Anchors Aweigh! A Quick Guide To Tendering Ashore

For those who have cruised before and particularly on larger ships, they will surely have had the experience of tendering ashore. For those who haven’t cruised and are wondering what’s that when it’s at home, we are here to give a quick guide through the process….

Sometimes it is necessary for ships to anchor outside the harbour due to either the size of the ship refraining them docking alongside or the fact that the berths have already been taken.  The process of disembarking guests ashore therefore changes. Passengers will need to be disembarked by the tenders. These are a type of a lifeboat on the ship that has been designed especially to transport passengers to and from the ship when at anchor.  Some ports will use their own small boats to transport passengers ashore too.

Tender heading back to Britannia, October 2015. Image: Cruisemarsh

Generally the ship will be anchored with the use of their anchors and their GPS systems a mile or so out from where the harbour is. Journey times will vary between the ship and shore, depending on how far the ship has anchored and that is also dependendent on the draft of the ship and how much water is below the ship.

On most cruise ships, a tender ticket process will be in operation. This is where you have to go and collect a numbered ticket from one of the ships lounges. As there is a limited amount of tenders compared to just walking off the shore and into town, the process is therefore more structured. Your numbers will be called and you will be guided down to the tender embarkation pontoon where you will embark the tender. Usually priority will be given to those who have shore excursions and have tender embarkation priority as part of the cruise loyalty club membership. Priority will also be given those who are less infirm and use foldable wheelchairs. However, it is sometimes not possible for those who rely more heavily on permanent wheelchairs and mobility scooters due to the lack of space on the tenders and the tricky conditions that are sometimes experienced due to high sea swells and wind when embarking the tender.

View of MV Voyager from St Peter Port with tender at embarkation pontoon. Image: Cruisemarsh,

Once the tender has been filled, it will depart the pontoon and head for the specified landing stage in the harbour. The journey will be made as smooth as possible by the crew member in charge of steering the tender however sea conditions can make it a like bumpy with high sea swells and wind being the biggest issues. Sometimes if the conditions are that bad, the ship will not operate the tenders and so will miss out on the port.

Inside an older style tender. Image: Cruise Capital.


Tender alongside at landing stage in harbour. Image: Cruisemarsh.

Once ashore, you are free to go and explore and then come and go back to the ship too. Depending on the time you a have in the port, you could back on board for lunch and then decide to go ashore again in the afternoon. This time, you won’t need to collect a tender ticket as the peak of passengers trying to disembark will have already passed so therefore you are free to come and go as you please. Service by the tenders will usely be every 15-20 minutes too on a shuttle system.  Bearing mind that you take note of the last tender to the ship from ashore.

Once the last tender arrives back the ship, they are then winched back up into the davits and ready for the next use in the next port of call that requires them.

Tender being raised back up to where it is housed in its davits. Image: Cruisemarsh

Whilst it is easier for a ship to berth alongside, where passengers can come and go as they please, its an experience when a ship does anchor and has to use the tenders. It maybe more of regimented process to get into a tender but once in, you can get some fantastic views of the ship as you pull away from the side of the ship. Really pays to try and get one of the window seats. Although tip is trying not to sit at the very front of the tender facing back as you’ll feel more movement there if the seas are heavy.  It may seem scary and daunting at first but the process if perfectly safe and will get you ashore in the safest way possible when at anchor. There is always crew to help assist you embarking and disembarking the tender too and also is a great chance to speak with your fellow passengers too.

So, if you have the chance of experiencing going ashore by tender, enjoy it as much as possible. You are only on for a short time and depending on where you are sitting, you’ll get great views of the ship at anchor. It’s also a great chance to meet your fellow passengers too and to strike up conversation. After all, it’s an experience you are sharing with them too. Just remember you have to keep an eye on the time when ashore and don’t forget what time the last tender from shore back to the ship is. You don’t want to miss the boat after all! (pun intended)


Images: Cruisemarsh and Cruise Capital.

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1 Comment

  1. Tenders are always filled to get maximum number of passengers ashore quickly so man spreading not allowed 😄
    If sitting under an open port hole of the tender in the bow be prepared for gentle showers as the bow hits waves 🌊
    Watch out for private tenders that the cruise company is forced to use in some ports, like Australia as the link to the ship might be a slim plank across the deck

    Liked by 1 person

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