It's exciting to plan your Caribbean cruise vacation. You are interested in learning how to snorkel, but are not really sure what you'll need or how to book your snorkel trip. This article will help you decide which type of snorkel trip to book, as well as the type of equipment you'll need.
NECESSARY SNORKEL EQUIPMENT
Many tour operators provide all the snorkel equipment for the tour. However, it is recommended you purchase some of your own gear and bring it with you. Most major cities (even in land-locked states) will have a dive shop or two. Go to a local dive shop and have them assist you in selecting a snorkel mask that fits your face well. There's nothing worse than being in the middle of the Caribbean and having salt water pouring into your mask, burning your eyes, and making your snorkel trip terrible.
Spend a little more money for a good mask (it will make a big difference) and make sure to purchase some defogging liquid. You'll also need a snorkel. It's advisable to purchase a dry snorkel, which is specifically designed to keep water from traveling down the snorkel tube to accidently be inhaled into the lungs. Do not worry about purchasing fins in advance. These are way too bulky to pack in your suitcase, and most tour operators will have a set you can use.
SNORKEL TRIP CHOICES
Looking through the shore excursion options from the cruise line can make their snorkeling tours seem very exciting. They can also appear to be the only options you have available. But, this could not be further from the truth. There are two choices when it comes to booking this type of tour.
CRUISE LINE SNORKEL TRIPS
Cruise lines make arrangements with tour companies to offer cruise passengers shore excursions. For Caribbean cruise vacations, these often involve water activities – such as snorkeling. The cruise lines want you to believe it's safer and more convenient to utilize the snorkeling excursions they offer. Keep in mind that the cruise lines derive a huge amount of revenue from offering these shore excursions. Let's look at the pros and cons of cruise line snorkeling trips:
Pros: When you book your snorkel excursion with the cruise line directly, you do not have to deal with another company. It's all handled by the cruise line, which makes it very convenient. Another pro is that in the unofficial event of a delay on your snorkel trip, the ship will wait for all passengers to return to the ship before disembarking from a port of call.
Cons: Cruise ship snorkel excursions are usually very crowded with long lines and a lot of waiting. Passengers are usually transported in large buses and it can be a timely affair to arrange transportation for 100+ people. Typical cruise line tours do not support the local population (as many employees are seasonal). So, these tours can take away from the local economy of a destination.
INDEPENDENT SNORKEL TRIPS
There are many independent companies offering snorkeling trips for cruise ship passengers. These trips tend to cost about the same as a cruise line-sponsored excursion, but they often offer a much more personalized experience. Independent tour operators are often local residents who will return your tourist dollars to the local economies of the destinations you visit. This is very important in order to preserve the unique qualities of each locale. Here are the pros and cons of independent snorkel excursions:
Pros: Independent snorkel trips are often smaller, more intimate groups. The guides often get in the water to identify animals and plants of interest. You will not find that on most cruise line snorkel trips. Additionally, the price is often the same (or sometimes a better value for the same money) as cruise line trips. Most independent tour operators offer online booking, so it's just as convenient to make your reservation through them as it would be through the cruise line.
Cons: Using an independent company means you'll have to do a lot more research to make sure you're booking with a reliable outfit. Also (although you'll probably never have to worry about this), if your shore excursion experiences a delay, the cruise ship probably will not wait for you to return before it leaves the port of call. So, you would have to arrange your own transportation to meet the ship at the next port. However, the risk is so small of this occurring, that it should not really be a major factor in your decision.
Cruise ship vacations are for all types of people. There are people who love the organization and structure of the cruise ship life. Others, enjoy some aspects of cruise ship life, but are interested in venturing out on their own at times too. For those who love routine and organization, the cruise-ship organized snorkel trips will be a good fit. However, for those who are looking for a little more freedom and adventure, an independent snorkel excursion would probably be a better fit.