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Excursion Focus: Discover Scuba Diving in St. Thomas

In:
21 Jan 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

When Harmony of the Seas docked in St. Thomas yesterday, I was more than excited for the day ahead. Not only were we able to dock in Charlotte Amalie after originally thinking we could not, but I had a completely new experience booked for the day.

Photo credit: Underwater Adventure

I reserved the Discover Scuba Diving excursion offered by Royal Caribbean, which takes guests on a 4-hour beginner scuba diving experience with an instructor. This is available for all guests over the age of 12 and you do not need a scuba certification to participate.

Overview

With the Discover Scuba Diving excursion, you will learn the fundamentals of scuba diving and go on your first dive all within a few hours. 

The group met on the pier and began a 30-minute boat ride to Buck Island, a small wildlife refuge located just south of St. Thomas. 

On the way to Buck Island, our instructor gave us a detailed overview of scuba diving basics. We learned which hand signals to use while diving, when to use each piece of equipment, and how to breathe underwater. The instructor quizzed us on the content to make sure we were confident before beginning the dive.

When we arrived at Buck Island, we anchored the boat in Shipwreck Cove and it was time to put our knowledge to the test underwater. Our group of ten was split into two groups. One group would dive while the other was free to snorkel, swim, or relax on the boat.

The staff helped us put on our scuba gear and guide us on how to best jump into the ocean from the boat. Falling into the ocean and taking my first breath underwater was exhilarating, albeit feeling unnatural.

Photo credit: Underwater Adventure

Once our group was all in the water, we descended slowly into the water for a one-on-one knowledge test with the instructor, where we practiced the skills we had learned on the boat while becoming more comfortable with our gear and breathing technique.

After everyone proved their skills, we held onto the ropes attached to the boat and descended deeper into the ocean slowly until we reached the bottom. Lying at the bottom of the cove was the shipwreck of the Cartanza Senora, a 190 foot freighter that was abandoned and sunk in the 1970s.

Photo credit: Underwater Adventure

We let go of the ropes and our instructor led us on a swim around the shipwreck where we encountered colorful coral, numerous species of fish, and even an eel! On some days there are turtles, stingrays, and nurse sharks around the shipwreck, although we did not encounter any on our dive.

Once back to the surface, the other group took their turn to dive and we spent the rest of the time snorkeling in Shipwreck Cove before taking the boat back to the port.

The Discover Scuba Diving tour is operated locally by Underwater Adventure: Adventure Scuba & School. The excursion can be booked through Royal Caribbean and was $109 per guest when paying in advance. Wetsuit rentals are also available, although the water near the shipwreck was warm so they are not totally necessary.

Comments

I would 100% recommend the Discover Scuba tour for anyone interested in exploring the ocean beyond what you can see while snorkeling. It is the perfect way to test out scuba diving prior to getting certified, and this was one of my favorite excursions I have ever done.

The location of the diving was perfect for a first experience. Not only was the shipwreck much larger than I pictured beforehand, but it attracted sea life and vegetation. Being able to dive with the fish right around you as opposed to viewing them from above while snorkeling made me feel very connected to the ocean and environment around me.

The staff was also really patient and helpful throughout the day, which helped put me at ease when trying something I had never done before. I also appreciated that the tour group was quite small as it led to more personalized attention throughout the dive.

Keeping track of time was difficult to do when 45 feet underwater, so I’m not sure how long we were actually diving. However, I felt that the time underwater was the ideal amount for a first-time experience.

You do need to be a fairly good swimmer for this excursion. The scuba gear includes a lifejacket, which I found very helpful during the times we were learning and reviewing safety tips above water. If you can swim confidently while snorkeling or treading in a pool, you will be fine.

You should be aware that even though you book the scuba excursion, not everyone is always able to succeed in diving. Two members in our group found the ear pressure to be too intense to dive all the way to the shipwreck. However, the majority of the group was able to successfully reach the bottom and dive around the wreck, so it is definitely still worth a try if you are interested.

In addition, if you are prone to seasickness, you may want to bring medication or other remedies with you. The ride to Buck Island was a little choppy at times.

Overall, I am extremely happy I decided to book the Discover Scuba Diving excursion and I think I have found a new hobby! I can’t wait to get my scuba diving certification soon so I can explore more of the diverse underwater ecosystem in the Caribbean and around the world.