What Does it Mean to Tender on a Cruise?

So you’re reading the website description for your cruise, and it says you need to “tender” to shore.

Unless you’ve taken a cruise before, you’re probably wondering what the heck that means. In a nutshell, a tender is a smaller boat that carries people from the ship to the shore.

What Are Tenders?

Many times, tenders are owned and operated by local companies. They are small ferry boats that hold anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred people. If there are not enough local ferry operators to service the cruise ship’s needs, the ship may even drop a few of its own lifeboats into the water to use as tender boats.

Side note: My mom thinks this is about the coolest thing ever and insisted I mention it in this post. The reason this is cool? Because you get to see what lifeboats are like and how effective they are. Wash the thought of rubber dinghies floating in a vast ocean out of your head. Lifeboats are fully operational boats that hold hundreds of people.

Why Do Cruise Ships Need Them?

Sometimes, ships aren’t able to dock in port. The water may be too shallow, or there may be a coral reef nearby. In some cases, the port city may not have a dock large enough for a cruise ship, or it may already have other ships using the dock. For whatever reason, your ship needs to park in the open water, and you need a more practical way to get to shore than swimming.

tender

How Do They Work?

Your ship’s cruise director team will let you know in advance of reaching a port if you’ll need to tender. They will also explain how the process is going to work for your ship. In some cases, it’s a free for all. Simply head to the gangway, and walk onto the next tender. In many cases, people who have purchased tickets to ship-sanctioned shore excursions will be given exclusive access to the first few tenders. Once they are all on their way, the ship will open up the tenders on a first-come first-served basis. Typically, the ship will tell you in advance an approximate timeline for when this will happen so you can be prepared.

Some ships require people planning to board early morning tenders to acquire a tender ticket when they are ready to get off the ship. There tends to be a bit of rush-hour traffic until about noon, so the ship tries to manage the chaos. You will likely need to go to a lounge or theater area to obtain a ticket. That said,  you will only be able to get a ticket if your entire party is ready to go. If you’re still waiting on someone to finish breakfast or apply sunscreen, hang tight, and let someone who is ready to go get on board instead. If you’re a late riser, by mid-day, the traffic tends to die down and tickets will likely no longer be required.

Tenders run all day while you’re in port. They are a continuous service so you never have to wait long for the next boat. In most cases, as soon as one is full, the next one pulls up and starts loading.

Have questions? Let us know.

7 Ways to Make Your Cruise Even More Special

For a few extra bucks, you can make your cruise even more special.

 

Everything you need to have a good time is already included in the price of your cruise. You don’t need to spend one extra cent if you don’t want to. But you may want to budget for a few extras once you’re on board. Here are some of the main ways you can upgrade your experience as you sail the seven seas that will make your cruise even more special.

1. Specialty Dining

Every cruise ship has places you can dine for free. There is usually at least one dining room and a buffet. But most ships also offer alternative dining options. For a small fee, you can eat at a sushi bar, steakhouse, teppanyaki house, or pizzeria, for example. Prices usually range between $10 and $30, depending on the restaurant. Many ships also have a full-service cafe, where you can buy specialty coffees and pastries for a few bucks.

make your cruise even more special

2. Beverage Packages

Water, coffee, and tea are always available on typical cruises. Most also offer free juice at breakfast and some sort of water-based beverage, like iced tea or lemonade, throughout the day. But if you’re thirsty for a pop, bottle water, or anything with alcohol, you will need to open your wallet. But there’s a loophole. You can buy a beverage card that lets you drink as much as you desire, and it usually costs much less than you would spend overall buying one drink at a time. You can get either alcoholic or nonalcoholic versions of the card so the entire family can take advantage.

make your cruise even more special

3. Spa Treatments

Ships of all shapes and sizes have an on-site spa. But beware, the prices are typically well above anything your would spend on land. A massage typically costs at least $120 but can be close the $300 if you’re in the mood for a something more specialized, like a seaweed wrap. If you’re really looking to treat yourself, you can even get acupuncture, Botox, and cellulite treatments on many ships. But relax, there are a few affordable ways to pamper yourself on a cruise, such as a scalp massage, haircut, or manicure.

make your cruise even more special

4. Shore Excursions

If you’re not sure what you want to do when your ship docks at each cruise port, fear not. There are plenty of tour options available through the cruise line. They would with the best local tour companies and guides to make sure you have the best experiences on land. Whether you’re into adventure, culture, shopping, or history, they’ll have something for every taste. Parasailing over the open ocean, horseback riding on the beach, a cooking class at a local restaurant, a visit to the outlet malls—you’ll find it all and more at every scheduled stop.

make your cruise even more special

5. Celebrations and Gifts

Are you celebrating a special event during your cruise? For a small fee, you can arrange to have your room decorated with flowers, balloons, special signs, desserts, wine, and more. You can choose from a variety of themes, including birthdays, anniversaries, and bon voyage. Even if you’re not sailing, you can surprise a friend or loved one by contacting the ship in advance. You can also purchase cruise merchandise and other gifts in advance of sailing so that they’re waiting in your room when you get on board. I’ve secretly hoped someone would surprise with a celebration or gift, but alas…maybe they’ll read this post and get the hint.

Pro Tip: If your travel agent lets the ship know about your special day when you book the cruise, you may get a little something special for free. That’s right…I said free. On my last sailing, I got a gift card for a bottle of wine and a free photo of my choice from the photo studio. It was lovely.

make your cruise even more special

6. Photo Packages

Wouldn’t it be great if life were like the movies and every minute of your special getaway was captured on film (or digital thingamabobs)? Well, every cruise ship has a photo studio to do just that. Every time you get on or off the ship, a team of photographers will be on standby, ready to snap a shot of you at each port. At night after you’ve dressed for dinner, they’ll have impromptu portrait studios set up in strategic locations around the ship. You can even hire a photographer to follow you around for the day.

make your cruise even more special

7. Shopping and Sales

If you love to shop, you don’t even need to step off the boat to do it. Designer handbags, fine diamonds, and couture cosmetics are just some of the upscale items you can purchase in the ship’s boutiques. You’ll also find duty-free tobacco and alcohol, candies and chocolates, costume jewelry, cruise merchandise, cheap tees, and knick knacks. You want it, they got it. And they have special sales every evening. One night you might get a deal on scarves and sunglasses, while the next night there may be a special offer on earrings or t-shirts. The deals are often amazing.

make your cruise even more special

Pro Tip: You can purchase just about everything on this list in advance of your sailing by contacting your travel agent or accessing your online itinerary. You can even buy gift cards to make purchases in the ship’s shops. This way, you still don’t have to spend any extra money once you set sail.

These are some of the main ways you can make your cruise even more special. What other ways can you think of? Share them on the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

Five Hours in Portland, Maine: From Lighthouses to Little Towns

Portland, the largest city in Maine, is a common port for East-Coast cruises starting out of New York City.

 

This charming seaside city is filled with fun things to do. But when you only have five hours to see it all, it’s hard to know where to begin. To make the most of your short time in Portland, consider taking a tour from a local company. If you’re cruising, there will be plenty of shore excursions offered through your ship. Typically, you’ll find an itinerary that covers all of the hottest local attractions.

For example, Carnival offers a tour called Portland Highlights and Kennebunkport. In just five hours, you get to take in the top sites, and you’ll still have a bit of time afterward to wander on your own. Here’s what you’ll see.

POrtland

Portland Overview

Your tour begins with a drive through Portland itself. You’ll coast along the seaside in a motor coach, taking in the local streets, including some of the most affluent homes in the area. Your guide will tell you about the rich history of diversity and how the homes along the water were once considered undesirable for this exact reason. Today, they are some of the most sought-after abodes in the state.

As you drive along, you’ll catch a glimpse of the stone fortress built to defend the city against the Red Coats, as well as the observation tower that boasts views of the entire city, though you won’t get a chance to test that theory for yourself, as there simply isn’t time to stop here.

As you drive through the heart of the city, you’ll see the home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, as well as hear old folk tales of other homes in the community, such as the heavily adorned Wedding Cake House that was built for a bride as her wedding gift many moons ago.

POrtland

Portland Head Light

The first official stop on the tour is to the most photographed lighthouse along the East Coast, Portland Head Light. Looking as picturesque as the many postcards on which it’s been featured, the little lighthouse stands tall as a beacon to sailors passing along the coast of Maine.

portland

You’ll have about 30 minutes to take pictures amid the craggy canyons and rushing waves. A small gift shop offers trinkets and a few locally crafted items at shockingly affordable prices. Snap a few photos, grab, and souvenir, and head back on board the motor coach for the next leg of your five-hour tour.

Kennebunk and Kennebunkport

Next, your tour will take you on a rural drive to see the summer homes of the rich and, well, richer. A few decades ago, the state offered plots of land for $20,000 each. While the land was reasonably priced, it came with a catch: You had to build a home with a certain price tag. The intent was to attract only the upper-middle class to the area. The plan was successful, and most of the homes exceeded the expectations.

POrtland

After about a 45-minute drive from Portland Head Light, you’ll arrive in Kennebunk. The charming little community looks like something out of a Nicholas Sparks novel, and you half expect to see Ryan Gosling strolling the streets hand-in-hand with Rachel McAdams. Colorful cottage-like shops and restaurants line both sides of about a three-block radius and include everything from candy and coffee shops to kitschy souvenir stores and upscale artists’ havens.

POrtland

You’ll get a chance to take in the shops after a short drive through nearby Kennebunkport. If you’re here in the summer months, you’ll see surfers riding the waves on the local beaches, while families gather outside their summer homes for a bonfire and a glass of wine. The brightly colored “cottages” are far more lavish than any typical upscale community and make you long to be one of the next generation of family members who are sure to inherit the tradition.

POrtland

Perhaps the most notable—okay definitely the most notable—local family is the Bushes, who have been spending their summers here for many decades, long before father and son took on the presidential roles of numbers 41 and 43. Like everyone else, they paid $20,000 for their plot of land that stretches like a peninsula into the ocean. The locals tell stories of spotting the secret service in town and George Sr. jumping from airplanes like they are part of their own family histories. It’s just a fact of living here. You will run into one or the other at some point in your lifetime.

Once you’re done your drive, you’ll get about an hour or so to sweep through the Kennebunk shops. If you don’t dawdle, this should be plenty of time. There are an obscene number of stores catering to fashionable canines (my own got several new shirts). And we even had time for a quick snack at one of the popular coffee shops.

portland

Pro Tip: Be sure to have a whoopie pie, the state dessert. Rumor has it the famous cakes came to be after a woman, tired of the icing coming off the top of the cakes she would wrap in a kerchief for her husband’s lunches, placed an extra piece of cake on top of the icing. When her husband opened his lunch to find the icing still in place, he yelled, “Whoopie!”

Back in Portland

Once you’ve wrapped up your visit to Kennebunkport, you’ll arrive in town with about two hours to spare before you need to be back on board the ship. This will give you plenty of time to walk around the Old Port, which is only about a 10-minute walk from the cruise ship terminal itself. You’ll find lots of one-of-a-kind shops, as well as plenty of places to try the local seafood.

portland

If you’ve only got five hours in Portland, Maine, this is the perfect way to take in the best the area has to offer. What other must-see sights do you recommend? Visit the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group to share your ideas.

 

5 Reasons Why You Should Take Cruise Vacations

It’s no secret that I love cruise vacations. But I didn’t always.

 

At first, I thought cruising was cheesy and only for people who didn’t really care about seeing the world “for real.” Now, I know that notion is completely ridiculous. There are so many benefits to cruise vacations, especially if you have limited time and a shoestring budget.

So Many Stops

cruise vacation

I want to see as much of the world as I can, and I want to do it now. The great thing about a cruise vacation is that you can sample all sorts of places and decide which ones to come back to later. Most longer cruises stop at several ports. Some are awesome, and others not so much. If I really love a port, I plan a trip there later so I can spend more time exploring the area.

All-inclusive

cruise vacation

Cruise vacations are all-inclusive for all intents and purposes. Once you’ve paid for your cabin, you don’t need to pay a penny more if you don’t want to. There are typically a handful of free places to eat on a cruise ship, and you can always get water, juice, tea, and coffee for free. Don’t forget about the Broadway-style shows, dance parties, competitions, sports, and more. Oh, and the ice cream. There’s always free ice cream!

If you want to splurge for extras, like alcoholic beverages, shore excursions, massages, and upscale dining, you can even pay for them in advance. This way, you have no surprise extra charges when you disembark.

Pro tip: Be sure to pre-pay your gratuities before your cruise vacation. There’s really no way to get out of the daily fee, so you might as well take care of the tab in advance. This will leave you in the free and clear so you don’t have to worry about blowing your budget later.

Super Safe

cruise vacations

After the sun sets in a foreign land, I’m always a little concerned about hitting the streets for a night out. On a cruise vacation, you always have lots of safe places to go at night. And again they’re always included in your cruise fees. You can sing along at a piano bar or karaoke, have cocktails in the atrium, or watch a stage show. The likelihood of something untoward happening to you on a cruise ship is pretty rare. You’re not likely going to be pickpocketed or fall overboard. Unless you’re acting inappropriately–like sitting on the balcony railing in your cabin, you don’t need to worry.

Home Base

cruise vacation

One of the things I appreciate most about a cruise vacation is that I have a home base for my entire trip. I can unpack and stay for a while. I don’t need to worry about coordinating trains or booking tours. The captain will take me where I need to go. And when I get there, people will be waiting to help me find my way. Sometimes you simply don’t want to lug your bags from one place to the next. Bus tours also take you to several places in one trip, but you have to pack up every few nights and move on. On a cruise ship, you can kick back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Cost Conscious

cruise vacation

Cruise vacations can be very inexpensive. If you’re willing to stay in an interior cabin with no windows, you can get a steal of a deal. I just took an 11-day NCL cruise to the Canary Islands for under $950 per person. That works out to $86 per night. Where can you get a better rate than that for all you can eat, transportation to another place, above-average accommodations, and tons of entertainment?

These are just a few reasons why cruise vacations can be a great way to travel affordably. What are your reasons for cruising? Head to the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group and share your ideas.