Caribbean cruise!

My wife and I were blessed to be able to take a vacation this last week.  Along with my sister-in-law and her husband we went on a 6 day cruise in the Caribbean on Carnival Cruise Lines.   This is my third cruise now having been on Disney and Royal Caribbean before.  Of the three I think my overall impression of Carnival is that it is the worst of the three but that shouldn’t be taken too badly.  I still had a great time.  I think it would be better if it was my first cruise.  Then I would have appreciated the extra quality of the other cruise lines more.  Overall it was a good trip but most of my pictures and memories are of my diving which is what most of this post is about.

If you’d like to skip all the text and just look at the pictures: Page1, Page2, Page3 My wife’s pictures are on kodak at this link.
The trip started off poorly with a restless night.  Waking up super early for our flight out after almost no sleep had me feeling pretty blah.  The flight to Ft. Lauderdale was uneventful and we made it to the port with a 10 min cab ride (which is much cheaper than paying Carnival to drive you over there).  The cattle holding pen they packed us into to for check-in and to wait till we can board was less than pleasant.  Hot and crowded with two employees halfheartedly walking around singing “party” songs with nowhere to get a drink (even water).  Once we got on board things were a lot more enjoyable though.

Our first stop was Key West, Florida.  This was my second time in Key West and I didn’t plan on seeing much of it above water.  This was my first scuba dive of the vacation and I was excited to get to go see the USS Vandenberg, an old missile range instrumentation ship that was sunk off the coast as the world largest artificial reef.  I dove with Captain’s Corner who I had hooked up with on the Internet.  The dive boat we were on is the one used in the James Bond movie “License To Kill.”  We went out there and I buddied up with a gentleman named Sebastian that works at Reuters.  We were both disappointed when we got there to here from other diving boats that there was a strong current.  The decision was made to instead go to another dive site to see the Cayman Salvor (a sunk cable ship) and then some coral at a dive spot called “Five Foot Stake”.  Which apparently needs to be renamed since someone knocked over the stake so it’s no longer there.  The gear at Captain’s corner all looked new like new Sherwood BCD’s and the gear was all great.  Great dive shop to dive with.  All of my pictures for this section can be found here.

We then had a day at sea.  Lots of sun, food, pool, and formal dining.

Our second stop was at the Grand Cayman.  A beautiful place I hope to return to.  While my wife went to a turtle farm, I dove with Don Foster’s dive center.  This was the scuba shop setup as an excursion by Carnival.  I had no idea who I would be with and hoped it wouldn’t be a “cattle boat.”  They picked us up at the dock and geared us up quickly.  The gear was older and faded but looked maintained.  The boat was large and clean and the dive masters all knowledgeable.  They checked everyone’s air and gear before getting in the water and actually have you sit down when you get out to take your tank off for you before you go back to your seat.  We dove the “Eagle’s Nest” which is named after a rock formation right at the edge of a wall that drops down reminiscent of it’s namesake.  This was an exciting dive since we saw two sea turtles that hung around for photos.  The second dive was at Lonestar Legend, a coral location named after a local restaurant owner that would give a free Christmas dinner to all the dive personnel on the island every year.  All the Cayman pictures can be found here.

Our third stop was in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.  I dove there with Garfield Diving.  This is by far the worst dive group I’ve been with.  I was given initial phone instructions to go to the marina boats just to the left of the cruise dock.  After dodging multiple people hounding me to buy stuff from them I get there and some guy calls them on his mobile when I mentioned their name.  10 minutes later a lady whose voice I recognize from the phone reservation picks me up in a car and drives me to the nearby beach where I had to wait while she frantically called people to find me a captain and a dive master.  Apparently I was their only customer for the day and they hadn’t bothered to actually schedule anyone to take care of me.  About an hour later I finally walk back to the original dock with the captain where I have to help them get the gear and put it on the boat.  I have to go through and test tanks to find out which ones are full and which aren’t.  Then I get an old faded BCD and find a lead weight in the pocket and find the whole thing still full of salt water.  It still functioned well but I can’t imagine the gear will last long with that lack of maintenance.  The boat was worse.  Lots of rust and old boards, an outboard fueled by a plastic gas tank that we had to siphon fuel into.  And no O2 or any other safety gear in site.  My original plan was to try and do a deep dive but scratched that idea.  They were more interested in finishing the dive and going home anyway.  We went about a half-mile away from the docks and dropped to the coral there.  The “Dive Master” did a decent job of pointing out cool stuff and I just went around snapping pictures.  He found a conch which he brought with him for the rest of the dive.  For the surface interval we drove over to some old house on the edge of the water where the Dive Master tried to break into some shack with a dive flag painted on it.  Some guy with a rasta hat and a joint brought him a key and I was glad to see I wasn’t an accessory to an imminent crime.  The conch shell had apparently inspired him and I found my second dive to be in the shallow corals.  This is when I learned I was basically paying for him to go get some dinner.  He had gotten a spear gun out of the shack and I followed him around as he found more conch and speared fish (and a lobster I pointed out for him).  I would have been really annoyed had I not found the whole experience so interesting.  We ran into a snorkeler who was spearfishing in the same area.  Too bad my camera froze from what I assume was me trying to change modes too quickly after taking a video about a third of the way through.  When we finally got back to the dock he gave me one of the normal conch shells as a souvenir and then sold me the queen conch shell we found.  Apparently they’re rare or something.  It was a beautiful shell though and the wife liked it when she saw it so I bought it anyway.  Jamaica was by far the least enjoyable island though.  The people (near the docks at least) are pushy and won’t leave you alone even when you say “no” or that you’re “alright.”  We were going to go to Dunn river which was about a mile away, but the taxi wouldn’t take less than $10 PER PERSON to take us a mile.  I was amazed.  We were so annoyed we said screw it and got back on the ship.  Jamaica would have gotten a lot more money out of us if they didn’t try to rip us off as soon as we got off the boat.  Anyway, I totally do not recommend anyone ever use Garfield Diving if they have a choice.  It’s better than not diving but not by much.  I came very close to just calling the dive and not going.  All the pictures for the dive are here.

After Jamaica was another day at sea before we headed home.  Lots of sleeping by the pool.

4:20 of underwater time total for the vacation.  Not bad!  Fairly ironic considering I dove in Jamaica.  Now I just have to convince my boss to let me work remotely from Key West or to open an office on Grand Cayman 🙂

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.