How We Learned To Scuba Dive On A Cruise.
I’m swimming in the Caribbean. It’s a sunny November morning in Grand Cayman. The water is refreshing and a hypnotic turquoise. After a couple of minutes, a few more people, including our dive instructor, join Beth and I in the lagoon. We look at each other, realizing the moment has finally come: we’re about to dive.
Twenty-four hours earlier we were sitting on the deck of the Carnival Dream looking through the shore excursion guide. We wanted to do an activity in Grand Cayman and were leaning towards Sting Ray City, a gathering area for sting rays near the barrier reef. It’s become one of the island’s main tourist attractions. Just then, we saw the listing for the Discover Scuba Diving excursion and wondered aloud: Could we really learn to scuba dive on a cruise? (Diving has been something we’ve wanted to try for years but just never found the time do it.) The quick answer is YES! but, at the time, it doesn’t seem plausible on such short notice. We sign up anyways, figuring at the very least it will be a good way to get some experience for future classes, as the credits earned from the course can be used towards an open water dive certificate.
Outside of vomit-inducing amusement park rides, which I don’t count, I’ve never been weightless. But I can only imagine that the feeling is not unlike breathing underwater for the first time—it’s an unnatural, albeit, addictive sensation. Ten feet and a few deep breaths later, I’m sitting on the sandy lagoon floor. Our instructor starts into a series of three basic scuba skills designed to get us comfortable with breathing underwater. She explained them earlier on land. Now it was time to perform the skills underwater, a requirement to proceed out to the reef, where we could reach depths of 40 feet. Sitting in a circle of four, the instructor, who is certified with the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI), works with each one of us to ensure we have a strong grasp of the skills before moving to deeper water. We do. And now it is time for the main attraction: Cheeseburger Reef.
At this point, we’ve only been in Grand Cayman for less than two hours. The Lobster Pot Dive Company picked us up at the cruise ship terminal for the short ride to its shop. Once there we watched a short video about SCUBA diving and received instruction about the skills we’d be learning in the course. We were then fitted with our gear, got some more instruction and headed into the cove—a huge plus, in my opinion, as most dive centers do their training in swimming pools.
With the certification complete, we make our way to Cheeseburger Reef, which is a short swim away. For the next 30 minutes, we explore the coral reef. It’s an exhilarating experience—a real tour de force for the senses. Among the grottoes and overhangs of the reef, we encounter an array of fish, including the imposing but harmless silver tarpon as well as a wealth of colorful species, like blue tangs and parrot fish, among others.
Arriving back at the dive center, we are all smiles. It feels like we discovered a new world—a place I had only seen from a distance before. Since we still have several hours before we have to be on the ship, we catch a shuttle bus to the public beach. There we grab some food and drinks at the popular beach bar, Calico Jacks, and then head to the water for an afternoon swim. It’s the perfect end to a thrilling day in Grand Cayman.
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