Divers everywhere know that a scuba diving trip in the Bahamas aboard the 102-foot Aqua Cat catamaran makes for one of the best vacations. The dive guides and crew of the Aqua Cat luxury yacht are experts in the dive sites of the Bahamas. Explore the waters, sea life and pristine beaches of the Exumas, feeling as if the Caribbean Sea is all for you aboard the world-class catamaran. On 26 dives per week, the Aqua Cat visits terrific dive sites including the Austin Smith Wreck, Jeep Reef, Pillar Wall and the aptly named Washing Machine. That's why divers who have been on an Aqua Cat dive vacation rave about the experience. Here are just some of their reasons:
"Best trip I've ever done."
When he plans any trip, diver Andy MacNair of Kansas admits that he is very meticulous about his research. With about 50 dives under his belt, mostly in freshwater, he was ready to try something all new. That's when he launched his research on Caribbean liveaboards and discovered the benefits of Aqua Cat: a luxury catamaran with excellent amenities visiting some of the best dive sites in the Caribbean. He booked, went, and had a trip that exceeded his expectations.
"I got the most bang for my buck and the most experiences."
Aqua Cat is certainly a premium liveaboard experience, tailored for divers who want a higher level of amenities on board. For Andy, that was worth the price. Yet adding to the value was the high number of dives he was able to do, thanks in large part to the expertly planned itinerary and the attentiveness of the crew. In the typical "The shark dive, the wrecks, the wall dives, the shallow dives, they were all so diverse," Andy says. "That was my first time on a liveaboard and diving that much in a day back to back to back. The boat and crew made it so easy."
"I did 24 out of 26 dives."
That was Ken Blaszak's experience on his Aqua Cat trip. He was part of a group of seven people from the Chicagoland Scuba dive shop who made the most of the Aqua Cat itinerary. "The crew took a survey at the beginning of the trip of where we wanted to go," he says. "We generally did two morning dives, two afternoon dives and a night dive. One person in my group did all 26." That satisfied him more than the usual local diving he does around the Lake Michigan area.
"I saw an octopus on the first night."
Ken knew he was in for a great trip when that happened. And then the dives kept getting better. For example, at Jeep Reef, a shallow dive in the Exumas Land and Sea Park with an actual Jeep "wreck," Ken says, "We saw an incredible amount of life there, including stingrays and a couple sharks, on such a colorful, healthy reef."
"All you have to do is jump in the water."
Divers who are enjoying their first liveaboard trip as well as seasoned travelers, including a Scuba Diving editor who recently traveled with Aqua Cat, are amazed at the well-run operation onboard. On your first evening, you set up all your gear with the crew. From then on, you're fully catered to. On a typical morning, the wake-up call comes at 8 a.m. or so with a call to breakfast, then a dive briefing, among the most illuminating and inspiring you'll ever have. Some divers who may not be going on a particular dive still enjoy going to the briefings. Then you just walk to your waiting gear and step into the water at 9:15.
"It's so relaxing."
With Aqua Cat, you don't have to do anything except dive. "When I got out of the water after my dive, one crew member was rinsing me off while another handed me cookies and oranges," says Andy, still amazed. Just put your gear in a bin, and magically the wetsuits get hung up, the tanks get topped off and everything is ready for your next dive. Onboard, divers definitely take advantage of all the lounge space, from the alfresco deck (a perfect place for morning coffee) to the salon (yes, there is beer here) to the sun deck (80 degrees and sunny seemingly every day), with comfortable couches and spectacular views everywhere.
"I had the most memorable dive."
It's going to happen. On an Aqua Cat dive, you will get a photo to frame on your desk and a story to tell forever. For Andy, that happened on the second dive of his trip. "It was a wall dive, about 30 or 40 feet," he says. "My dive buddy and I swam out and saw two giant spotted eagle rays coming right at us. That's my picture, two feet away from these 7-foot-wide rays." The photo is currently Andy's wallpaper on his computer, iPad and iPhone, naturally.
"The camaraderie was awesome."
The Aqua Cat crew has years of experience diving and working on the liveaboard, from the chef to the photographer to the divemaster. Yet even for people who are experiencing their first liveaboard, the crew and the passengers seem to become one cohesive unit. The shared love of diving leads to entertaining conversations and many late-night tales under the stars.
"Cabins are spacious and always clean."
Aqua Cat is known for its very big, very clean cabins. Many of the 11 cabins can be used with king beds and fewer passengers or used with multiple twins and fold-down berths for friends and family. "We had three people in one cabin and it wasn't cramped," Andy says. "I slept well. We'd get up, dive, come back and it was like someone had come out of nowhere to clean the whole cabin."
"Every single meal was fantastic."
With Aqua Cat's emphasis on a luxury experience, Ken was hoping the food would be great, but it exceeded even his high expectations. He loved the cooked-to-perfection steak and the as-fresh-as-possible lobster caught by vacationers they met on a quick shore excursion. "I went on 24 dives and still gained a pound or two," he says.
"I can't wait to go back."
After his first Aqua Cat trip, Andy faced a long, cold winter of staring at his wetsuit hanging in his closet, a 19-degree winter day outside the window. He couldn't stop thinking about diving in the Bahamas. He's already booked his second Aqua Cat trip: "I've got the bug."