When you cruise to the white-sand shores of the Caribbean islands and Mexico, the crystal-blue water practically begs you to dive in and explore!
There’s something so alluring about the waters of the Caribbean and Mexico. Imagine swimming past sunken ships and coral reefs teeming with colorful fish and crustaceans. There’s a whole different world under the sea and the clarity of the water in this region makes it optimal for underwater exploration. There are tours geared to all skill levels, whether you’re a first-time snorkeler or have your scuba certification and are looking for an interesting dive.
It should come as no surprise that HAL’s award-winning private island of Half Moon Cay is a great spot to snorkel. When you take the Snorkel by Boat tour all you’ll need is your swimsuit, towel and sunscreen — the snorkel equipment is provided onsite.
Travel by boat to a site off the coast of Half Moon Cay and jump into the warm waters to begin your adventure. You’ll find the reef below full of gloriously colored fish and coral.
This tour is great for any skill level and can be the perfect introduction to snorkeling.
“Wonderful excursion! Crew members were very helpful and nice. This was our first time snorkeling. They make it very easy. The weather was outstanding. The fish beautiful, the water crystal clear. Half Moon Cay was by far the best snorkeling experience we had on this seven-day cruise. Can’t wait to come back and do it again!.” – Guest 2OregonGirls.
Have you always wanted to explore a shipwreck? At Bridgetown, Barbados, the Carlisle Bay Shiprweck Snorkel & Beach tour offers you a chance to explore the fascinating site of a World War II Shipwreck. The ship has been overtaken by nature and is full of fish so tame you could feed them by hand.
Looking for something other than fish? Also at Bridgetown you’ll find the Barbados Turtle Encounter. Enjoy a boat ride along the beautiful west coast of Barbados, gliding past pristine palm-fringed beaches to Turtle Bay. There you’ll learn about the lives and habits of turtles and have the chance to swim among them. Afterward there’s time to relax on the beach.
This was probably our most favourite excursion this cruise. We set sail on a catamaran with a crew that was professional and helpful in so many ways. We anchored off the beautiful shores of Bridgetown and were ready to jump in the water in search of turtles. It was amazing and yes a waterproof camera is a must bring. After spending about an hour in the water with the turtles, we set sail for a beautiful beach where we enjoyed the banana and donut rides. OMG, I haven’t laughed like that in years. As we set sail for our return to the ship, we were provided with beverages of our choice. I will do this excursion again. — Guest Chiller
These tours are both good for beginner – moderate skill levels.
For those experienced snorkelers looking to make the leap into scuba diving, the Snuba Adventure tour at Basseterre, St. Kitts, is a great way to ‘get your feet wet.’ As the name suggests snuba is a hybrid snorkel/scuba experience. You do not have to be certified to scuba dive, nor do you have to operate an oxygen tank. Snuba lets you dive deeper and stay submerged longer than snorkeling without worrying about the intricacies of the sport. Experienced divers also enjoy Snuba for the sense of freedom — you don’t have to carry the weight of the equipment! And the best part of this tour in particular? This Snuba experience, at 50 minutes, is the longest in the Caribbean.
Are you ready to really dive in? Check out Discover Scuba Diving at Georgetown, Grand Cayman. Grand Cayman is among the best scuba diving destinations in the world due to its dramatic plunging sea walls and crystal clear water. This tour is designed as an introduction to scuba diving. You’ll start in the safety of the pool getting comfortable with the equipment before graduating to the open sea. Once at sea you’ll follow a guide and dive over Casuarina Reef Marine Park. Imagine the elation you’ll feel as you experience weightlessness in the underwater world and swim among the exotic fish.
“If you have ever thought of scuba diving, you should sign up for this! The visibility is great, the location is super close to the ship(s) and the crew is very good. This was our first dive in the Caribbean and as a result we will now dive every time we visit!!” – Guest AdventureSeeker
For those experienced divers looking for more of a challenge there are plenty of ports in Mexico and the Caribbean with tours just for you!
Two-Tank Certified Scuba Dives are available at the Mexican ports Cabo San Lucas, La Paz and Puerto Vallarta. At each of these ports you will take a boat ride to the destination with the best diving conditions of the day, depending on weather. These sites include the 25-100 foot plunge at Pelican Rock submarine canyon, off the coast of Cabo San Lucas; Los Islotes sea lion colony, a National Park near La Paz and the dramatic walls at Puerto Vallarta. Each of these tours requires a C-card and may require a logged dive within the last 12 months.
If you’re traveling to the Caribbean, look for a call at Bonaire and the Marine Park Certified Scuba. Continually rated the top Caribbean dive destination by the readers of Dive Magazine, Bonaire’s offshore reefs have enjoyed protection since 1979 when the world’s first Maritime National Park was created. As a result, the waters off Bonaire brim with some of the healthiest corals in the region which attract beautiful seaturtles, rays and fish of every imaginable color and shape. You may also spot eels, shrimp, octopus, snails, lobster and other denizens of the deep. This dive is pure bliss.
Another exciting dive is the Aruba Certified Two Tank Scuba at Oranjestad, Aruba, featuring not one, but two significant shipwrecks! A 45-minute boat ride from the port takes you to Antilla, known locally as “the ghost ship.” The Antilla is a German freighter that was cuttled by the Germans in 1945 and is the second-largest wreck in the Caribbean at 400 feet long. Nature has taken over the ship and you’ll find giant tube sponges and coral formations. The second dive of this tour features the Perdenalis, an oil tanker that was torpedoed by a German submarine during World War II. The wreck’s several large pieces are spread out between coral formations and much of the inside is visible.
These are just some of the exciting options for underwater exploration in the Caribbean. In 2014-2015 several Holland America Line ships will be sailing the region roundtrip from either Fort Lauderdale or Tampa, Fla, and San Diego, Calif.
Have you explored the depths of the Caribbean with Holland America Line? Let us know about your experience in the comments below!