Diving From a Cruise Ship in Roatan

The Sun Divers logo epitomizes the experience.

The Sun Divers logo epitomizes the experience.

By Gil Zeimer, Guest Blogger

It’s extremely easy for cruise ship passengers like me to arrange a two-tank dive while visiting Caribbean Islands like Roatan in the Honduras Bay Islands, about 800 miles southwest of Fort Lauderdale.

As a travel writer and scuba diver, I did it in mid-February when I was there aboard the Sky Princess with Sun Divers Roatan. So can you. Here’s how…

Me and my dive buddies who recommended Sun Divers Roatan.

Me and my dive buddies who recommended Sun Divers Roatan.

1. Book Your Two-Tank Dive ASAP.
My wife and I knew we were going to take this cruise back in July 2023 to celebrate her best friend’s milestone birthday with Beth’s husband, and two other couples. Because one of those couples were divers (I’m on the left; they’re on the right), we booked the cruise, but a few months later, I wanted to arrange some dives with an island operator here and at two other ports during our seven-day journey.

Fortunately, my dive-buddies-to-be had been to Roatan last June with their daughter for her PADI Open-Water Certification, so they spoke highly about Sun Divers. After I had a Zoom call with Natalie Shuman, the co-owner, I was positive this was the right shop for our dives that day.

After all, among Roatan’s 54 dive operators, Sun Divers has been voted as the #1 dive shop on the West End. It’s also next door to the delightfully plush Beach House Roatan on a cute street filled with quaint boutiques, restaurants, bars, even a chocolate factory. For those looking for a longer stay, the Beach House and Sun Divers also have a Dive & Stay Package available May – November with hotel and dive discounts.

It was warm, but quite breezy, so we dove on the East End.

It was warm, but quite breezy, so we dove on the East End.

2. Be Extremely Flexible.
Our ship’s original itinerary showed us arriving on Roatan at 9am and departing at 6pm on a Tuesday. But about three weeks before departure, that changed to us arriving a day earlier at 10am and departing at 6:30pm, so I just emailed Sun Divers about the revised schedule. Within a few hours, their Dive Shop Manager (Cristina) responded that she could accommodate our date switch and would send a car to meet us at the dock at 10:30am.

This was a great help because all of these Caribbean ports are bustling with dozens of cabbies and tour hawkers vying for the attention of thousands of disembarking passengers, with multiple cruise ships in port the same day. I just looked for an employee holding a Sun Divers sign and we were off to Half Moon Bay on the island’s West End.

We then got outfitted with new ScubaPro BCs, very plush full-body 3mm ScubaPro wetsuits,  integrated weights, and fins. We all brought our own masks, especially mine with prescription lenses. We were then provided with keyed lockers to stow our dry clothes and shoes during our day at the shop, which was a savvy amenity.

Sun Divers and Beach House have formed a "Dive & Stay Package" partnership.

Sun Divers and Beach House have formed a “Dive & Stay” Package” partnership.

We arrived a bit early for our afternoon dives, so Natalie told us to relax, walk down the street, and poke our heads in and out of the shops. We had plenty of time for lunch, so my dive buddies recommended eating lunch next store at the Beach House. Its Mila del Mar Beachfront Restaurant and Bar prepared some of the freshest fish I’ve ever dug a fork into –– a Whole Fried Red Snapper and a lightly seared Tuna Tataki –– both caught hours earlier.

We got back to the beachfront dive shop about 1pm. Because strong northerly winds prevented diving in the usual spots, we were transported to the Sun Divers boat docked on the Southside of the island at 1:15pm for a two-tank dive in relatively calm waters. We’d been finished by 4:30pm and back on board shortly after that in plenty of time for our ship’s nearing departure after diving from a cruise ship in Roatan.

Sun Diver's ability to juggle dozens of divers on small boats impressed me.

Sun Diver’s ability to juggle dozens of divers on small boats impressed me.

3. Look For Boats With Small Groups for More Room.
We noted how busy their dive boats were by their whiteboard of that week’s bookings at the dive shop. But we’d also been told in advance that Sun Divers Roatan only caters to small parties, so our boat held Bryan, CeCe, and me from our cruise ship, plus a woman from Canada (who we later found out was staying in a Sky Princess cabin next to theirs), and a gentleman living in Texas.

I also found out that Sun Divers is one of the few operators in Roatan that offers small groups of six divers per divemaster maximum. There were no “cattle-marans” here –– dive boats where operators cram 12 to 20 divers on one vessel –– so there was lots of room to spread out which is always a pleasure. This is also why at least 30% of their bookings are repeat customers from previous dive trips.

We were looking forward to diving along the MAR (Mesoamerican Reef), the largest coral reef barrier in the Atlantic Ocean and the world’s second largest. It spans more than 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) along the coastlines of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras, providing a home to more than two million seafaring inhabitants.

The Captain and Ricky giving their initial dive briefing.

Head Captain Orlin and Ricky giving their initial dive briefing.

4. Be Pampered With Award-Winning Service.
Once again in 2023, I saw on Facebook that Sun Divers Roatan was bequeathed with TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice award. The Head Captain Orlin and Divemaster Ricky showed us why every step of the way on their boat. This included carrying all of our gear on-board, attaching regulators to the tanks for both dives, helping us into and out of our gear before and after each dive, et.al.

Though Roatan’s best diving can typically be found along the West End, they chose two dive sites on the Southside that day to shelter us from the winds, accommodate our schedule, still give us plenty of time to dive, get us back to the shop to change clothes, then drive us back to our ship before departure.

At both dive sites, we were quite close to our cruise ship at Coxen Hole, one of two docks in Roatan. Ricky was a great Divemaster – frequently checking our buoyancy, remaining air levels, and pointing out big critters and small stuff.

This spiny lobster was one of many hiding in a coral crevice.

This spiny lobster was one of many hiding in a coral crevice.

At Kristi’s Cove, we spent nearly an hour with a maximum depth of 65 feet, viz of about 80’, surface and depth water temps of 80o F., and a very manageable current floating above the wall. We saw many large sea fans, brittle stars in tube sponges, orange and green long-snout seahorses, a flamingo tongue snail, jawfish, lizard fish, a Caribbean reef squid, and so many spiny crustaceans so that called this site “Lobsterfest” in my logbook.

After a surface interval of about 45 minutes, we did another set of backwards rolls off the boat onto Church Wall, where we spent 60 minutes at 55 feet max depth, viz of about 80’, and a pleasant 80o F. water temp.

Here, we saw a porcupine pufferfish, a spotted moral eel, brittle star, arrow crab, lots of sea urchins and scorpionfish, Caribbean drum fish, Caribbean lobsters, Peterson cleaning shrimp, snapper, grouper, and long-snout seahorse.

The Shumans and your author, enjoying a moment in the sun.

The Shumans and your author, enjoying a moment in the sun.

5. Then Book It All Again.
I was so pleased to have this experience at Sun Divers Roatan and I vow to come back – if not on a cruise ship, then to spend a week exploring the West End, its hundreds of moored dive sites along the walls, and all around the island.

They were my best choice in my search for “diving from a cruise ship in Roatan” during my vacation. New gear. Great divemaster. Terrific owners.

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