Snorkeling and diving trips are among the most popular shore excursions on every cruise to the Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Hawaii, and The Bahamas. It’s no wonder – all these exotic destinations boast warm waters and offshore reefs teeming with tropical fish, inviting you to explore a remarkable underwater world you’ll never forget. But scuba diving and snorkeling aren’t the only activities that take you in, on and under the water. If you don’t want to, are not able to dive or snorkel, or perhaps you’re just looking for a fun new activity during your next cruise, consider the following snorkeling and diving alternatives.
An underwater adventure in a semi-submersible submarine is an amazing scuba alternative because it’s available to almost anyone. You don’t need to swim, never need to hold your breath, and you won’t even get wet! (You do need to be able to climb down a short ladder.)
Passengers in a semi-submersible submarine also benefit from having expert guides on board who can point out interesting underwater species and tell you all about the marine environment. Plus, you’ll go deeper underwater and explore a wider world than is possible while swimming.
Semi-submersible submarine tours (and similar options like glass-bottom boat tours) are available in the Caribbean, The Bahamas, Hawaii, and Mexico. Notable options include the Atlantis Submarine excursion in Kona, Hawaii, which takes you 100 feet below the Pacific into an expansive coral garden, and the Cabo Semi-Sub Underwater Explorer in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where you’ll view the incredible marine life of the Gulf of California.
Snuba, as its name suggests, is a cross between scuba diving and snorkeling, and it offers many of the benefits of both of those activities. Unlike scuba, you don’t need to get certified and the only requirement is the ability to swim.
Snuba is as easy as snorkeling, and some actually find it easier because you breathe through a regulator instead of a snorkel, so there’s zero risk of sucking in water. Your regulator is connected by a long tube to air tanks floating on a raft above your snuba group. Yet, you get to go deeper underwater than you can when snorkeling, with a diving mask, fins and weights to help you stay submerged among the fish and corals without having to come up for air.
Snuba tours are offered off Nassau in The Bahamas, the Mexican island of Cozumel and the Caribbean islands of St. Maarten and Grand Cayman. The snuba excursion in Grand Cayman takes you over a shipwreck. Most of these tours also feature time for snorkeling at the snuba site while other groups are enjoying their snuba adventure.
Helmet diving might remind you of those old-fashioned deep-sea diving suits you see in cartoons. But have no fear – it’s really a state-of-the-art experience that lets you take an unforgettable underwater stroll, even if you can’t swim! Your whole head stays dry inside the special helmet, which constantly supplies you with air so you can breathe as normally as you would out of the water.
You can even wear glasses inside the helmet, so everyone can admire the sea creatures and corals all around. The helmet provides air to breath, plus enough weight to keep you stable as you walk on the ocean floor around 10 to 30 feet under the surface (depending on the dive site). Helmet diving is often compared to taking a zero-gravity walk on the moon, except of course that you’re surrounded by remarkable marine life. Plus, if you’re on a family cruise and wondering what to do with children, know that helmet diving is available to older kids and teens as well as adults.
Ports of call where shore tour options include helmet diving are all in the Caribbean: Grand Cayman, St. Maarten and St. Thomas. The helmet diving site in St. Maarten features shipwrecks, historic cannons and a sunken submarine, and in St. Thomas the excursion takes place at Coral World Ocean Park, where you’ll also have access to aquariums, beaches, nature trails and an undersea observatory.
B.O.S.S. stands for “Breathing Observation Submersible Scooter.” It’s an unforgettable adventure that’s similar to a helmet dive (your head and shoulders are securely inside a helmet and supplied with air), but instead of walking underwater, you drive yourself around on an underwater scooter. The vehicle carries you – and your attached air tank – around the ocean in any direction you desire. The technology keeps you suspended under approximately 8 feet of water, but above the ocean floor for a perfect perspective of tropical reefs and their resident fish.
Passengers 10 and older on cruise ships setting sail for St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands can book a spot on the B.O.S.S. Underwater Adventure excursion. You’ll enjoy the voyage to and from the dive site on a 60-foot yacht, and will have time for sunbathing and sipping cool drinks on board. When you’re not riding underwater on a B.O.S.S., you can snorkel at the site and get even more out of the experience.
Ready to Make Waves?
With four amazing alternatives to diving and snorkeling, you’re probably thinking about all the things to do underwater as well as things to do around the beautiful ports of the Caribbean, Hawaii, Mexico and The Bahamas. Whether you’re planning a singles cruise, romantic getaway or family vacation, be sure to include an adventure under the ocean in your itinerary.
Note: Onboard activities, shore excursions, and dining options may vary by ship and destination.