Review by Craig Passeno
The trip began (for me) from Flint’s Bishop International. Not being a frequent flier, I was excited to go through the process and rather pleased with the efficiency and ease of the mode of travel, despite all of the horror stories I had heard. The connecting flight from Atlanta, GA was more of the same. “The busiest airport in the world” was a sight to see in and of itself, yet again I was amazed by the simplicity in maneuvering through it. I sat glued to my window watching Florida’s west coast unfold below me until a sharp right bank revealed the Keys, Cuba, and an Easterly course. We descended through spotty white clouds dotting the endless expanse of iridescent blue ocean, towards a lush green island that was larger than anticipated. The radiant heat on the tarmac was the smack-to-the-face affirmation that this was real. The biting winds and snow of 6 hours ago were nothing but a memory!
We opted to rent a car as opposed to a taxi service to reach our accommodations. The island’s main road basically covers the Southern half of the perimeter, then divides across the midsection to rejoin itself forming a 42 mile loop. Our resort was 8 Kilometers down the road (whatever that means!) It was a wonder we got there at all, for all my sideways gaping and taking in the air of the place. Narrow roads filled to capacity with scooters, bicycles, cars and trucks. The main form of traffic control seemed to be nothing but speed bumps every few hundred yards, otherwise the accepted methodology appeared to be “anything goes”. On this and several subsequent trips through town and around the island, we felt remarkably safe and at ease. The great majority of the island is thick with tourists, but even on the back roads away from the cruise ship district and downtown, I would have been very comfortable stopping to ask for directions, (even though I opted to press on and find the airport myself!)
We arrived, checked in, and hauled our bags to the room. Modest amenities, a private balcony with a couple chairs and table overlooking some palms and a spectacular view of the ocean; large enough to lay out dive gear to dry every morning. Comfortable beds, typical bathroom, table and chairs, TV (that was not once turned on) – the usual affair. There was plenty of room for our bags to expand to loose dive gear, clothes and various other bits spread out widely. Opening the door to the East, and balcony West allowed a marvelous breeze and sunrise to wash through the room every day. Heading back downstairs to the central area of the resort, the pool/bar/restaurant, we sat down for the first free buffet that basically never ended all week. The food was good, varying day to day enough to keep it interesting. It was pretty reliable to see four sections; fruits/salads, meats/soups/main entrees, breads/sides, and deserts. Each was elegantly arranged and delectable. The staff were never in the way, despite being ever present. I was impressed at their efficacy and commented that they must be trained to hear the clink of a fork on a finished plate or the slurp of a straw reaching the bottom of a drink, for they never failed to appear from the ether to clear the table and provide refreshment, with a smile and Mexican charm. There were tennis courts, volleyball, ping pong and pool tables all free to patrons of the facility.
The next day began our diving adventures. A selection of the resort’s four comfortable dive boats would motor up to the wharf every morning while crews loaded both tanks and our own gear; setting it up even, so that it was ready and waiting for us when we boarded. Popular vote chose the dive sites, which were all drift dives and most commonly wall dives. An average dive went as follows; we were told to suit up upon arrival at the drop off site, after a briefing and the command of “vamonos!” the 8 or 10 divers filed off the back along with two divemaster/guides. We would then descend to the top of the reef at an average 40 feet (of crystal clear 79 degree water, mind you) and from thence over the wall to a max depth of 60 or 80 feet. The current kept us whistling along the reef as an inexplicable myriad of colorful alien life forms; plant, animal, (and perhaps for the strangeness of them, a third, yet-unlabeled distinction!) Every dive yielded something new and exciting to see. Sting rays, eels, sharks, turtles, lobsters, fish of every size, shape, and color. The abundance of critters is beyond description. The divemasters were obviously well experienced and accommodating. Rattling something against their tank to call for attention; either an air check, rounding up a diver trying to desert the group, or most frequently – pointing out photo-op’s and impressive marine life (such that this diver would never have found otherwise) After 30 minutes bottom time for those with dive computers (or a half hour for those without – a dive guide joke) we would ascend to the top of the reef for the remainder, essentially making a multi-level dive. Average dive time was just shy of an hour, including a 3 minute stop at 15 or 20 feet. Upon surfacing, the dive boat would back up to you; boarding was never an issue for all the help offered. More often than not, by the time you shook the water off your head and sat down, your tank had been changed and ready for the second dive.
And so it went for 6 days and 12 boat dives. We returned most days around 1 pm, there was plenty of room to dry our gear on racks after using their nice facilities for rinsing everything off and showering ourselves. Lunch was always the very next step, supplemented by one or a few of their well-mixed drinks, usually under the welcomed formidable sun on the beach or by the pool, letting time tick by even though it felt like it was standing still in Utopian serenity. We lucked out on choosing the time of the visit as it was busy enough to keep most things open and happening, but there was all the elbow room a person needed, as well as lower rates. The weather was, in a word, perfect. Mid to high 70s every day, all day. Two 10 minute spats of rain were worth enduring for the rinse and the beautiful rainbows that followed. The endless opportunities for various entertainment on the island were ever present, yet there was scarcely any need, nor desire to leave the resort. The term “all-inclusive” seems to sum it up well. Nevertheless, we did make a few ventures out to see the other side of the island, the Mayan ruins, the cruise ship and tourist district, as well as down town Cozumel. All were well worth it, nary a minute of regret, just being there made every choice the right choice! It should be mentioned here that non-diving spouses, friends, and patrons alike are welcomed as well (at a substantial discount). This year we had one non-diving spouse along, he and his wife both were thrilled and are ready to sign up for next year.
Though talking with guests, friends, and other traveling divers, and now experiencing it first hand, I have become convinced that this particular trip is definitely the best bang-for-buck. I have no complaints about the resort, the staff, or the diving, and I am ready to start booking and recruiting for next year! My personal and sincere appreciation to Cheryl Patterson of Deep Blue Adventures for a flawless maiden entry to dive travel.