Tender, but not gentle

I wrote the other day about the unpleasant tender rides that we experienced.  I thought I’d give a little more detail.  Or rather, vent a bit.

Not too rough, April 2017

A cruise ship uses its tenders to ferry passengers between the ship and the shore when there’s no suitable dock to tie up at.  The ship drops anchor in the port, and deploys two of the craft that are hopefully never used as lifeboats.  They are sparse, with hard plastic seats, and room for over 100 passengers in tender operation.   They are designed to not sink in rough seas, but are not designed to be especially stable.  
Sally and I have tendered many times, and Zelda and Matteo even more as they cruise frequently.  While it’s not always like a rowboat in the lake in Central Park, it’s usually a pretty innocuous operation: you hop from the ship to the tender, or the tender to the dock, and vice-versa.   There’s usually a crewman there to assist passengers who need it or are nervous.   

Not this time.   This time, we encountered tenders outside the ship that were rising and falling 3-6′, which is obviously too big a movement for most people to bridge.   Two crew on the ship, and two on the tender, grabbed your arms and passed you across the gap.   Often we had to wait several minutes between each passenger, which means moving even 30 people becomes a project.  

Free showers for all customers, April 2017 (1)


If you look in the first picture, you’ll see that the seas are not that rough.  Yet on one crossing, the crew had to scramble to close the hatches as spray was coming in and wetting people.   Another time while observing from our cabin, I saw the ship use its thrusters to swing away from the tender, creating a smoother wake for it to sit in while unloading.   Another time the crew aborted loading the tender, unloaded 6 or 8 people, then moved the tender to the other side of the ship to be shielded by the wind.  And in yet another, we waited while the ship was rotated to change the wind impact on the tender.

All of this in the only three stops we used tenders: Taormina, Amalfi and Sorrento.   More problems then any of the four of us had in all the tender ops we experienced before.

So I went to see who I could talk to about this, and spoke to the Staff Captain, who is responsible for all of the maritime operations on the ship (2).  He was a pleasant enough fellow.  I immediately sensed that I was was dealing with an engineer, not a customer relations specialist.   He was familiar with each of the issues I raised.  It never once occurred to him that letting the passengers involved know what was going on might be a good idea.  All he focused on was safe and effective operations.   Comfort was nice, but not critical.  He assured me that the loud bangs we heard as the tender bounced against the side of the larger ship wouldn’t damage either one.  Never mind that it terrified us each time it happened.

I would rate the impact of the conversation and his receptiveness at 6-7 out of 10.   He wasn’t defensive, but he really didn’t understand that passengers might be upset, as the boat never sank.  He did agree that he and his team would think about letting us in on the joke in the future.


(1) I take pride making sure my pictures are level.  This picture is level. It’s the tender that’s not.  

(2) Sally and I had each previously had separate conversations with the Hotel Manager about the bug report and specifically the difficulty the restaurant management seemed to be having with garlic.  They got better, but not great, after that.

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