If you are a diver and have a non diving spouse or partner, it can be challenging finding the right vacation to satisfy everyone. I am often asked if cruise ships might be a good way to get some great land based touring combined with diving. My answer here is yes….and no.
Looking for World Class Diving?
If you are looking for world class diving, I generally would not recommend a cruise ship for a dive vacation. Most cruise ships do not take diving into account when planning itineraries, even the ones that offer diving on board. You may be in the Caribbean on your vacation but not at the islands with good diving and this is true for most ships around the world. If you want to do many things on your vacation and diving is a small part, in other words, if you just want to get wet and don’t care how good the diving is, then it can be a fine option with a non diving partner because while you are diving there are a gazillion things for a non diver to do.
Can I dive from a Cruise Ship?
To answer the question, “CAN I dive on a cruise ship?” I answer again is yes….and no. Cruise ships vary quite a bit. Most of the large cruise ships do not offer on board scuba diving. They offer it as a “shore excursion”. What this means is that they have contracted with a local dive shop to take you out and charge a premium for their service. The dive shop knows that they are taking “cruise ship” passengers and that you are in and out of the port in less than 12 hours so generally (and remember I have to generalize here) they take you to the closest, easiest spots with limited bottom time and then run you back to the ship. So if you just want to “get wet” and don’t mind paying the premium for what is usually just an “ok” experience, go for it.
Booking ahead to dive on a cruise ship
I recommend in that situation, booking ahead of time on your own by contacting a recommended local operator rather than going through the ship. Arrange for the dive operator to pick you up. However, the ship will not allow your dive operator to pick you up at the ship, you will need to take your gear and go ashore and have them pick you up at the dock. BE SURE to leave yourself plenty of time for the cruise ship to dock or anchor, clear customs and immigration and get you off the ship. Don’t plan to get off within one hour of docking. However, do remember, the ship will NOT wait for you if you book your diving on your own and for some reason the dive boat is late. If you dive with their shore excursion of course, the ship will wait. Also, there is the possibility that the ship may miss the port of call for some reason and you may be expected to still pay the dive operator who reserved the space for you.
On board Dive Programs- There are a few
There are a few small cruise ships which do offer an on board dive program. WindStar used to offer diving on all of their ships in all locations but currently only offer diving on the Costa Rica itinerary. The Paul Gauguin out of Tahiti does offer diving directly from the ship on most every day of their itinerary as do the Star Clipper ships. This is a very nice option for a diving/non diving couple. It is quite easy because the diving is done directly off the ship so you can store your gear with them and just walk down to the sports deck with your morning coffee and jump on the dive boat, no messing around with making reservations in advance, hauling gear ashore or taking time getting to and from the dive shops, filling out waivers etc…. When you return from the dive, go straight to a hot shower in your cabin and get ready for the rest of the day. Meanwhile your non diving spouse has had a leisurely breakfast, hit the morning aerobics class or taken a morning tour instead of spending the morning “waiting” on you. Now you can enjoy the rest of the day in a state of marital bliss!!
To your adventures!