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Dive Review of Southern Cross Club/Casa Cassiopeia in
Cayman Islands/Little Cayman

Southern Cross Club/Casa Cassiopeia, Mar, 2011,

by Susanne E. Howarth, CA, USA (Reviewer Reviewer 3 reports). Report 5955.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Anguilla, Australia, Bali, Belize, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, California, Cayman (Little and the Brac), Cozumel, Florida, Hawaii, Lombok, Roatan, Thailand,
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy, dry Seas choppy, surge
Water Temp 77 to 7 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 60 to 125 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions First dive: max 110 feet and 50 minutes; second dive: max 60 feet and 50 minutes
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 3 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 2 stars
Large Pelagics 2 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments A dedicated rinse bucket was provided on the boat for cameras only. However, it would have been nice to have a table on which to work on the camera if needed.

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 3 stars Food N/A
Service and Attitude N/A Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments The Southern Cross Club (SCC) runs an excellent dive operation, with very friendly and accommodating divemasters (Mike, Justine, and Kristian dove with us). Their boats hold up to 12 divers, but most days we dove with only 6 or 7 guests. On any dive, we had the option to follow the divemaster (who would then find all the really good stuff) or go it on our own. Cool, unusual, and/or rare stuff we saw included several slender filefishes; a golden hamlet (on the cover of the Paul Humann reef fish book) and a yellowbelly hamlet; spawning barrel sponges (they look like underwater smokestacks); a soapfish; a large rainbow parrotfish; a tiny decorator crab; numerous juvenile spotted drums (my favorites, and SCCs logo fish!); jawfishes; frequent reef sharks; as well as numerous turtles and groupers. (One of the Nassau groupers actively approached divers and was totally unconcerned when pushed away repeatedly!)

SCC also works cooperatively with the other dive operators on the island. During our visit, not enough people wanted to dive in the afternoon for them to take a boat out. However, they arranged for my brother-in-law to dive with Reef Divers at the Little Cayman Beach Resort. Also, while we were there, Pirates Points boat was in Grand Cayman for repairs, and SCC accommodated their divers for several days. In addition, each week, all the local divemasters gather on Thursday afternoon at SCC and go out to hunt lionfish, which are unfortunately very prevalent on the reefs.

While SCC has rental gear available, there are no backup items on the boat if you forget to bring it on board, your dive is done. However, Mike and Justine were particularly good about reminding us to check each and every piece of necessary gear before leaving the dock. (Thank you again, Justine, for not letting me leave my mask behind!!!) Computers are required to dive, and SCC will provide one if you do not bring your own.

After diving, BCs and regulators are left on the boat, and divers rinsed their own suits and other gear as much as they wanted, in the rinse bucket which had a bit of wet suit cleaner in it. (Nice touch!) Next to the rinse bucket was a drying shed with hangers on which gear could be left overnight very convenient!

Divemasters were also very good about assessing the skill level of divers on the boat and focusing their attention on those who were most likely to need assistance. As an example, my husband (who has made 500+ dives over the past 25+ years) had been out of the water for 2+ years due to some health issues. This was to be his first time back in the water. Before arriving on Little Cayman, he had a bad experience with his first dive attempt on Cayman Brac: he was underweighted (because the divemaster wouldnt allow him to take more weight with him, in choppy/surgy water, couldnt go down, then lost a fin and by the time another diver recovered the fin for him, he was tired and anxious and wisely aborted that dive). Before his first dive on Little Cayman, Mike spent a few minutes with him, allowed him to dive with more weight than the Brac divemasters were willing to allow, and gave him some pointers for checking his buoyancy and weighting at the end of his first dive. The dive was successful, and Mike confirmed that Fred was appropriately weighted and that he was clearly an experienced diver, who was just out of practice. As a result, I had my favorite dive buddy back in the water with me, and Fred got his confidence back thank you Mike!

In another instance, on the last dive of the trip, we had a boat with three adult divers and three teen-aged divers (ages 12, 13, and 15). Because no parent was diving with the teens, the divemaster in the water, Kristian, focused on them and paid little attention to the adults, all of whom were very experienced and didnt need a lot of supervision. However, after taking the kids back to the boat at the end of their dive, Kristian came back down at the perfect moment (i.e., as the other two adults were running out of air and deserting me), and he and I spent an extra 13 or 14 minutes below, which allowed me to maximize my final dive and see some really cool things! In spite of the theoretical 60-minute second dive limit, that dive lasted 69 minutes for me, thanks to Kristian.

Kristian also adapted his style when working with the kids: in one large sandy area, he showed the three kids how to totally deflate their BCs, stand in the sand and take off their fins, and then they went hopping (I think he called it underwater skate-boarding) across the sandy patch. With Kristians blond hair and boyish looks, the four of them looked for all the world like Peter Pan, leading the lost boys on an adventure.

Southern Cross had its roots as a private club, and still maintains that kind of atmosphere. While we did not stay with them (rented a house instead), it was interesting to observe how casual their on-shore operation is, and that everything is done on the honor system. Theres usually no one in the gift shop; you take whatever you want and then ask one of the staff to put the items on your tab. Guests also help themselves to cold beverages and just put them on their room tab, which is behind the bar. When we first checked in to dive, we asked if they needed a credit card and were told it wasnt necessary until we were ready to finalize our bill! We did eat one lunch with them, and the food was fresh and tasty.

What could be better at SCC? The ladders on the dive boats are somewhat challenging to maneuver, in part because they are hinged and tend to bounce around a lot in the water if its at all choppy. Freshwater showers are available on the deck, but one has to ask that the water be turned on its not something they automatically remember to do. There was only ever one divemaster in the water, even on the one day when we had 10 guests. While I am experienced enough not to NEED a divemaster at my side, I find I see more unusual critters when I am with a divemaster, but that doesnt work well if its 10 divers to one guide. Two diving divemasters would have enhanced my experience. However, all of these are very minor items Id be delighted to return and dive with SCC any day!

SCC also gets eco-kudos from me for giving their guests water bottles, and recommending that they bring them on board the boat, instead of using disposable cups each day. A large container of ice water is provided to refill the bottles, and snacks include sliced oranges and energy bars.

One final suggestion: regardless of where you stay or what you do on Little Cayman, be sure to make reservations for dinner at Pirates Point on a Friday, when they serve champagne and sushi for the appetizer (including lionfish sushi rolls!), followed by seared rare tuna with mashed potatoes and wonderful fresh veggies. Gay Morse at Pirates Point is a delight: their boat was out of commission during our trip, so a group from PP dove with SCC one day, and we got to meet Gay. Shes been on the island for 25+ years, but still has enough enthusiasm that she was clapping her hands and doing an underwater happy dance the day we found the golden hamlet. Thats something!

Also, meals at the Hungry Iguana are quite good especially the Blossom Village Black Bean soup. On Saturday evenings, Maxine McCoy does a chicken and ribs barbecue at McCoys, which attracts an interesting local crowd, and offers simple but very tasty food. Be sure to allow time to visit the National Trust (say Hi to Debbie Truchan, who can tell you EVERYthing about the island) and see the Booby pond and Tarpon lake.

One final warning: do NOT go to Little Cayman if you want any nightlife whatsoever. This is a teeny tiny island, with very limited options not a lot of restaurants (but good eating), not a lot of shopping, no luxury nothing. Dont bother bringing your make-up, high heels, or dinner jackets. My husband didnt even wear any of his island fancy Tommy Bahama shirts! Do come to Little Cayman if you want excellent diving, very friendly people, a total lack of crime, and a lot of relaxation. (Perry McLaughlin, who rented us a car, advised us that we didnt need to lock the car and could leave the key in it at night thats what they do on the island.)
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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