Explore the treasures under the sea on your Caribbean Cruise
Plunging into the blue is on many vacation to-do lists, especially in the Caribbean. If the vibrant colors and creatures aren't reason enough to dive into some of the best snorkeling and diving on earth, consider some of these other underwater attractions. We're talking shipwrecks like Hilma Hooker in Bonaire, underwater sculpture museums like Molinere Bay in Grenada, Champagne Beach in Dominica and the Vaersenbaai Car Piles off of Curaçao. So whether you are certified or want to keep it simple with snorkeling, we have essential tips to help you get the most out of your next dive beneath the surface.
Do your research
"An essential that divers should bring on their cruise is their own research," says dive pro Mark Brown. "Info on the places they are visiting or want to dive. This saves time and money." Also know what kinds of diving are available and you want to do: accessed via boat, shore, kayak or some other method.
Brown and his brother Kurt are behind dive shop Twin Divers in Curaçao. For the best waters, the duo suggests Bonaire, the Bahamas, Barbados, the Cayman Islands and, of course, Curaçao. But, no matter where you end up, try to book appointments in advance.
Dive shops typically provide you with all the equipment you need, but we suggest wearing a basic swimsuit and leaving your designer swimwear poolside. Don’t forget waterproof sunblock, an extra change of casual clothes, flip-flops and a water-resistant bag to carry it all in (including your wallet and documents). Bottled water, snacks, coffee, and lunch are sometimes provided by the dive shops or shore excursion operators, so check with them in advance. Otherwise, pack portable snacks like granola bars and fruit.
Capture your underwater experience
Want to capture what you find under the sea? Kurt suggests the Olympus Tough TG-1 iHS. But if you're not ready to buy an underwater camera, you can stick to your trusty smartphone. LifeProof has a waterproof case for the iPhone that allows you to snap photos while swimming or snorkeling, up to a depth of 6.6 feet. They even have a LifeJacket, so your phone goes up instead of down if your grip on it slips. If you really want to turn this activity into an art form, look for a dive shop or photography tour guide that offer underwater photography classes in your ports of call.
Get certified before your dive
PADI scuba certification can take a few days or weeks. If there are no classes available in your area — you'd be surprised, many community colleges offer them — our suggestion is to contact a PADI-aligned dive shop in your embarkation city. There are worse things than spending a few days in a city like Miami or Fort Lauderdale and taking your dive course there before you set sail. Just make sure to adjust your schedule accordingly.
Now, where are your fins?