Snorkeling is among the most popular activities that cruisers pursue as a shore excursion. This makes sense, of course, because so many cruises visit warm-weather paradises that offer spectacular beaches, inviting waters and fascinating reef systems. These are ideal places to jump in and enjoy warm waters and poke your head under to see the world below that is home to colorful fish and other exotic creatures.
Caribbean cruises offer tons of ways to try snorkeling for your shore excursions. You also will find opportunities on Mediterranean cruises or even cruises to Australia and Alaska.
If you’re thinking of snorkeling on your next cruise, we’ve got some tips and tricks to help you make the most of your underwater adventure.
Fun for First-Timers
A cruise is a great time to try snorkeling for the first time. The experience can be a little overwhelming, though, as you learn to relax in the water and breath through the tube. Pick a guided snorkel tour. The guides are experts and will teach you how to use the equipment and ensure that you have a properly fitting mask and flippers.
You also can use a lightweight snorkel vest that helps you float, so you can just focus on your relaxed breathing while enjoying the underwater scenery.
A boat tour will take you to safe spots to snorkel and areas with great reef systems so that you have the best chance of seeing interesting things like sea turtles, tropical fish, crabs and even shipwrecks. You can get into and out of the water as often as you like when you use the boat as a base. Thus, you can make sure you always feel safe and comfortable. Lunch or snacks and drinks are also often provided on these snorkel excursions.
Avoid the Crowds
Book a snorkel trip that limits the number of people on your boat. Read online reviews to find excursions that feature smaller groups or tours that go to more secluded areas away from the cruise ship masses.
This might cost a little more, but the experience will be far more enjoyable than finding yourself thrashing around in the water trying to avoid arms and legs of dozens of others who are all swimming in the same reef area.
This is incredibly frustrating and happens a lot at extremely popular snorkeling spots like Los Arcos in Puerto Vallarta or most places in the top tourist areas in Cancun and Hawaii.
Try to book a more intimate tour independently (not through the cruise ship shore excursion desk) and tell the tour operator and guides the type of experience that you are looking for – they can often work to give you just what you want.
Pack Your Gear
If you are already an avid snorkeler, buy a set of snorkel gear and bring it along. I own a travel snorkel set (it comes with short flippers that don’t take up too much packing space) and bring the gear along so that I can use it on our beach days or anywhere that I end up near water that is easy to access.
This way, I can jump in for free snorkeling on a whim. I have had wonderful free snorkel sessions on a whim while wandering around Bonaire, Grand Cayman and at several cruise line private islands, such as Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas.
Beware the Burn
Apply sunscreen (choose a reef-safe version that doesn’t damage the water or reef system) early and often. The Caribbean and Med sun is intense, and you might not realize what it’s doing to your head, back and calves as you float around in the water face down for a couple hours.
Sure, you feel plenty cool in the water, but your exposed parts are getting roasted.
I learned this the hard way during a day snorkeling in Aruba. Sunscreen helps, but I would advise using a long-sleeved swim shirt (also called rash guards) to keep you protected. The best swim shirts come with UV protectant built right in, too.
Find New Frontiers
Snorkeling is my favorite way to get into the water on a cruise trip. I even tried it in the cold waters of Alaska. This requires squeezing into a wet suit to stave off the cold and can be a bit clumsy compared with snorkeling in warm destinations. But the payoff is seeing different environments and creatures in the tidal regions of serene bay areas.
The sea grasses, clams, sea worms, sea cucumbers, sea stars and slugs are colorful and bizarre.
One last tip: As you get more comfortable, you can start working on diving under the water to get deeper and see more while capturing memorable images or video with underwater action cameras (like a GoPro). Work on your breathing techniques and you’ll soon be swimming confidently alongside fish or following turtles (to the amazement of your snorkel buddies).
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