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What Does Tender Mean on Our Cruise Ship


  1. Showing gentleness and concern or sympathy
  2. (of food) easy to cut, or chew; not tough
  3. (of a body part) sensitive to pain
  4. Young, immature and vulnerable

So, why did we just give you 4 meanings for the word tender? What in the world could it have to do with a cruise ship? Keep reading: We’ve got all you need to know about cruising and tendering.

Why Tender?

Sometimes cruise ports don’t have a pier that can accommodate a cruise ship. In some cases, the water’s not deep enough. In other cases, the country doesn’t want to build a port. In yet other instances, there are too many ships in port and all the pier space is taken for the day.

Cruise Ship Day Excursion at Grand Cayman Harbor

So you can still make it into the port of call, cruise lines use small boats to transport you to and from shore called tender boats. They hire local, small boats to haul passengers back and forth safely.

Tender Safety

Let me emphasize that tender boats are completely safe, but it’s always good to be aware of your surroundings and follow some simple common sense guidelines.

  • Sit down and stay sitting until you’re instructed to exit the tender boat
  • Wear comfy shoes that won’t slip (the boat could be wet after all)
  • Listen to the crew and follow any instructions they give you
  • Don’t forget your ID and Cruise Card
  • Relax and enjoy the ride (it’s a great time to take a cool photo of your cruise ship too)

 Tendering in Grand Cayman - Shore Excursions Group

Shore Excursions and Tenders

Tenders run all day while your ship’s in port (it’s VERY important to note what time the last tender leaves or you could miss the ship). Once the ship excursions have left, the cruise line opens up tendering to everyone else. This is important to know if you’re booked on a private excursion, you’ll need to allow enough travel time to arrive.

One bonus of booking through a company like Shore Excursions Group is that you’re covered by their worry-free guarantee and they’ve never had a customer miss the ship.

Be sure to read your ship’s daily news. It’ll have all the details you need to know about tendering into port.

Tender Time

How long does it take to tender? Well, that depends on your port. If the ship’s about 4-5 miles out, it can take about 20-25 minutes. Some are closer and quicker, and some are further. If you want to get a better idea, ask your cruise crew. They’ve done this before and can give you port-specific info.

 Georgetown Grand Cayman Day Tour - Shore Excursions Group

Popular Tender Ports

Here are some popular tender ports:

  • Grand Cayman
  • Belize
  • Half Moon Cay, Bahamas (Carnival’s Private Island)
  • Coco Cay, Bahamas (Royal Caribbean’s Private Island)
  • Cabo San Lucas
  • Kona, Hawaii
  • Lahaina, Hawaii
  • Newport, Rhode Island
  • Sitka, Alaska

What do you think about tendering?  Have you ever visited a port using a tender boat? We’d love to hear from you!


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