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 Halifax: From Peggy’s Cove to the Pier

Halifax is a pretty little city along Canada’s east coast.

 

Located in Nova Scotia, one of Canada’s Maritime provinces, Halifax is the country’s largest city east of  Quebec. At fewer than 400,000 people, it’s big enough to have lots to see and do but still small enough to get a lot done in one day. But what should you do if you only have a few hours to spend in Halifax? Follow these tips to make the most of your time there. Don’t fear if you don’t make it all the way there. You should be able to catch a glimpse of it from the bus as you leave town.

halifax

Shore Excursions and Tours

Due to its location along the east coast, Halifax was one of the first places Europeans settled in Canada. It’s got a rich and colorful history that dates back nearly 300 years. When you’ve got limited time in a city like Halifax, you can cover a lot of ground on a group tour. Some of the activities you can indulge in include whale watching, a guided walk through the public gardens, sailing on a tall ship, or reliving the past at the Citadel National Historic Site.

If you’re headed to Halifax via cruise ship, you’ll be able to purchase a shore excursion right on your ship. Cruise lines typically offer a selection of the most popular attractions, with a range of activity levels. It’s not likely you’ll find a better deal on land. And if you’re not sure what you want to see or do, you’re not alone.

A lot of people choose not to research the ports in advance and wait to hedge their bets when they get on the ship. For this reason, you can usually find a “Best of Halifax” excursion, or something similar, that will give you a brief look at a variety of places.

I was sailing on the Carnival Sunshine when I visited Halifax, and I had my choice of about a dozen shore excursions. I took the Halifax and Peggy’s Cove tour and thought I got amazing bang for my buck.

halifax

Peggy’s Cove

If you’ve only got enough time to do one thing in Halifax, take a road trip. You won’t be disappointed with a visit to Peggy’s Cove. If you’re heading out from the cruise terminal, it takes about an hour to get there. Many of the shore excursions provided by the ship will offer a scenic drive through Halifax proper before getting on the highway. You’ll glimpse the Citadel, among other sights, such as the public gardens and residential areas so you can see how the locals live.

Halifax

Once you arrive at Peggy’s Cove, you’ll have about an hour to explore the area. While this may sound disappointing, it’s actually a goodly amount of time. This charming seaside community is picture perfect, with its colorful cottages and well-worn trawlers. But it’s home to only about 60 permanent residents, which means it’s small. Like really small. Wee, in fact. But that only adds to its cuteness.

The point is, one hour gives you just enough time to snap a few pictures of the infamous lighthouse and explore the handful of shops where local artisans sell their wares. You’ll find a solid mix of handcrafted goods, from jewelry and ceramics to clothes and crafts. I picked up a handmade kimono and tank top that were made by a local designer at a shop called Hags on the Hill.

Halifax

Your motor coach will likely park at the Sou’Wester. It’s located at the farthest end of the community. You’ll find no shortage of kitschy souvenirs at this sprawling restaurant and gift shop. But don’t get too caught up looking at the mass-produced trinkets here. Be sure to take in the sights of the nearby community. In fact, I recommend leaving this shop for last.

Halifax

Start with a walk on the rocks (not the black ones, or you risk falling into the rough waters and being swept away) for view of the lighthouse. Then, take a stroll through town. Grab a cup of Joe at Tilley’s. Or try some Nova Scotian lobster rolls at the carry-out restaurant next door.

Halifax

Halifax

Before returning to the bus for the hour-long ride back into Halifax, use the washrooms at the Sou’Wester, and pick up any last-minute souvenirs here. You can even touch a live lobster if you’re so inclined. The entire excursion lasts about three to four hours from beginning to end, leaving you plenty of time—about two to three hours if you’re on a cruise—to check out some of what Halifax itself as to offer.

Pro tip: Be sure to check out the William E. deGarthe monument made from a giant slab of granite that pays tribute to the local people of Peggy’s Cove. It’s located at the top of the hill near the tourist information center when you enter the community. You will need to walk at a fairly brisk pace to make it all the way here and back to the bus in one hour if you want to take pictures and do some shopping throughout the town.

Halifax

Cruise Terminal

Cruise ships conveniently dock a hop, skip, and a jump from the infamous Halifax Harbour Walk. It’s a lovely stroll along that waterfront that’s filled with fun activities, good food, and cute boutiques.

Halifax

Stop in at Rum Runners on the Halifax Boardwalk at Bishop’s Landing. Pick up a cake or two made from rum bottled locally on Cape Breton island. Or maybe you’d prefer a sweet treat, like an ice cream cone from Sugah!, the candy shop next door.

You can continue walking for miles, taking in dozens of shops, historic buildings, and eateries, while enjoying the seaside scenery. Here, you’ll also find the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market, where you can grab a homemade bite to eat, or the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which features memorabilia from the Titanic. The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 is a fascinating stop for anyone interested in Canadian heritage. It was the gateway for more than 1 million immigrants into the country.

Halifax

You’ll also find plenty of places to whet your whistle and try the seafood. Waterfront Warehouse is hard to miss. Boasting fresh seafood and oysters, it’s a perfect place to take kick back and enjoy the view of the waterfront. We chose to grab some haddock bites from a carry-out restaurant. For dessert, we went to Beavertails, where you can get a funnel cake in the shape of—you guessed it—a beavertail. But it’s covered in Nutella, cream cheese, caramel, or a host of other decadent delights.

Halifax

halifax

You could spend an entire afternoon walking along the Halifax Waterfront. It’s hard not to get caught up in the hustle and bustle and just keep walking. With only a couple of hours, we didn’t have a lot of time for leisure, but we did get to take in a lot of the sights.

Halifax is much more than lighthouses and boardwalks, but this is the perfect way to spend the day if that’s all the time you have. What other places do you recommend in Halifax? Share your photos on Instagram using #WanderlustWayfarer.

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.

 

Five Hours in Funchal: From Gondolas to Street Toboggans

One of the best parts of cruising is going to places you might not have otherwise considered, like Funchal, Madeira.

 

This picturesque city has slightly more than 100,000 people and is the capital of Madeira, a Portuguese island in the North Atlantic Ocean. Funchal is magical, but before my ship entered its port, I had no idea I wanted to go there. Heck, I had no idea it existed. Within 15 minutes ashore, I knew it was one of my new favorite places in Europe, and even though I still had the whole day ahead of me, I didn’t want it to end.

I had no idea what to expect so I thought about taking a ship-sanctioned shore excursion. In the end, I decided not to take one. Instead I chose to take my chances on making my own itinerary. I studied the ship’s recommendations and decided I could see the main city sites and still have plenty of time to stroll the streets if I did things on my own. And I was right! I packed in a ton of fun and never once felt rushed. Here are my tips for the best ways to spend five hours in Funchal.

Disembarking

Funchal

To make the most of this beautiful port, I urge you to rise early and beat the crowds. If you get up at 6:30 a.m., you can be dressed, have a bite to eat, and be ready to go by 8 a.m. This was the projected arrival time for NCL Epic.

As soon as I heard the captain give the A-OK to get off the ship, I headed toward the gangway. Trust me when I tell you not to waste a single minute of time you have in this lovely place. I was the very first person to disembark for the day. And I was glad to have the quiet streets to myself for a few hours before most of the other cruisers made it off the ship.

It’s a bit of a jaunt from the ship to the heart of the action, but it’s a well-designed route once you get past the ship dock. Simply walk off the ship and keep going until you reach a fork in the road. Make a right on Avenida Do Mar, and keep on walking. The level pathway, scenic view along the waterfront, and smattering of shops make it an easy stroll. You can turn left at the first main intersection to head straight into the tourist area. But I decided to up the ante and keep walking. I had a special plan for my morning.

Morning

I walked all along the pathway for about 45 minutes at a brisk pace. I had an ulterior motive: to get on the cable cars or, as they’re called locally, Teleférico do Funchal, before the crowds of tourists arrived. I made good time, arriving by 8:45 a.m. Sadly, they didn’t open until 9 a.m. so I could have walked at a more leisurely pace and enjoyed the sights. Still, even as I waited to get inside, throngs of tourists arrived. In fact, three busloads were waiting just behind me.

I swooped in as soon as the doors were unlocked and bought my ticket to the hilltop village of Monte. Monte has lots to offer in its own right, including beautiful gardens. You can purchase tickets to various attractions at the same time as you buy your cable car fare. Just remember, Funchal also has lots to offer too. Watch the clock so you have time to enjoy both places.

Monte

I bought a round-trip ticket and boarded the very first car of the morning. I’m terrified of heights, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it wasn’t so bad. Treetops and roofs appear to be just a stone’s throw away for most of the ride up. There are a few places where you’re suspended fairly high above the ground, but the journey lasts only 15 minutes. You can do anything for 15 minutes, I promise. And the view is so worth any anxiety you may experience.

When you reach the end of your journey, there’s not a lot of signage telling you where to go. Because I was the first tourist at the top, there wasn’t anyone to follow. If you turn right, you’ll head toward the gardens. If you turn left, you’ll make your way toward the Church of Our Lady of the Mount. It’s a short walk either way you turn.

I was hoping for a few shops and cafés where I could while away the morning in Monte, but there were no such thing. After you walk the stairs to the church and take in the exceptional view of Funchal, there’s not a lot else to do…except for maybe the most amazing experience ever. Read on.

Mid-Morning

So the real reason I wanted to make my way to the hilltop town of Monte was so that I could ride in a wicker basket back down the hill. A wicker basket! I believe the locals call it a toboggan, but I call it like I see it. For the high, high price of 25 Euros for one person or 30 Euros for two, you can sit in a basket while two men push you through the village streets at relatively fast speeds. You can’t make this stuff up.

Funchal

The men wear special boots that help them glide along the well-oiled streets. Occasionally, they slow the pace to let a car pass along at a cross road. Along the way, men will pop out from the side streets to snap your picture. You can buy it later for 10 Euros, along with a cute history of the toboggan ride. I figured no one would believe me when I told them what I’d just done without evidence, so I snapped it up. There’s also a little market where you can haggle for souvenirs and a place where you can grab a bite to eat.

Pro tip: If you plan on taking the toboggan ride down the hill, you only need to purchase a one-way ticket for the cable cars. I learned this the hard way and could have saved myself a few bucks. Oh, and try to have cash for the toboggan ride. In theory, they take credit, but it’s a hassle. My “drivers” were quite unhappy about not being paid cash.

Downhill

It’s important to note the basket ride only takes you partway down the hill. There’s still a long way to go to reach the bottom. You have three options, take a tour bus, hop in a taxi, or walk. As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, I like a good walk. But I can tell you, I am the only person who chose this option. And it was a long walk at a steep angle. I’m glad I did it, but I’m not sure I’d recommend it, unless you’re really keen.

I stopped a few times along the way to take some snaps of my ship in the port. I also caught a few glimpses of locals going about their daily business. I like that sort of thing. It feels more intimidate, which can be hard to achieve with only five hours in Funchal.

Mid-Day

I’d promised my traveling companion I would return to the ship by 11 a.m. so we could spend the rest of the day in town together. Believe it or not, I had already accomplished all of that excitement and got back to the ship 15 minutes early. To my delight, she was already waiting for me outside, leaving us even more time to explore Funchal.

We spent the rest of the day meandering through the city streets. We went into every shop, walked down every alley, and ate gelato. From trendy boutiques, like Dona Hortensia, to the local market, Mercado Dos Lavradores, there are endless unique shopping options. Zara, Mossimo Dutti, Mango, and all of the other major chain stores are present too.

Funchal

It’s hard not to fall in love with the stunning scenery of town square. Quaint cafés, like The Ritz, lush greenspaces, and white buildings and cobblestone streets give Funchal a romantic glow. Praça do Município, the main square, the statue of João Gonçalves Zarco, and Sé Catedral do Funchal are not to be missed. I could spend a month just sitting at a café taking in Funchal’s beauty, writing a romance novel and enjoying the atmosphere.

In the Old Town, the Rua de Santa Maria features a public art project that’s helping to revitalize the area. Known as Arte de Portas Abertas, it features more than 200 doors painted by local artists. It’s a feast for the eyes.

Alas, with only five hours in Funchal, by mid-afternoon, it was time to make our way back to the ship. I was sad to sail away from this fairy tale town, and dream of visiting Funchal again soon.