What is tendering?

Tendering is where you use a lifeboat, or smaller boat, to get from the cruise ship to the port, it usually happens when the ship is too big to get into port. The journey on the smaller boat is usually only about 10 minutes.

The tender boats are usually lifeboats from the ship but sometimes can be through an external company. I get terribly sea sick but never have had any problem on tenders. They’re usually either open top or open front so you can feel the wind which always makes me feel better. They boats are also quite big, carrying around 100 people (P&O tenders).

How does it work?

Tendering can be inconvenient. 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 NCL having platinum latitudes status means that you get priority tendering although I have never used this. 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.NCL Norwegian Cruise Line Pride of Aloha Tender Boat Lifeboat


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 (P&O) 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.

NCL Norwegian Cruise Line Getaway Tender Belize

The drawbacks of tendering:

  • Takes time
  • 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 and unspoilt islands
  • I quite enjoy the tender, it’s like a free boat trip (sort of)

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 being too unsafe to get them back to the ship.. so a better safe than sorry approach is normally adopted.NCL Norwegian Cruise Line Getaway Tender Belize

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Tendering tips.

  1. 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.
  2. 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 queue.
  3. Go to the front of the tender by the windows (or the top) if you get sea sick. The breeze will make you feel better.
  4. 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.

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

Do you guys like tendering? Let me know in the comments.


Hey! I'm Emma. A cruise blogger, YouTuber and founder of the 'Cruising Isn't Just For Old People' Facebook community.


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