Posted July 8th, 2018, 02:55 AM
Good afternoon all,
My wife on going to a Souther Caribbean cruise out of San Juan and going to: Bonaire (8am to 5pm), Aruba (8am to 5pm), Curacao (6am to 1pm), St. Lucia (1pm to 7pm), Barbados (8am to 4pm), Antigua (8am to 5pm), St. Kitts (8am to 5pm), and St. Thomas (8am to 5pm).
I am comfortable booking diving trips outside of the ships offerings, but would prefer operators that offer port pick-up and return (all else being equal). I am not trying to pick which locations to dive as I want to dive all of them - divers, dive! Does anyone have any recommendations? I've been diving in a couple of these spots but welcome fresh perspective.
Also, I am concerned about St. Lucia and Curacao since those are fairly short port days. This ship is offering a 1-tank dive excursion (of the Antilla) - looking forward to the wreck - amazing history... but 1-tank... you've got to be kidding me. I have reached out to Curious 2 Dive (thanks Harris), hopefully that works out. Any other thoughts on operators in these ports and the time crunch - especially St. Lucia. I understand the north side of the island is a no-go this time of year??
OK, first I would definitely not book the ship's excursion in Aruba All the cruise lines use Red Sail. They have pretty poor reviews and reputation, and I've seen their boats on dives. The very definition of a cattle boat from what I've seen (like 50 divers and snorkelers).
Going in order:
San Juan: I don't think there's any worthwhile diving in San Juan itself. I dove a shore dive there from one of the hotels, I wouldn't bother again. The good diving in Puerto Rico requires getting out of the city is all I know.
Bonaire: I strongly recommend VIP Diving. They have port pick-up and return, and provide absolutely personalized service. If you have been before, or do research and have sites you want to visit, you tell them where you want to go. The entire island is yours. They include nitrox with the price, but of course you have to have your nitrox specialty, you would want to get that in advance of your trip if you don't have it. If you like wrecks, the Hilma Hooker is a good one. Again, if you want to dive it, they'll want to see you've got your wreck specialty cert. Initially the price will likely strike you as high for shore dives. By the end of the day, you'll be bragging about what a bargain you got. HINT: They have both 80 and 100 CF tanks, so ask for the 100s. They're no extra charge. (www.vipdiving.com
Aruba: Easy answer, Happy Divers Aruba. Jeffrey there is great. Maximum 6 divers, usually less. Since the boat is limited, book early. Jeffrey will provide port pick up and and return, and a great day. Let him know you want to dive the Antilla, and he'll make it happen. There are other nice sites nearby. The Pedernales also has interesting history. Blue reef gives you a wreck and reef. Jeffrey can take a couple days to respond to emails, but he'll get back to you and get you all set. (www.happydiversaruba.com
Curacao: It sounds like you've already got the answer. Hans with CURious2dive will give you a great day. He has nitrox at an extra fee, but the dive profiles make it worth it. If you're interested, ask him to take you hunting lionfish. It's a lot of fun, and it helps the reef. Your port hours are odd, but Hans will make it work if anyone can, and he definitely picks up and returns to the port. The tugboat site is quite famous and a lot of fun. I like Director's Bay a lot too. (www.curious2dive.com
St. Lucia: I dove with Scuba Steve's. They were good, but not amazing like the above and below operators. The sea life there was great. We dove Superman's Flight, which is probably the most famous site there. Our second dive, Pinnacles, was actually better. They offer two packages. Pay the extra for the upgraded package, as the lower price keeps you close to the port where the viz isn't so good. The nice thing is the dive boat picks you up from the cruise ship pier. No way to know if they can work with your hours. (www.scubastevesdiving.com
Barbados: Another simple answer, West Side Scuba Centre. Peter and Heather there definitely will take good care of you. Another great wreck dive here, the Stavron Ikita. The wreck has something for everyone, the mast is nearly at the surface, and the prop is at 130 feet. They will meet you at the port, and return you. (www.westsidescuba.com
Antigua: The diving is no where near the port. We dove with Dive Carib, which is on the south side of the island in English Harbor The port is 20 miles +/- away on the west side. The diving was only OK, and not worth the hassle, I will say seeing English Harbor was worthwhile, especially since St. John hasn't got much to offer. Dive Carib wasn't exactly my favorite operator, but they're basically the only option. If I book a cruise that calls on Antigua, I'll likely stay on the ship. (www.divecarib.com
St. Kitts: Another easy one, Dive St. Kitts. They provide port pick up and return. However, the pick up seems to be Their weak point. Every time it's been a bit disorganized, however, it's always worked out. They have a multitude of nice sites,a nd usually you see some interesting life All this combines with a really friendly operator. (www.divestkitts.com
St. Thomas: If you like wrecks better, I'd say Blue Island Divers. If you want reefs, Aqua Marine Dive center would be my recommendation. Blue Island's boat comes to the port, so that solves that. Dive Aqua Marine will provide pick-up/drop off. Of the two I found Aqua Marine to be the friendlier and more personal, but both are good. For some reason, Aqua Marine uses 72 CF tanks, instead of the usual 80 CF, no biggie, but it shortens your dive time a little. (www.blueislanddivers.com
Feel free to email with any questions.