A scuba diving trip to the Out Islands of the Bahamas is well within your reach with Blackbeard's Cruises. Experience the amazing reefs, blue holes and more aboard one of Blackbeard's three sailboats. Diving in the Exumas Land and Sea Park is on every diver's must-do list. Blackbeard's Cruises can make it happen thanks to the motto of "Twice the fun, half the cost." Think of a great camping trip, only doing it at sail in the Bahamas. Your vacation budget doesn't go to fancy amenities but instead to world-class diving, on a custom itinerary led by Blackbeard's expert dive guides.
Divers who have recently been on a liveaboard vacation with Blackbeard's Cruises rave about the experience:
"The people were fun. The crew was fun."
**Stephen Collins of Gainesville, Georgia, should know; he has been on four trips now with Blackbeard's Cruises. On his most recent trip, a week-long cruise in the Bahamas, he went with a group of 13 people from the dive shop he owns, called the Dive Shop on McEver. About half of those divers were Blackbeard repeats. Also on board that cruise was a group of eight people from Michigan, plus five Blackbeard crew members. "By the end," Stephen says, "we were all friends."
"You tell people, and it sells itself."
**BJ Stapp was part of the Michigan group on that trip with Stephen. From Oxford, Michigan, he normally dives the Great Lakes and inland lakes; he picked Blackbeard for his first liveaboard experience. On BJ's first Blackbeard trip, about a year prior, he went with his brother and a friend. When he went again, he told more people about it, and an uncle and more friends signed on, boosting their number to eight. "It was exponential," BJ says. "Next time, we're talking about trying to get the whole boat full with us."
"It's like camping on a boat."
**BJ knew that going into his Blackbeard trips. If you want bigger cabins and higher-end amenities, Blackbeard's sister cruise, Aqua Cat, is what you're looking for. But if you want to put all your money toward the diving experience itself, Blackbeard is a great choice. Berths are very clean dorm style – no private cabins, though divers say it doesn't feel crowded. And most important, the diving is the same. "Hey, camping is good," BJ says. "The trip is a really fun time and always goes beyond expectations."
"Always a different itinerary."
**Blackbeard's Cruises prides itself on having no set itinerary. Really the only thing that's scheduled is the calendar of departures for when Blackbeard's three sailboats set sail. The expert crew works with the divers to go to the best sites that given week. "We usually did about four dives a day," Stephen says. "We went on a 90-mile journey and had a big adventure, getting to swim with a pod of 30 dolphins. We had great weather, trusted the captain and had a blast."
"It's a good chance to get away."
**Some adventures are very easygoing. Stephen's girlfriend was also on the trip and enjoyed an Exumas highlight, the Thunderball Grotto at Staniel Cay, where she snorkeled and explored the famous grotto. "We'll likely go on another Blackbeard trip soon," Stephen says.
"We dove our brains out."
**That's high praise coming from BJ. The 20 dives he did on the trip included his personal favorites in the Exumas of the stunning coral at Jeep Reef, the wall at Blacktip Wall and the swirling Washing Machine. "The divemaster does a great job of predive briefings, so I was pretty comfortable with it," BJ says. "The Washing Machine is like God took an ice-cream scooper and scooped out the bottom of the ocean. That creates a vortex that spins you, then shoots you out into a drift dive."
"They let you learn."
**Of course, the focus is on the diving. But as the Blackbeard crew also looks for other opportunities to experience the Bahamas, the liveaboard experience becomes something truly special. "I learned about sailing, free diving, how to catch lobster and conch," BJ says. "You can get your hands dirty." In a very good way.
"We had amazing food from a little galley."
**As magical as the underwater world is, Stephen was also impressed by the wizardry of the Blackbeard chef. "She even made bread from scratch," he says. "By the end of our week, we had caught about 12 lobsters and a bunch of mahi mahi. We celebrated with a big seafood dinner cooked right on the boat."
"I took 3,000 pictures."
**Stephen is an avid underwater photographer, so he was in heaven on his most recent trip. One of his favorite images is of him in front of Jeep Reef, with the decades-old vehicle covered in coral.
"I run this trip like one I'd want to be on."
**BJ heard the captain say that, and it really stuck with him. "That was the whole crew's attitude," BJ says. "I love Blackbeard." It's that vibe with Blackbeard's Cruises that makes the difference.
"When are we going back?"
**BJ and Stephen agree that everyone says that.