• TRAVEL NOTICE: Learn more about COVID-19
  • Newsletter
  • Write a Review
  • Boards
  • Find a Cruise
  • Reviews
  • Cruise Tips
  • News
  • Deals
You may also like
What Is a Tender Boat on a Cruise? What Is a Tender Port?
What Is a Tender Boat on a Cruise? What Is a Tender Port?

What Is a Zodiac Boat on a Cruise Ship?

Susan Moynihan
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • Twitter

Zodiacs on National Geographic Islander

Larger cruise ships use tenders for getting passengers to and from shore, smaller ships -- especially in the adventure category -- use Zodiacs to provide the same service or for nature-viewing excursions. Created in 1896 by the Zodiac boat company, Zodiacs come in different shapes and sizes but have a few key components in common. First off, they are inflatable; the sides and bow are constructed of inflatable tubes filled with pressurized gas, making them light, fast and easily transportable. They have shallow drafts, which means they can access shallow waters or water with obstacles such as rocks that would damage a less-hearty metal or fiberglass hull. And they are typically open-air, which makes them ideal for exploration by water, such as whale-watching excursions or sightseeing trips along rocky coastlines.

Cruise ships use these sturdy inflatable rafts in every part of the world, from the Caribbean where Zodiacs may take you through mangrove isles on a bird-watching tour, to Antarctica, where their easy navigation is key in getting passengers through waterways dotted with chunks of floating ice.  Due to their smaller size and lack of cover, Zodiacs are best used by passengers with full mobility who are comfortable boarding and disembarking at sea, when the boat will be rocking due to wave motion and currents. Be prepared for wet landings, where the Zodiac pulls up at a beach and passengers hop out in the water and wade a few feet to shore.

Updated January 08, 2020

How was this article?

Featured News

The 2021 Black Friday Cruise Deals You Don't Want to Miss
Disney Cruise Line Vaccine Requirements to Include Children Ages 5 And Up As of January 13
Want to cruise smarter?
Get expert advice, insider tips and more.
By proceeding, you agree to Cruise Critic’s Privacy and Cookies Statement and Terms of Use.