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Are Cruise Tenders Accessible?

In certain instances, wheelchair users will be able to use cruise tenders to get ashore. The criteria varies by cruise line and is often determined on a case by case basis.

Cruise tenders: The small boats that are used to ferry people from the cruise ship to shore at smaller harbors like Mykonos, Santorini, Cannes, Dubrovnik, Monaco, etc… Wheelchair accessible cruise tenders are not common.

Safety is priority #1 in making the decision and there are several factors in making the decision:
– Sea conditions: In rough seas, disabled passengers will not be allowed to board the cruise tenders.
– Mobility of passengers: If a passenger can step onto the cruise tender (even with assistance) there is a higher likelihood they will be allowed on
– Weight of wheelchair + person: If a wheelchair user is light enough and their wheelchair is light enough, they may be allowed onto the cruise tender. Heavy electric wheelchairs with heavy individuals may not be safe for cruise staff to lift onto the boat.


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In order to increase your likelihood of being allowed to use a wheelchair accessible cruise tender, you should take these steps:
1) Pick a cruise itinerary that doesn’t use tenders – With so many cruise lines and so many cruise itineraries, there are numerous cruise options that use docks instead of tenders. If you are unsure which itineraries use docks and which use tenders, our accessible cruise consultants can help.
2) Ask someone before the cruise – Inquire about cruise tender wheelchair access months in advance. Only leave this up to your travel agent if they are familiar with the needs of disabled travelers and familiar with the ports of call…they will need to know the right questions to ask.
3) Ask early – Talk to someone on the cruise ship several days before you want to go ashore. If you ask the day before, there less chance they will be able to accommodate you.
4) Ask the right person – You will probably need to talk to a manager instead of the customer services desk.
5) Ask nicely – Don’t be demanding in your request. Tell them you understand that safety comes first. Express your enthusiasm at visiting the port…cruise staff love to make passengers happy!

Contact us before making your cruise reservation and we can advise you on
the tender requirements between different cruise lines and different ports
Here are a few descriptions of cruise tender wheelchair access from cruise line websites:

From Royal Caribbean’s website: “Guests with assistive devices who are unable to take a few steps will be unable to board tenders unless roll-on capability is available.

In order to safely board most tenders, guests must be able to take steps and use a collapsible manual wheelchair. In addition, motorized wheelchairs and mobility scooters can not be taken on tenders, unless roll-on capability is available. Inquire about tender roll-on capability at Guest Relations Desk while on board. Please note roll-on capability is not guaranteed.

Even if the ship is scheduled to dock at a pier, it can change to tendering.”

From Holland America’s website: “Also, please note that scooters and wheelchairs which are more than 100 lbs. without the battery are not allowed to be transferred from the ship to tender and/or from tender to shore.”

From Norwegian’s website: “Guests must be aware that certain vessel transfers, such as tendering and gangways, may not be fully accessible to wheelchairs or scooters at the time that they desire or that they cannot go ashore at all. When a ship is unable to dock, guests are taken ashore on smaller boats called tenders.

Some guests with limited mobility may find it difficult to embark or disembark the ship at certain times while at dock or while tendering. Note: scooters and wheelchairs and/or guests that weigh 100 lbs or more are not allowed to be transferred from the ship to tender and/or from tender to shore.”

Sage Travel Tip: Be skeptical if cruise staff tell you that you
will not be able to see much onshore due to poor accessibility.
They may not understand what we can do!

The Cruise Tender Process for Wheelchair Users

The accessible cruise tender process involves lowering the accessible boat from the side of the cruise ship, checking that everything is working properly, staffing the boat, and fueling the boat. It costs time and money, and it adds a potential safety risk.

Please understand if the cruise staff is hesitant to launch the wheelchair accessible tender and bring you to shore. Safety comes first. If you’re too demanding, it will make cruise staff reluctant to let any disabled travelers use tenders!

The cruise ship may have multiple doors for the exit. In the photos shown below, there is a higher door that is used to exit to the dock, and there are two lower doors used to get onto wheelchair accessible tenders.


In the photo below, you can see the short walkway that connects the small floating dock to the cruise ship. Note that even though I can easily push myself and my wheelchair doesn’t have push handles on the back, cruise staff is eager to push wheelchair users while embarking and disembarking.

Near the tender boat, there is often a small step so that people walking onto the boat can board more easily (shown in the photos below). Cruise ship personnel will need to lift wheelchair users onto it, and then carry them onto the tender boat. Wheelchair users will be the last ones to board the wheelchair accessible tender so they can be the first ones off. Because of safety reasons, it is highly unlikely that cruise staff will agree to lift heavy electric wheelchairs.


Able-bodied passengers will walk down a few steps to the seating area.


The platform on the tender extends from one side to the other to create a larger area for wheelchair passengers. Wheelchair users will not need to go down any steps onwheelchair accessible cruise tenders (Note – not all tenders are accessible).


These are two pictures that I took from the accessible cruise tender. There’s just a chain separating me from the ocean, so you can understand why cruise staff insist on calm seas!


Cruise staff will help carry you off the tender onto the dock.


There is often a small step to help able-bodied people onto shore.


Below are photos of cruise staff giving assistance to get me and my wheelchair back onto the tender are below. Cruise staff requested that we returned to the tender dock early so they could assist me getting back to the ship before the crowds arrived.


A photo of the tender that is kept in Mykonos harbor is shown below. It was not wheelchair accessible.

This is the accessible cruise tender that the Princess cruise staff lowered from the ship specifically for us to use. Cruise staff should always be notified well in advance if you want to take a tender journey to shore and you have a disability.


Whereas cruise ship docks can sometimes be a few miles from the city center, tenders will often use accessible cruise docks near the center of the city.

Pick an accessible cruise itinerary with few tender ports, communicate early and to the right people, and hope for good sea conditions…and have a great time onshore!


Book a Cruise Package and Get 50 Off Each Shore Excursion


Read more:

Accessible Cruising in Europe
Accessible Cruise Travel vs. Accessible Land Travel
Choosing Your Accessible Cruise
13 Tips for Disabled Cruisers in Europe
Top 20 Accessible Mediterranean Cruise Itineraries
Accessibility Reviews of European Cruise Ports
Are Cruise Tenders Accessible?
Accessible Mediterranean Cruise Excursions
Discount Accessible Cruise & Excursion Packages
Cruise Port Accessibility Reviews
Athens (Piraeus) Cruise Port Accessibility
Barcelona Cruise Port Accessibility
Civitavecchia (Rome) Cruise Port Accessibility
Istanbul Cruise Port Accessibility
Kusadasi Cruise Port Accessibility
Livorno (Florence) Cruise Port Accessibility
Monaco Cruise Port Accessibility
Mykonos Cruise Port Accessibility
Naples Cruise Port Accessibility
Sorrento Cruise Port Accessibility
Venice Cruise Port Accessibility
Accessible Mediterranean Cruise Excursions
Athens Accessible Cruise Excursions
Barcelona Accessible Cruise Excursions
Civitavecchia (Rome) Accessible Cruise Excursions
Ephesus (Kusadasi & Izmir) Accessible Cruise Excursions
French Riviera Accessible Cruise Excursions
Istanbul Accessible Cruise Excursions
Livorno (Tuscany) Accessible Cruise Excursions
Mykonos Accessible Cruise Excursions
Naples Accessible Cruise Excursions
Venice Accessible Cruise Excursions
Discount Accessible Cruise & Excursion Packages

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