Disney Cruise Line Series: How tender boats work on Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

I’ve been to a number of Caribbean islands now by boat using Disney Cruise Line.  One of the islands I particularly enjoyed was Grand Cayman.  However, Grand Cayman doesn’t have a pier like other islands because it is surrounded by a corral reef.  As a result, when you take a ship like the Disney Fantasy, they have to drop anchor and bring you in on smaller boats called tenders.  This leads to a bit more chaotic of a situation when you are trying to get off the boat.

When the ship drops anchor, they will make use of six smaller tender boats that will transport guests to and from the island.  These guests can only hold 200 people at a time so as a result, that means you are going to be waiting around a bit.  To tender to the island, you have to meet at the Walt Disney theater.  Here they will hand you one “tender ticket” for each guest in your party.  Make sure you all arrive together.  Then they will have you take a seat somewhere in the theater.  As you wait they will have cartoons running that will provide some minimal entertainment for the kids.  Plan on waiting 30 – 45 minutes.  Once it is your group’s turn, they will instruct you to follow the leader to either the forward, mid-ship, or aft of the boat.  There you will scan your Key to the World card to leave the ship just like you would leave the ship normally.  Then you will board the tender.

If you don’t have an excursion that starts early, your best bet is to wait before you try and board a tender.  Wait until noon or later to get off the boat to skip the lines.

Tenders look like old beaten up boats that have seen a lot of abuse.  They aren’t meant for comfort, just to get you there.  When debarking the ship, you enter the boat from the second deck of the tender.  When boarding from the pier, you will enter from the first deck of the tender.

A Tender boat at the pier of Grand Cayman waiting to return to the Disney Fantasy

A Tender boat at the pier of Grand Cayman waiting to return to the Disney Fantasy

When returning to the ship, you can get some absolutely amazing photos of the ship.  This is one of the best places where you can take a picture from the ship head on.  Plan accordingly when you are taking your seat on the tender to get the best spot.

The front of the Disney Fantasy outside of Grand Cayman taken while aboard a tender.

The front of the Disney Fantasy outside of Grand Cayman taken while aboard a tender.

Here’s a shot just after we left the port.

The Disney Fantasy achored outside of Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

The Disney Fantasy anchored outside of Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

When you reach the ship, they will extend the gangway to the top of the tender boat where you can board the ship.  The top deck of the boat exits first.

The gangway that the tender boats will use to allow passengers back on board.

The gangway that the tender boats will use to allow passengers back on board.

It may sound like a pain to use a tender to get to Grand Cayman.  Admittedly it really is.  However, Grand Cayman is one of the nicer islands and has some great port adventures (excursions) such as getting some hand on experience with sea turtles.

Turtles from the Grand Cayman Sea Turtle Farm

Turtles from the Grand Cayman Sea Turtle Farm

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