarking on a cruise, you might come across the term “tendering,” which refers to a unique aspect of the cruising experience. Whether you are a seasoned cruiser or a first-time traveler, understanding the concept of tendering is essential to make the most of your time at port. In this article, we will explore what tendering means on a cruise and shed light on its purpose, types, process, advantages, and challenges.


Tendering is the process of transporting passengers from a cruise ship to the shore or from the shore back to the ship when the ship cannot dock directly at the port. This typically happens when the destination lacks a suitable pier or when the water is too shallow for the ship to dock. Instead, smaller vessels, known as tenders, are used to ferry passengers to and from shore.


The primary purpose of tendering on cruise ships is to allow passengers to explore destinations that are not accessible by docking directly at the port. This opens up a world of possibilities for cruisers, as it gives them the chance to discover secluded beaches, smaller islands, and remote coastal communities that larger ships cannot access. Tendering provides a unique opportunity for passengers to experience the destination in a more intimate and immersive way.


There are different types of tendering methods employed by cruise lines, depending on the location and logistical considerations. The most common types include using the ship’s lifeboats or inflatable rafts as tenders, utilizing local boats from the port, or even deploying purpose-built tender vessels. Each method has its advantages and limitations, and the decision on which method to use is often based on factors such as safety, efficiency, and the number of passengers and crew to transport.


Now that we have covered the basics of tendering on a cruise, let us delve into the process itself. The tendering process typically involves several steps, starting with the ship anchoring offshore. Passengers are then given a tender ticket or a designated meeting time, indicating when they can disembark the ship and board the tender. The tenders operate in a continuous shuttle service, transporting passengers to and from the port throughout the day. The process is designed to ensure an organized and efficient flow of passengers, allowing everyone to have an opportunity to explore the destination.


Definition of Tendering

Tendering on a cruise refers to the process of boarding and disembarking from a cruise ship via smaller vessels, known as tenders, when the ship cannot dock directly at the port. This occurs primarily when the destination lacks a suitable pier or when the water is too shallow for the ship to approach the shore.


During tendering, passengers are transported from the cruise ship to the port or vice versa using tenders, which are usually lifeboats or inflatable rafts designated for this purpose. The tenders shuttle back and forth between the ship and the shore, ensuring that all passengers who wish to disembark or reboard have the opportunity to do so.


Tendering is a common practice in the cruising industry, as it allows ships to access destinations that would otherwise be inaccessible. This opens up the opportunity for cruisers to explore unique and remote locations, including secluded beaches, small islands, and coastal communities that larger ships cannot reach.


It is important to note that tendering is not required at every port of call on a cruise itinerary. Many ports have a suitable pier to accommodate cruise ships, allowing passengers to embark and disembark directly from the ship. However, there are instances where tendering is necessary to reach certain destinations, adding an exciting and adventurous element to the cruising experience.


Furthermore, tendering is not exclusive to cruises. It is also commonly used in the maritime industry, such as when transferring crew members, supplies, or equipment between offshore installations and support vessels or when providing assistance in emergency situations.


In summary, tendering on a cruise involves the process of using smaller vessels, known as tenders, to transport passengers between the ship and the port when direct docking is not feasible. It offers the opportunity to explore unique destinations and enhances the overall cruising experience, providing passengers with access to places that would otherwise be out of reach.


Purpose of Tendering on Cruise Ships

The purpose of tendering on cruise ships is multifaceted and serves several important functions. Let’s explore the key reasons why tendering is utilized in the cruising industry.


1. Accessibility to Unique Destinations: One of the primary purposes of tendering is to provide passengers with access to destinations that cannot accommodate larger cruise ships. This opens up a world of possibilities, allowing travelers to visit remote islands, hidden coves, and lesser-known coastal communities. Tendering enables cruisers to explore secluded beaches, vibrant coral reefs, and picturesque landscapes that are off the beaten path.


2. Enhanced Destination Experience: Tendering enhances the overall destination experience for cruise passengers. By being transported to the shore via smaller vessels, travelers have the opportunity to get closer to the local culture, interact with locals, and experience the destination in a more intimate and immersive way. The personalized nature of tendering heightens the sense of adventure and discovery, creating unforgettable memories for cruisers.


3. Flexibility in Itinerary: Tendering allows cruise lines to offer a wider range of destinations and ports of call. By accessing smaller and more unique locations through tendering, cruise itineraries can be more diverse and appealing to passengers. This flexibility offers cruisers the chance to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations and discover hidden gems that are not accessible by larger cruise ships.


4. Mitigating Port Limitations: In some cases, cruise ports may lack the necessary infrastructure to accommodate large ships. Tendering serves as a practical solution when ports do not have suitable piers or when the water is too shallow for ships to dock. By utilizing tenders, cruise lines can still bring passengers ashore and provide them with the opportunity to explore the destination, even in challenging port conditions.


5. Security and Safety Measures: Tendering also plays a role in ensuring the security and safety of passengers. In emergency situations or when adverse weather conditions prevent ships from docking, tenders can be utilized as a means of evacuating passengers or transporting them to a safer location. Tenders are equipped with safety equipment and adhere to strict safety protocols to ensure the well-being of passengers.


Overall, the purpose of tendering on cruise ships is to enhance the cruise experience, provide access to unique and off-the-beaten-path destinations, and offer flexibility in itineraries. Tendering adds an element of adventure and exploration, allowing cruisers to create lasting memories in extraordinary locations that larger ships cannot reach.


Types of Tendering

Tendering on a cruise ship can involve various methods depending on the location, logistical considerations, and the cruise line’s preferences. Here are the common types of tendering methods used in the cruising industry:

  1. Lifeboat Tenders: One of the most common types of tendering involves using the ship’s lifeboats as tenders. These are the small vessels located on the ship, designed to be used in emergency situations. When tendering, the lifeboats are safely lowered into the water and used to transport passengers to and from the shore. They are equipped with all the necessary safety features and are operated by trained crew members.
  2. Inflatable Raft Tenders: In some cases, cruise ships may have inflatable rafts designated as tenders. These rafts are compact, lightweight, and easily deployable. They provide a practical solution for tendering, especially in locations where the use of larger lifeboats may not be feasible. Inflatable raft tenders are typically stable and can accommodate a significant number of passengers.
  3. Local Boats: Depending on the destination and port infrastructure, cruise lines may opt to rent or utilize local boats as tenders. This can include using fishing boats, small ferries, or other vessels available at the port. Local boats can offer a unique and authentic experience for passengers, as they are often operated by residents of the destination. This method of tendering allows cruisers to interact with locals and gain insights into the local culture and traditions.
  4. Purpose-Built Tenders: Some cruise ships are equipped with purpose-built tender vessels specifically designed for the task. These tenders are larger than lifeboats and typically offer more space and comfort for passengers. Purpose-built tenders are often used in locations where tendering is a regular occurrence, ensuring efficiency and convenience for both the cruise line and the passengers. They may have amenities such as seating areas, restrooms, and even refreshment facilities.
  5. Hybrid Solutions: In certain situations, a combination of different tendering methods may be employed. For example, a cruise ship may use lifeboat tenders for short distances, and then switch to local boats or purpose-built tenders for longer journeys to the shore. This hybrid solution allows for flexibility and adaptability, ensuring the most efficient and comfortable tendering experience for passengers based on the specific circumstances.

The choice of tendering method depends on various factors, including safety, efficiency, capacity, and the overall cruising experience desired by the cruise line and the passengers. Each type of tendering method offers its own advantages and limitations, and the decision on which method to use is carefully considered to ensure a seamless and enjoyable tendering experience for all.


Process of Tendering

The process of tendering on a cruise ship involves several steps to ensure a smooth and organized transition between the ship and the shore. Let’s take a closer look at the typical process of tendering:

  1. Anchor Offshore: When the cruise ship cannot dock directly at the port, it anchors offshore in a suitable location within the vicinity of the destination. This allows for the safe and efficient transfer of passengers to and from the ship using tenders.
  2. Assignment of Tender Tickets or Meeting Times: To manage the flow of passengers, the cruise line assigns tender tickets or provides meeting times for passengers who wish to disembark the ship. This helps prevent overcrowding and ensures a fair and organized tendering process. Passengers may receive physical tickets or be notified of their designated meeting time via the ship’s communication systems.
  3. Boarding the Tender: When it is time for passengers to disembark the ship and board the tender, they proceed to the designated embarkation area. This location is typically on one of the ship’s lower decks, where they will find instructions and signage directing them to the tender boarding point. Crew members assist passengers and ensure a smooth transition from the ship to the tender.
  4. Tender Departure and Shore Transfer: Once passengers are on board the tender, it departs from the ship and makes its way to the shore. The time it takes for the tender to reach the port can vary depending on the distance and sea conditions. Passengers can enjoy the scenic journey, capturing views of the ship and the destination as they approach the shore.
  5. Disembarking at the Port: Upon reaching the port, passengers disembark from the tender and step onto the pier or docking area. From there, they are free to explore the destination at their leisure. It is important to follow any instructions or guidelines provided by the cruise line regarding meeting times for return tender trips to the ship.
  6. Tender Shuttle Service: Throughout the day, the tenders continuously shuttle passengers between the ship and the port in a systematic manner. This ensures that everyone has an opportunity to explore the destination and facilitates a smooth flow of passengers both ways. The tender shuttle service operates until all passengers who wish to return to the ship have had the chance to do so.
  7. Reboarding the Ship: When passengers are ready to return to the ship, they make their way back to the designated tender pick-up point at the port. They board the next available tender that will transport them back to the cruise ship. Crew members may conduct brief security checks or verify passenger identification before allowing reboarding.
  8. Tender Arrival at the Ship: Once the tender arrives back at the ship, passengers disembark and make their way back on board. The crew members welcome them back and ensure a smooth transition. Passengers then have the opportunity to continue enjoying their cruise experience, relax, and recount their adventures onshore.

It is important for passengers to adhere to the designated meeting times, follow any instructions provided by the cruise line, and respect the tendering process to ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience for everyone.


Advantages of Tendering on a Cruise

Tendering on a cruise offers several advantages that enhance the overall cruising experience and provide unique opportunities for passengers. Let’s explore the advantages of tendering:

  1. Access to Remote and Unique Destinations: Tendering allows cruise ships to access destinations that are not accessible by larger ships. This opens up the opportunity for passengers to explore secluded beaches, smaller islands, and coastal communities that offer a more intimate and immersive experience. Cruisers can discover hidden gems and enjoy a more authentic interaction with the local culture.
  2. Flexible Itineraries: Tendering offers cruise lines the flexibility to include a wider range of destinations in their itineraries. By accessing smaller ports through tendering, cruise lines can create diverse and appealing itineraries that cater to a variety of interests. Passengers have the opportunity to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations and embark on unique shore excursions, adding a sense of adventure to their cruise experience.
  3. Intimate and Personalized Experience: When tendering, passengers are transported in smaller vessels, allowing for a more intimate and personalized experience. There is a sense of exclusivity and closeness to the destination, as travelers get closer to the culture and environment. The smaller group size on tenders allows for a more relaxed and immersive experience onshore, with fewer crowds and more opportunities for meaningful interactions.
  4. Breathtaking Views and Scenic Journeys: Tendering provides passengers with breathtaking views as they approach the shore. The journey on the tender offers unique perspectives of the cruise ship, the coastline, and the destination. Passengers can capture stunning photographs and enjoy the natural beauty of the surroundings, creating lasting memories during their tender ride.
  5. Opportunity for Water Activities: As tenders transport passengers to and from the shore, they may also offer the opportunity to engage in water activities. Some tenders are equipped with snorkeling or diving equipment, allowing passengers to explore the underwater world before reaching the port. Additionally, tendering to certain destinations provides access to pristine waters for swimming, kayaking, or other water-based adventures.
  6. Escape from Crowded Ports: Tendering allows passengers to visit destinations that are less frequented by larger cruise ships. This means that the ports visited through tendering are often less crowded, offering a more peaceful and uncrowded experience. Cruisers can enjoy a relaxed atmosphere ashore and have a chance to connect more deeply with the natural beauty and local culture.

Tendering on a cruise adds an element of exploration, adventure, and exclusivity to the cruising experience. It allows passengers to access unique destinations, explore hidden gems, and enjoy a more intimate connection with the shore. The advantages of tendering create unforgettable memories and enrich the overall cruise experience for those seeking a truly immersive and adventurous journey.


Challenges of Tendering on a Cruise

While tendering on a cruise offers many advantages, there are also a few challenges that can arise during the process. It is important for passengers to be aware of these challenges to ensure a smooth and enjoyable tendering experience. Let’s explore some of the common challenges of tendering on a cruise:

  1. Weather Conditions: The weather plays a significant role in the tendering process. Adverse weather conditions such as strong winds, rough seas, or heavy rainfall can impede or delay the tendering operation. Cruise lines prioritize the safety and comfort of passengers, so tendering may be canceled or altered based on weather conditions. It is essential for passengers to be flexible and understand that tendering plans can be subject to change due to weather-related challenges.
  2. Time Constraints: Tendering often operates within specific time frames to allow all passengers the opportunity to explore the destination. As there may be limited tenders available, passengers may need to plan their time onshore accordingly. It is important to be mindful of the scheduled meeting times for return tenders to ensure that you have sufficient time to enjoy your chosen activities while allowing for any unexpected delays.
  3. Crowding and Waiting Times: Depending on the number of passengers on the ship and the popularity of the destination, waiting times for tendering can vary. During peak times, there may be a higher demand for tender transportation, resulting in longer queues and potentially longer waiting times. Cruise lines strive to manage this efficiently, but it is advisable to plan accordingly and be prepared for potential crowds and wait times during tendering.
  4. Sea Sickness: Tendering involves travel in smaller vessels, which can be more susceptible to the motion of the ocean compared to larger cruise ships. This can potentially lead to seasickness for some passengers. It is advisable for individuals prone to motion sickness to take necessary precautions such as using anti-seasickness medications, wearing acupressure wristbands, or choosing a seat towards the center of the tender for a more stable journey.
  5. Restricted Accessibility: While tendering offers access to unique destinations, it may not be suitable for passengers with mobility limitations or those requiring specialized assistance. Embarking and disembarking tenders may involve steps, narrow walkways, or small gaps to cross, making it challenging for individuals with mobility issues. It is essential to check with the cruise line beforehand if you have any specific accessibility needs to ensure appropriate arrangements can be made.
  6. Varying Port Infrastructures: Every port has different infrastructures, and the adequacy of facilities for tendering can vary. Some ports may have well-developed tendering facilities, while others may have more basic setups. In remote or less-developed areas, the availability of amenities at the port may also be limited. Passengers should manage their expectations accordingly when tendering to different ports, understanding that facilities and services may vary.

Despite the challenges, tendering on a cruise can still be a rewarding experience. By being aware of these potential challenges and preparing accordingly, passengers can navigate through the tendering process smoothly, adapt to any changes, and fully embrace the opportunities that tendering offers to explore unique destinations.



Tendering on a cruise ship provides an exciting and unique aspect of the cruising experience. It allows passengers to access destinations that are not accessible by larger ships, offering them the opportunity to explore remote islands, secluded beaches, and charming coastal communities. Tendering enhances the overall cruising experience by providing a more intimate and personalized connection with the destination.


Throughout this article, we have explored the definition of tendering, its purpose, common types of tendering methods, the process involved, and the advantages and challenges associated with tendering on a cruise. By understanding these aspects, passengers can better prepare and make the most of their time at port.


The advantages of tendering include the access to unique destinations, flexible itineraries, intimate experiences, breathtaking views, and the opportunity for water activities. Tendering allows passengers to escape crowded ports, providing a more serene and exclusive experience onshore.


However, there are also challenges to be mindful of, such as the impact of weather conditions, time constraints, potential crowding, seasickness, restricted accessibility, and varying port infrastructures. Being prepared and adaptable can help passengers navigate through these challenges and ensure a smooth tendering experience.


In conclusion, tendering on a cruise offers passengers the chance to explore extraordinary destinations, connect with local cultures, and create lasting memories. It adds an element of adventure and discovery to the cruising experience, providing a unique and immersive way to engage with the world beyond the ship. By embracing the advantages and being aware of the challenges, passengers can fully appreciate and enjoy the wonders of tendering on their next cruise adventure.