Say you want to scuba dive but your significant other is not a diver and would rather do other activities like shopping. If you both decided to go on a Caribbean cruise vacation, is it still possible for you to go scuba diving? The answer is yes. This will be a big relief to all certified scuba divers who are going on cruises with itineraries that include such great scuba dive destinations as Cozumel and Grand Cayman. After all, as certified scuba divers, it would be a shame to go to these ports and not dive.
Many cruise ships offer scuba diving as part of their available shore excursions. Some ships even have small dive centers on board for those who want to take introductory sessions in the ship pools. These cruise lines will often have business contracts with local dive operators at each port that has scuba diving. These local dive operators will take certified scuba divers on boat trips on behalf of the cruise lines. Booking and payment will be through the cruise ships rather than the local dive operators. The cruise lines claim that if for any reason the scuba trips run late, the cruise ships will not leave port until all passengers from these cruise ship organized excursions are back on board. They will not wait around for passengers who decide to take their own excursions not booked through the cruise ship. This is how the cruise ships try to convince divers to take their excursions even if the cost is usually at a premium compared to what local dive operators would normally charge directly.
Another way to get some scuba diving in during a cruise vacation is to make arrangements and book in advance with local scuba dive operators at each port you are interested in diving at. Although there is always some risk in missing your port departure if your outing runs late, just make sure you plan your own dive trips so that you are back on the ship well in advance of port departure. Usually if your cruise ship arrives at port early in the morning, you could book the morning dive trips with the local operator and still have the rest of the afternoon to shop or do other sightseeing. For later arrivals where you would miss the morning dive trips, it is still possible to take the local operators' afternoon dive trips but in this case, it is very important to make sure that you confirm what the estimated time of return to the docks are . If you can return to the docks at least two hours before the cruise ship's scheduled time of departure, than you will have ample time even if the dive boat returns a bit late. It it's only an hour or less, the timing may be too tight. See if the dive operator has a shooter single tank afternoon ride which might get you back to the docks earlier.
Some local dive operators even have special pick up and drop off services to and from the cruise ship terminals to their dive shops. These dive businesses are obviously making an effort to take some dive business away from the cruise ship organized excursions. These particular local dive operators would be ideal if you could find them before your cruise vacation. Otherwise, you may have to take a local taxi to the dive shop if it is not within walking distance of the cruise ship terminal. Of course, this is usually not a problem either and even with the added cost of taxis, the overall cost of going with a local dive operator may still be lower than the cruise ship organized dive excursion.
Some cruise ship passengers have successfully gotten on local dive trips without any advance booking. These divers just walked into a local dive operator once at port. Although this is certainly feasible, it is not recommended specifically in a destination that fills dive trips up quickly. With the internet, it is quite easy to make arrangements with many local dive operators in advance of your cruise vacation. Tell them which day your cruise ship will be coming in and the expected time of both arrival as well as departure. Some ports like Cozumel have more than one cruise ship terminal so it's important to let them know if possible which one your ship will be docked in. They will then give you your best options for some scuba diving for that particular day.