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As you may already know, some ports of call require a tendering process to get you ashore. Tenders are boats, sometimes locally owned, sometimes they’re the ship’s lifeboats like René posted about, which are used for this purpose. This is a common process to access ports that don’t have a dock, or when the dock is not available.
Some tender rides can be quite short, like in Santorini or Cabo San Lucas, or super long, like in Belize City or from one of the anchoring spots in Kotor.
While tendering isn’t nearly as easy and convenient as walking off the ship, it’s certainly worth the bother in order to visit those ports, as opposed to not visiting them at all!
Here’s a few things you should consider so you can tender the smart way.
First of all, get familiar with the way you will be assigned a tender number. Depending on your ship, securing a tender number, or ticket, can mean making a reservation, whether at a particular counter, on your TV, the cruise line’s app or interactive screens around the ship. In other occasions it may be necessary to collect physical tickets at a specific time and place. Regardless of the method, you’ll be assigned a number, and upon arriving in port, you’ll have to listen for the announcement of your number before proceeding to the exit.
If you’ll be taking a shore excursion organized through the cruise line, you may not need to collect a ticket at all, as your excursion ticket will, in most cases, act as your tender ticket. However, you have to pay special attention to your tour meeting time and place. You’ll mainly want to check if your tour will meet on board, and will board a tender from the ship as a group, or if it will meet ashore, for which you’ll have to allow a reasonable amount of time to leave the ship and reach the pier.
Collecting or booking a ticket may be something you don’t want to deal with, and for that, there is an alternative. If you’re in port all day, and you’ll have no rush getting off the ship, you could wait until “Open Tender” is announced, meaning anyone without a tender reservation or ticket can get on the next tender available. “Open Tender” is generally announced 2 to 3 hours after arrival in port, depending on the amount of guests left on board at a certain time.
Next, check on the timing. If your ship arrives later in the morning, and you want to be amongst the first people to go ashore, make sure you get a tender number as soon as they are available to book or collect. Late arrival in port means everyone will be ready to go out at around the same time, and, just like you, they’ll be eager to enjoy the most amount of time in port. On the flip side, when the ship arrives early in the morning, say around 7:00am, and stays in port for most of the day, crowds getting off the ship will be a lot more scattered.
Finally, be diligent in finding out what time you must be back on board by. This can be published on your way out of the ship as “all aboard time”, or “last tender time”, which is not the same. The former is what time you must already be on board by, whereas the latter means what time the last tender leaves the pier. In either case, it’s always a good idea to arrive at the pier well before those posted times, in case of any delays that may occur on your way back, which, believe me, are more common than you’d think. Also make sure whatever you’re using as your clock is synced to ship time!
Having all this in mind, make the most out of your time ashore, whether you’re docking or tendering! – ThatGuy
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