Tendering: Everyone’s Favorite Activity

Today we had to tender ashore and it really went quite well.  There are a lot of factors that go into a successful tendering day. So, for today’s blog post: Let me explain about tenders.

This ship has four tenders. For the purposes of tendering they figure that about 80 people +/- can sit comfortably in a tender. When you look at the ship and you see all the lifeboats hanging there, the ones that are used as tenders are the ones that look the fanciest. There are two on each side of our ship. They are quite similar to a lifeboat, and in an emergency they are used as lifeboats. They get lowered to the water by a hydraulic davit system, however they have two motors instead of one. There are a few reasons over the years that we’ve needed to use tenders in some ports. The by far most common reason is that they don’t have a dock or pier that is long enough or deep enough to accommodate us. There is also the possibility that other ships are in the berths that are available at the port and there is no space left for us. In the case of one time visiting Stockholm, Sweden, we tendered overnight because our docking location was going to be so far away from the town and there were no busses available to bring the passengers closer to the city. (That’s what they told us anyways.)

In the morning the tender team lowers the tenders down from the boat deck to the water. On our particular ship you board the tenders by going down to the tender platform via A deck. There is one deck of stairs that you need to be able to walk down.

On this ship there are about 1,300 passengers as well as another 600 crew. When you can only load 80 people into one tender, you need to have some order and organization to the 1,900 people that are onboard. This is managed in a few different ways:

  • Tours
    • Those people on tours will go ashore when their tour group is called. This is a known number of people per group and thus the people working at the tender platform and on crowd control for tendering can plan for it.  
  • Tender Tickets:
    • The most basic version of this: you get a ticket that has a number on it and you wait for that number to be called.
    • The other details: Depending on the port you’re in people will start lining up so, so, soooooo early. In Easter Island this year they started lining up at 3:30am for tickets that weren’t going to be handed out until 7:30am. They wanted to be the first ones in line. This has to do with the experience last year in Easter Island where not everyone was able to go ashore (incredibly rocky conditions), but let’s just say that sometimes people can get very “Hunger Games” about this. If you are like me though, there is no place that is worth seeing to wake up at 3:30am and stand in line for 4 hours with people that are undoubtedly complaining, whining, and in other ways just being obnoxious humans. (This isn’t to say they are always that way, but for some reason tendering brings out the worst in people – this is based on a survey that I’ve been compiling in my head for the past 10 years).
    • Something I’ve found interesting while sailing as a “passenger” is that sometimes you hear more of the complaining than you do while working largely because you hear all the little comments that people say underneath their breath or to the people they’re standing with.
    • Mariner Level
      • On HAL we have the Mariner Society, and you have a certain number of stars. After one cruise you would have one star, and then as you cruise more, spend more, or stay in fancier cabins you get more stars. Typically, if you have either 4 or 5 stars you do not need a tender ticket and can just go when you’re ready.
      • On some Grand Voyages this privilege is taken away because over half of the guests will be either 4 or 5 star Mariners. Instead it will just be offered to guests in the President’s Club category (the highest level, requiring insane amounts of day’s sailed).

You know at the airport when you see someone being mean to the gate agent when it has nothing to do with them, isn’t their fault, and probably isn’t getting paid that much to put up with the pile of meanness that is getting thrown at them? Yeah? Here’s a couple times I was on the other end of it:

One of the jobs I’ve had at tendering was to basically guard the door leading down towards the tender platform. The nice way of putting it was that I needed to collect tender tickets from people. The not nice way of putting it was that I needed to make sure that people didn’t cut in line. These are adults, you would think that would be easy! But, alas, sometimes adults act so much worse than children.

We were in Dravuni Island in Fiji (absolutely beautiful island that everyone should visit once for the pure tranquility of it), and tendering was taking awhile. It was rocky out and as there are no tours on this island everyone was in the tender ticket scenario. I was standing guarding my stairwell, waiting for the next number to be called when someone came up to me, got up in my face, told me that he was going ashore, and tried to push past me to the point that he almost pushed me down a set of stairs. Luckily I grew up not letting 1,000 pound cows push me around so this guy did not actually stand a chance. He thought he was going to push around a little girl and instead realized he was trying to push me around. I sent him packing and told him he was lucky I didn’t report him to security.

Another job I’ve had while tendering was handing out the tender tickets. On this particular ship we handed out the tender tickets in one of the show lounges and guests had the option to wait in that lounge until their number was called. I am very glad we’ve moved away from this system due to what happened that day.

We were in Maui, Hawa’ii, and well that tender ride takes awhile. For whatever reason on this cruise Maui was our first stop after leaving San Diego. This means we had just had four days at sea. Guests were anxious (and logically so) to get off the ship after being onboard for 4 days. The wait that day was probably 3-4 hours to get off the ship. It was terrible and I will fully admit that. Here’s the thing: we want tendering to go well more so than the guests do. Get them off the damn ship. Remember, tendering seems to bring out the worst in people, so let’s get them off the ship so they can hopefully be happy.

So, after waiting for awhile someone walks back up to the desk I was sitting at and says “what’s the point of even having a tender ticket. It’s useless if I have to wait this long!” and then she threw it at me. Why? Why would you need to throw it at me?  The joke of course was then on her as her number was called not long after that. She asked for her number back, myself and my coworker informed her that we were not able to do that as we had given it to someone else so her spot in that tender was now taken.

As I think it’s important to also see the positive in life, the same day that the gentlemen tried to push past me and almost sent me down a flight of stairs was the day that I got two comments written in to the company about how great I was at managing the people in a professional way (so yay for me!)

Remember, tendering tends to bring out the worst in people, but it does not mean these people are bad, just for whatever reason they are having a bad day.

The next time you are at a ship with tendering, promise me you’ll remember:

  • the people working at tendering want you to get ashore just as bad as you want to go ashore
  • they are trying their hardest
  • the other passengers are not the enemy. They also just want to go ashore. 
  • The world is not going to stop spinning if you do not get ashore. This is not the thing that will cause the apocalypse so please take a deep breath and calm down.

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