Surface Interval; Worldwide Scuba Diving Reviews.

Surface Interval; Worldwide Scuba Diving Reviews.

Scuba diving in Puerto Galera Photograph by Charles Davis

Scuba diving in Puerto Galera Photograph by Charles Davis

As a writer that specializes in Scuba Diving and Scuba related travel, I spend a great deal of time looking at websites. Recently, Surface Interval (www.surfaceinterval.co) has announced they are now launching their new website. Surface Interval is looking to create a site that highlights Worldwide Scuba Diving Reviews. Scuba divers can leave reviews of the dive centers they have used.

Surface Interval is quoted as saying:

Information about scuba diving is scattered across different websites. Our goal is to bring all the information divers need together on this website. We are convinced that the more people we can convince to start scuba diving, the more people care about what’s under the surface. They will be more aware about the plastic they use, the things they throw away etc.”

For those of you who are familiar with my writing and may follow me on Deeperblue.com, will see that their quote hits a topic I strongly believe in. It sort of hits two. I totally agree that as a group scuba divers are more concern about the environment. In the news recently was the launch of The Ocean Clean Up device — System 001, “Wilson”. That company’s goal is to help clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. They are doing a test run of the technology they developed and if the test run is successful, they will start a full effort of gather plastics and other items from the garbage patch. How does this relate? Boyan Slat, the 18-year-old CEO and founder was shocked at the amount of plastics in the water on his very first scuba dive. He set his mind to changing that.

The other point that Surface Interval makes is the need to introduce more people to diving. Any effort like that I applaud.

For Divers:

As with any new business or website, growing can be slow. I am adding a few reviews of dive centers I have visited in the last six months, maybe you can do the same. To be effective, the site will need current information from the divers that have been there. Let other divers know what you liked and disliked on your recent dives. How was the dive center? What was the condition of any rental equipment? How was the diving? Anything else that might help a diver to understand how your trip was.

If you are planing a new trip, take a look at the dive centers they have listed. They show having over 2,000 dive centers around the world.

Sabang Beach, Puerto Galera photograph by Charles Davis

Sabang Beach, Puerto Galera photograph by Charles Davis

For Dive Centers:

If you are a dive center check the website and see if your information is there. They state they have 2337 dive centers listed. While they have been in contact with many dive centers, the listing have come from different sources. It is possible that the information for your dive center came from an outdated source. Take a look at the listing, update it as needed and let your clients know that it is available on the site.

About Surface Interval

Here is some additional information from their website:

What are the best places in the world to go scuba diving? The best way to find out is by hearing other scuba divers’ opinions. And this is exactly what Surface Interval is for!

Reviewing dive operators

The possibility to review dive operators worldwide (dive shops/schools, liveaboards or dive resorts) decreases your chances to choose the wrong operator. Do they use new equipment, safe dive boats, small diving groups and do they care about conservancy? Important things to know before choosing your scuba diving operator, right?

Getting inspired

When you read what other scuba divers have experienced while diving, it easy to get inspired and plan your next trip.

Surface Interval

Scuba Diving from a Cruise Ship

Diving from a Cruise Ship

cruise ship scuba diving

Cruise ship Scuba diving

A Cruise vacation might not be seen as an option for a diving vacation, however, it can be. Millions of people each year spend their vacations on a cruise ship. Once considered a vacation for the rich or elderly, the cruise ships now see passengers in every age group and in many economic groups. Some ships are small with only a hundred passengers or even less. Many of the new cruise ships have well over 5,000 guest on-board. Warm weather destinations are some of the most favorite cruise destinations, however, you will see sailing to Alaska, the Baltic Sea and even to the Antarctic.

While a cruise ship might not be the first thing comes to mind when planning a dive vacation, you might not want to dismiss it straight out. If you are looking to dive three or four dives a day every day of your vacation, then a cruise will not fit your plans. However, if you are looking for a dive vacation that balances diving with other activities or need to take into consideration the needs of traveling companions that are not divers, a cruise may be a good choice.

scuba diving holidays at sea

Sports Bar on Norwegian Getaway

If you have never taken a cruise, here are a few basics. A cruise ship can be compared to a full board resort. The cruise fare will include your stateroom and many of the on board activities. Your meals are included as are some beverages during meals. You generally will have a few options of where you want to eat. There will be one or more fine dining restaurants and one or more causal restaurants or buffets. Some cruise ships offer specialty dining at a small surcharge. Some the larger cruise ships will have over a dozen different places you can eat a mixture of included and at an additional cost. Each evening you will find in your stateroom a newsletter showing all the activities the following day including the opening and closing times of different venues. In the evening, expect to find a number of shows and other nightlife offerings. On the days you are in a port, the newsletter will list information about the port including the times you can leave the ship and when you must be back on board.

A typical cruise is a week long and will have four or five ports of call, the remaining days will be at sea. Depending on the cruise you select, you may find that diving is possible at each port of call. Most of the Caribbean best diving destinations are also visited by cruise ships, as are Mexico’s Pacific coast, parts of the Mediterranean, Australia and ports in Asia. A recent cruise gave me the opportunity to dive in Honduras, Belize, Costa Maya Mexico and Cancun. I left from Florida so arriving a few days early gave me the possibility of some dives before the cruise. That trip brings my total to 12 dive destinations and 40 dives while taking a cruise.

Shore Excursions and Port Calls

When we talk of a “Port Call” or “Ports of Call”, we are simply talking about a stop the ship makes on their itinerary where you can get off the ship. You will also see the terms “Pier” and “Tender” applied to the port calls. When a cruise ship is at a port that is “Pier”, guest can walk on and off the ship. The term “Tender” means that the cruise ship anchors in deep water and a smaller boat called a tender transports

cruise ship scuba diving destinations

Norwegian Sky in Nassau

passengers to the shore. The tendering process adds to the time it takes to get off the ship. The term “Shore Excursion” is used by the cruise industry to mean a tour activity off the ship. The cruise lines arranges with local tour operators tours that can be offered to the guest on board the ship. These are sold on board and before the cruise on the cruise line’s website. A debate you often hear from experienced cruises is whether to book a cruise lines offered shore excursion or do it yourself. Both those for and against using the cruise line suggested tours have merit. On the positive side, the tours are aligned with the ships arrival and departure times. While a cruise line will clearly state the tours are by independent tour operators, if the tour is late returning to the ship the cruise line will know and insure that the passengers are not left behind. On the negative side, cruise ship sold shore excursions are often a cattle boat activity. Hundreds of passengers get off the ship, file onto buses that travel to the tour’s destination. At the tour stop, passengers file off the bus, follow a tour guide with a little flag, then back on the bus to the next destination. Also, cruise ship lines are in business to make a profit, so there is a mark up added in to cover the cruise line’s cost and a profit margin.

These concerns can also be raised concerning scuba diving as a shore excursion. I have dived using the ships shore excursion as well as arranging my own. Years ago, scuba divers and snorkelers were often grouped together and fifty or more people may arrive at a dive site at the same time. Today, the trend is to keep them separate and the cruise lines deals directly with dive operators not tour operators who sub contract. The cruise lines generally do not announce who operates their tours, however, with the power of the internet the identity does not stay secret. In most cases, the cruise lines are working with a leading dive operator in each port.

Shore Excursions or Self Booked?

Whether you should book a shore excursion from the cruise line or do it yourself is not an easy answer. The first point should be, are you comfortable with who the dive operator is. While the cruise lines do not list the operators, if you look at reviews of the shore excursions you will often see the name of the tour operator. From there you can look at reviews for that company. You can also see, how much a cruise line marks up a trip. A two tank boat dive with no equipment in Nassau by the cruise line is $179, while booking direct with the company it is $150 ($139 plus 7.9% tax). In this case, the company does provide a pick up at the cruise terminal for direct bookings, however, that is not always the case.

plan ahead and save on cruise diving

plan ahead and save

If you are considering making a reservation direct with a dive operator, there are a number of items to carefully consider. First and foremost is the times. Your cruise itinerary will show you the date and time you will be in port and the departure time. Look closely at those times, some cruise lines show the local time while others show “ship” time. Some cruise lines will move the clock forward or back during the cruise to reflect the local time where they are. Others keep the time based on the ships departure port. Ship time could be one or even two hours different then the local time. You also need to take into consideration getting off the boat. Take as an example a dive boat that leaves at 8:30 am. If your cruise is schedule to arrive at 8:00am you might be thinking of making a reservation. That might not be enough time. When the ship announces you can depart the ship, there may be hundreds already in line waiting. As you get off the ship, your ship board ID is scanned. While that will only take a handful of seconds, it adds up if hundreds are in front of you. Additionally, the passengers departing on a ship’s shore excursion will have priority over those going off on their own. If the port is one that uses a tendering you need to also consider the time it takes to get ashore. However, if your ship has a late departure, you might be able to do an afternoon dive. In those cases, you are not rushed to meet up with short deadline.

A second item, will be the meet up with the dive operator. Consider how will you get to the dive operator if doing it on your own and the cost. Some operators will provide pick up at the pier while others will not. Also, make sure about the pick up point. I recently made a direct reservation with a dive operator with a pick up point at the cruise terminal. Unfortunately for me, the cruise terminal where the pick up point was at was not the same cruise terminal I arrived at. I had to take a taxi to get there.

While boat diving is the most frequent option, look to see if shore diving is possible. I have had some great shore dives. This gives you the freedom to dive on your own schedule, and often at very good rates.

While at the DEMA show in November, I asked a number of dive operators, that were located in ports that have cruise ships, their views. The response was mixed. Those that have contracts with the cruise lines prefer you book with the cruise line. There reasoning is that the time schedule is already tried and proven. They also stated that the transportation requirement is easier to organize. Those who do not have a contract gave me a more mixed response. A few have developed their business hoping to get divers from the cruise ships on their dive boats. They provide flexibility in their dive schedules to allow for the later departures that might be needed. These shops often offer smaller boats for a personal experience and arrange to meet at the pier. Some other dive shops stated they prefer not to get cruise ship divers. They are concern with late arrivals and the uncertainty of the divers qualifications.

Royal Caribbean Offers Diving Lessons.

In years past, many of the cruise lines offered on board diving programs. Princess Cruises had their New Wave program which they ended around 2008, NCL had their Dive In program which they phased out. They still use the title but it only shore excursions. Disney and Carnival have also closed their programs. They all still offer shore excursions so you can still dive from the ships of those cruise lines.

scuba dive in the Bahamas

RCCL Grandeur Of the Seas in Nassau

Recently, Royal Caribbean Cruise line has once again fully embraced scuba diving. The cruise lines now offers PADI Open Water Certification on 10 of their ships. These ships visit a total of 14 different dive destinations. Open Water Diver students sign up for the course prior to the cruise. While at home they complete the knowledge segment using the PADI Touch app or PADI eLearning® online. On board the instructors verify the satisfactory completion of the knowledge segment and start the confined water elements of the training. They do this in one of the swimming pools aboard. The students complete the four open water dives at two different destinations. Besides the Open Water Diver training, Royal Caribbean also does a “Try Dive” program. This is a training session using a swimming pool on the ship. The dive instructors on the Royal Caribbean ships also conduct “Discover Scuba Diving” programs. Those divers who have not had a dive in a while can do the “PADI Reactivate Program” as well. These 10 ships also have a PADI 5 Star Dive Center on board.

Where Do You Want to Dive?

The diver who has a non diving partner or family members may find it easier to suggest a cruise vacation over a dive resort. For the diver a cruise offers the ability to experience more than one destination. Cruises can also be a better value, since so much is included. You owe it to yourself to look into it before your next trip.

Dive Season is Coming

Bismark II is one of the dive sites used on the Tuesday and Thursday night dives photo by RU4scuba

I am looking forward to the next week. It represents the opening of the local dive season in Upstate New York, and I can tell you it is not a day too soon for me. The visit back to home has been one of many changes and one of the largest is that diving is not just around the corner. I am looking forward to the local diving, but in some ways I feel like a novice diver again. Low visibility is nothing new for me but the water temperature will be much lower. Which will mean a thicker wet suit, my 3mm shortie will not make it. I have been told that in the “summer”, most of the divers will wear a 5 mm suit. Guess it will be figuring out how much more weight I will need. It also means that I am not one of the local experts. At Subic, I know the history of the known wrecks and have researched many of them. Here I will be exposed to a new diving environment and different wrecks.

Rufour Scuba is a dive shop up on Lake Ontario about 35 minutes away from me. They will be offering dives two evenings a week, Tuesday and Thursday starting this Thursday. I have stopped into their shop the other week for a short talk and was impressed with what they do. They are also using Aqwary dive computers. The dives will be a great way to find out about the local diving and hopefully meet some local divers. The shop also offers a few dive trips each year, and has trips to the St. Lawrence. I have also joined a local dive club and am looking forward to their dives as well.

I know I am not the only one looking forward to a new local dive season. Divers in California are also “gearing” up for a new season. The 2016 Scuba Show invites all adventurous spirits to discover a world beneath the surface at the Long Beach Convention Center on Saturday and Sunday, June 4-5. I have been considering flying out for it, but do not think I can swing it. Over 10,000 people are expected to attend and interact with 300+ exhibitors, vendors and diving experts from around the world. As I looked at the list of exhibitors there were many that attracted my attention. The range of seminars is what really got me excited. Scuba show will feature dozens of seminars, clinics, workshops and classes on various entertaining, specialized or educational topics such as history, underwater photography, seafood preparation, marine conservation and more. There are a couple of seminars on Palau and another on Yap, both destinations that are on my bucket list for the next year.

Infographic_V3The show also has live cooking demonstrations, interactive art, themed photo booths, a new products showcase, a virtual reality diving experience and its popular Saturday night party at the Aquarium of the Pacific. A film festival runs all day on Saturday and Sunday with the entries running a couple times each day.

It sounds like a great event,if you are near Long Beach this weekend, consider taking a look.

History of the Spanish Armed Transport San Quintin

History of the Spanish Armed Transport San Quintin ex S/S Andes

A BOILER OF THE SAN QUINTIN © 2015 CHARLES W. DAVIS JR.

A BOILER OF THE SAN QUINTIN © 2015 CHARLES W. DAVIS JR.

For decades, we have called the San Quintîn wreck a gun boat. Recently I started to try to find a better description of the San Quintîn to improve what we know and possibly find a photograph or one of a similar vessel. In the process, I found some items that did not fit with this wreck being a gun boat. Over time, I decided to start researching based just on the name and the reason it was sunk. Once I eliminated that it was a gunship, I was able to find other references to a Spanish ship by the same name. After a couple hundreds hours of research, I was able to find an authority reference to the sinking of the Transport San Quintîn. The San Quintîn performed numerous duties until she was scuttled in 1898. Some times she was a mail ship, providing service from Manila to other Spanish outpost. At others, she performed duties as a Armed Transport. Many times she was accompanied by the Armed Transports Cebu and Manila.

I am sure there may be those who not accept my version of the ship’s identity on face value, and others who might appreciate the steps that lead me to the history. I will post a separate article, giving more details on the research itself.

History of the Armed Transport San Quintîn

The lines of the Cunard Lines S/S Andes

In 1850, the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company ordered four identical iron screw Passenger/cargo vessels from the Scottish ship builder William Denny & Brothers. They were the Andes, Alps, Australia and Sydney. The ships were listed as 1275 grt/866 nrt , the length of 236.6 feet (72 meters), beam of 33.2 feet (10.1 meters) and depth of 24 feet (7.3 meters). The ships were mail ships. These were basically passenger ships that also operated under a contract to transport mail. The ships were design to carry 62 passengers in first class and 122 in second class. Prior to these ships, all the ships of this company were side wheelers and most wood. Only a few more side wheeler were built by the company after this and no more wooden ships.

In 1850,the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company changed their name to Cunard Lines. Before being completed, the Australia and Sydney were sold to Australian Royal Mail Steam Navigation company. The Cunard Lines took possession of the S/S Andes on August 18, 1852 and the S/S Alps five weeks later. The S/S Andre made its maiden voyage to New York sailing from Liverpool on December 8, 1852, however, problems with it propulsion system forced them to return to port. The problems were corrected and the ship arrive in New York on Christmas Eve. The Ship continued to sail that route until 1854. In 1854, with the out break of the Crimean War, the British government leased the S/S Andes and the S/S Alps. The two ships were initial used as troop transports and later the S/S Andes was used as a hospital ship. After the war, they returned to service with Cunard Lines.

Walters, Samuel, 1811-1882. S.S. Australian 1862. oil on canvas ; 71.3 x 107.7 cm. National Library of Australia

In 1859, the Spanish government bought both the S/S Andes and the S/S Alps. The S/S Andes was renamed to the San Quintîn and the S/S Alps renamed to Mandingo. The San Quintîn’s initial role seems to be primarily as a mail ship.

Note on names: The Andes is often shown as Andes (1852). This is to keep it from being confused with two later mail ships named Andes in the 1900s. San Quintîn is also seen spelled as San Quentin.

While there is not a definitive history of the San Quintîn, there are many historical references to her.

  • Cuba seems to have been one of the early assignments for the San Quintîn. The New York Times has a number of mentions of her arrivals and departure from Havana. This is from a NYT story of March 1862: The steam transport San Quintin, of the Spanish Navy, which arrived a short time ago from Vera Cruz with nearly two hundred sick soldiers, left again for the same place the day before yesterday, with provisions for the army and forage and maize for the horses and cattle of the expedition.
  • The Micronesioan Area Research Center, Guam published in 1998 a book titled: Chronicle of the Mariana Islands. Recordings in the Agaña Parish church 1846-1899. This book is a translation of the Parish records of the church in Guam. Most of the record was written by Father Aniceto Ibáñez and records the activities of the church and reflects the life in Guam. Only the introduction of the book is available on line. The introduction is mostly about the priest of the church. It notes that the entry for 1884 is short but does include that Father Franciso Resano return to Manila for health reasons aboard the steamship San Quintîn.
  • 21 August 1885 the San Quintîn arrives in Yap to establish a capital for the Caroline Island. The following day the ship Manila arrives. The San Quintîn, under the command of Capt. Guil de Espana, brought the new Governor-general, two priest (one being Father Aniceto Ibáñez as vicar) and others to Yap. Between the two ships they had soldiers, laborers and the materials needed to build a church and the governor’s residence. The ships were unloaded, however, the governor did not like the location. The group spent three days searching the surrounding areas until they found a location the governor’s liking. He sent runners out to notify the locals to be at the location the following morning for a flag raising ceremony. When the group arrived back at the ship, they found the German flag raised and the German cruiser Iltis in port. The Spanish withdrew, however, the public backlash almost caused a war between Germany and Spain. Some reports state that it was the S/S Carriedo that accompanied the San Quintîn. This was the transport Manila’s name before being purchased by Spain. It was owned by a private firm doing mail service between Manila and Singapore.
  • March 14 1887 the transport Manila transported a new Governor-general by the name of Posadillo, soldiers, priest, workers and colonist to the island of Pohnpei. They were to set up a government and establish a colony. The actions of the new government was harsh on the natives mostly the actions of the governor’s executive Manuel Torres, a Spaniard born in the Philippines. At the end of June, the natives refused to work. Posadillo send Torres to the chiefs to demand they attend a meeting, Spanish soldiers were sent to enforce the attendance. The natives killed most of the group. Those that survived reported back and the colony evacuated to a ship that had been grounded and damaged. The Governor stayed in his residence until 3 July, when he tried to escape to the ship. He and all of is staff were killed, however, the Filipino troops were left unharmed. The natives offered to let the colonist return home unharmed but they stayed onboard ship. In August, The San Quintîn arrived on a routine run and discovered what had happened. She left behind supplies and reported the event to Manila.
  • In 1891, The transports—the Manila, Cebu, San Quintîn, and Marquez de Duero carried an attack force of 1,240 men against the Maguindanao and Maranao (Muslims in the southern portion of the Philippines). The attack was unsuccessful. Moro reports had the transports Manila, Cebu, and San Quintîn bringing supplies to the Spanish Colonies in the area until 1894. No Spanish records confirm this.
  • Current records show that the San Quintîn was decommissioned in 1894.
  • In his nearly 1,000 page book “ The Spanish American War” published in 1911, the noted Naval Historian Rear Admiral USN (retired) French Ensor Chadwick discusses every naval aspect of the war. At the beginning of the war, then Captain Chadwick was chief of staff to Admiral Sampson, commander of the North Atlantic Fleet. The Captain was also the commander of the USS New York ACR-2. The book shows a partial transcript of a planning meeting held on March 15,1898. Admiral Montojo meet with General Primo de Rivera and the Governor-General to discuss defense plans. The admiral’s plans were approved. The admiral issued orders to Captain del Rio to sink the transport San Quintîn and two old merchant vessels.
  • While not specifying the type of ship, Admiral Montojo’s battle report verifies that the San Quintîn was sunk as ordered.

sanquintin.subicStorms and the passage of time has reduced the wreck. At the time of her being scuttled she would have been just below the surface. It seems likely that the majority of the ship is below the sea floor.

A great deal of time went into research and writing this article and I retain full copy right over its contents. Unless noted, the images used here are believed to be public domain. I will authorize rights to use this content provided that the following is included:

Contains material © Charles W. Davis Jr.

 

 

Never Fall in Love with a Scuba Diver

This PADI video came out at the end of last year, but I will admit I have watched it a number of times. I am
still waiting to see my first Sea Dragon which is something I really like. It is in the same family as seahorses.

I also have not  been diving in areas with sea lions. Reef sharks are among my favorite diving companions and watching a manta ray or a turtle is a study in grace.