Cruise editor Rebecca Tobin went scuba diving off Cozumel,
Mexico, during a cruise. Her report follows:
ix cruise passengers perched on
the edge of their chairs on a small beach in Cozumel, all with eyes
focused on Martin.
Martin, he of Martin's Dive Shop here, was teaching us to be
novice scuba divers. "Breathe," he said, sounding like a yoga
instructor. "You must be breathing under the water."
Martin spent 45 minutes teaching us underwater hand signals --
important ones like "help" and "my inner-ear hurts" -- showing us a
complicated-looking vest (technically called a buoyancy control
device) with gadgets and mouthpieces hanging off it, and telling us
At the end of the lesson, most of us looked a little, well, not
so relaxed. But we all strapped on the vests, tanks, extra weights
and snorkel fins and struggled into the water -- and I willed
myself to take my first underwater breath.
I was completely distracted by fish darting about, the silence
(minus the Darth Vader-like breathing sounds) and the general
amazement of being 35 feet below the surface -- and just two feet
from some beautiful coral formations.
My dive partners and I returned to the ship raving about our
Discover Scuba experience and vowing to do it again.
order for your clients to scuba dive seriously, they'll need an
open-water certification card -- known as a C-card -- and getting
one is a lengthy and in-depth affair. On most Caribbean islands,
however, you can find Discover Scuba courses or dives that don't
These dives are somewhat different than a certified dive.
Participants spend about an hour going over safety techniques and
procedures. They do some practice routines in shallow water before
heading out to sea, and they're not out of the sight of a dive
master the entire time.
They're also not allowed to dive more than 40 feet deep. That
depth, however, is enough to see some stunning coral and marine
life in most ports. It's often enough for most participants to
consider going for that C-card.
This is an experience many clients will enjoy, as long as they
are adventurous, in good shape and not claustrophobic. All
participants have to fill out a medical history and release form,
and some of the health requirements are strict. If you have a cold,
for example, you're not supposed to dive.
And some clients just aren't going to like the feeling of being
underwater. Humans aren't built for deepwater pressure. It can be a
Agents recommending any type of scuba dive should make sure the
dive shop belongs to the Professional Association of Diving
Instructors (PADI), which maintains worldwide standards for dive
training and safety and regulates Discover Scuba.
Most cruise lines' excursions include Discover Scuba courses
that complement the one- or two-tank dives for certified divers.
And shore-excursion companies, such as Milwaukee-based ShoreTrips.com,
offer dive experiences commissionable at 10%.
ShoreTrips president Barry Karp has been diving all over the
Caribbean, and he personally picks the dive shops offered on its Web site. Dive
prices can range from about $55 to as high as $100.
Karp said that, if given a clients' itinerary, he's able to
point out the best dive shops for beginners on the route. "It's an
effortless sport, and you get to see a totally different world,"
Karp said. "You see the people coming off the boat, and everyone is
In fact, Karp said, one of the attractions of scuba diving
actually is the complicated vest. "It has to do with equipment. It
has hoses, and valves and weight belts and things like that. Guys
eat that up."
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