Cruise Ship Diving - The Ultimate Liveaboard?

27th August 2011   |   Jackie Hutchings

If you think that cruise ships are only for old, fat people with execrable taste in clothes, then look away now.

If, however, you like cruise holidays or are interested in principle, read on. My buddy and I have just done our first cruise ship diving, and our expectations were  exceeded. There are some downsides, of course (see below), but overall we were happy with the results. At two stops, we dived with the operator used by the cruise line, and made our own arrangements at the third stop, so we got to experience both.

We figured that the gear would be rubbish (some was, but some was fine), that the dive sites would be glorified snorkel reefs (only one of them shared space with ‘one-horned butt-fish’, as a dive leader called them), that we would not find many good photo opportunities (I took some of my best photos ever). We did two decent wrecks and saw a good array of interesting species amongst healthy coral.

Yes, there is more food than anyone can ever eat, in almost overwhelmingly large quantities. Yes, there are a lot of people who should never be allowed even to try on a bathing suit; much less wear one in public. Yes, the relentless cheerfulness of the cruise director gets tedious after about ten minutes. I’m really selling this, aren’t I?

Yet for the diver, it can be another way of experiencing multiple dive locations on the same trip. Especially if you’re travelling with a family of non-divers, there are loads of
other activities to keep them happy while you toddle off and indulge your underwater passions.

You wouldn’t think of most liveaboards as ideal family vacation vehicles, would you? Most are too limited in space and diversions for anyone not diving. On a big cruise ship, partners and children can swim in the pools, take part in hundreds of organised activities, or go ashore with different excursions while you’re diving.

And, like a liveaboard, you get to sample the diving at a range of different locations, with different conditions, different attractions. This has both advantages and disadvantages:

Advantages:

  1. Variety and diversity of dive experience.
  2. You’re travelling in a huge luxury floating hotel between locations.
  3. If you don’t like a location, you’re not stuck there for a week.
  4. The dive operation used by the cruise line is likely to be situated right at the port, which is very convenient.

Disadvantages:

  1. You don’t get to know the crew on the dive boat, or have time to learn much about the location.
  2. Many dive excursions organised by cruise lines are cattle calls.
  3. No choice of dive sites to visit.
  4. The cruise dive operator may not be the best at the location, just the most convenient.

You can probably book the diving as part of the cruise, but you are not given any information about the operator and have to trust that they will be of acceptable quality. Alternatively, you can choose to book your diving directly with the operators.  This gives you a lot more flexibility and choice, and probably a better dive experience overall.

However—and this is important—you are responsible for travel arrangements to/from the ship. If you’re late back, the ship will leave without you, unless you are booked on one of their excursions. If you dive with their operator, the ship will wait for you. So be very careful with timings.

On another practical note, it’s unlikely that you’ll have room for dive gear in your stateroom, nor is there anywhere else to store it. The rental gear is generally ok but will vary in quality, just as for any dive operation. It’s worth bringing items of gear which aren’t too bulky and where familiarity matters, like your mask and computer.

And finally, don’t forget your cert cards! So easily done when the rest of the diving gear is staying home . . .

Copyright © Vanessa Lafaye

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