A Tender Subject – Well, you’ve got to get to port somehow….

Monday Mantra

Tender-ness …Tender-ness …Tender-ness …

A Tender Subject

Well, you’ve got to get to port somehow….

“YAY! We get to tender ashore!” said no cruise passenger ever.

It just goes to show how spoiled and pampered we are on board when a 15-minute boat ride into port becomes such an ordeal.

But the truth is that tendering is the closest you get to a rush-hour commute while cruising. From idyllic days of lazing in the sun, exquisite dining, massages and manicures, and dancing the night away, you find yourself in a crowded public room, standing in line for a ticket — A TICKET! — just like in the real world. And then you wait, and wait, and wait for your number to be called so that you can rush down to Deck 4 or wherever and stand on another line to board the tender, which, ominously, is usually a ship’s lifeboat.

Some ships provide tender schedules: little paper handouts that state “Departure” and “Return” times just like a commuter railroad. Will you be in your tender port overnight? Here’s a surprise: THE TENDER SERVICE OFTEN STOPS AT MIDNIGHT! This is something I learned the hard way many years ago when a friend and I returned to the tender station after spending the evening at a disco in Bermuda and learned that the next ride back to the ship wouldn’t be until 6:30 a.m. For five hours we were stranded with a bunch of drunken English sailors who, I assure you, looked and acted nothing like the courteous, uniform-clad gentleman we saw on board.

The tender experience is actually fun on an expedition ship and some yacht-like vessels where the tricky-to-board inflatable Zodiac is the coolest way to shore. On a Zodiac, you feel a little like Thor Heyerdahl on an expedition even if your ultimate destination is the Soggy Dollar bar on Jost van Dyke. You wear a thin life vest and are drenched with spray as the craft soars across the surface of the water until you arrive and climb out of the Zodiac directly into the surf. It’s almost guaranteed that at least one person on your Zodiac won’t have paid attention to the “wet landing” talk and will be sporting footwear that simply won’t survive immersion into the shallow, lapping waves.

Any port can be a tender port if other ships have clinched all the docking space but you know going in that you’ll be tendering in places like Belize, St. Barts, Grand Cayman, Naples, Mykonos, and Santorini because the surrounding waters are too shallow. Fortunately, all of these ports are worth the extra effort of tendering. In fact, the only thing that would make them even better is … a gangway.


— Judi Cuervo


Photo: Stan Shebs

Judi Cuervo is a New York City native who fell in love with cruising in 1976 during her first sailing aboard Carnival Cruises’ Mardi Gras. Twenty years later, she began her freelance cruise writing gig and, since that time, has covered mass market, ultra-premium, riverboat and expedition ships for regional, national and international publications as well as cruise websites.