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Dive Review of Dressel Divers/Barcelo Maya Beach in
Cozumel and the Mexican Yucatan/Riviera Maya

March, 2012, an Instant Reader Report by Terence Taylor, MD, US
Reviewer   (6 reports, with 1 Helpful vote)
Report Number 6489
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
51-100 dives
Where else diving
Curacao, Bahamas, Florida
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, windy  
Water Temp
78   to 80    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
50   to 60    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
The Dive Briefings were fairly detailed, but not necessarily tightly
followed.  The 6 to 8 divers were in a relatively tight group, with the
dive called by the DM.  Pickups as a group.  All dives were done as drift
dives, with slow to moderate current, which allowed for some photography.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  3 stars
Tropical Fish
3 stars  
Small Critters
  2 stars
Large Fish
Large Pelagics
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
3 stars  
Boat Facilities
1 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
2 stars  
Shore Facilities  
2 stars  
The Boats (Rivieras Maya) were 24 stations in 4 rows, very tight, so no
accommodation for photo tables.  There was a 5 gallon bucket of water for
cameras.  Crew was good with getting the cameras out of the water in heavy
seas and treated them well.  I called in advance and knew the situation, so
only took my point and shoot.  We did take a trip to the Iberostar resort
on Cozmel, and the photo facilities on the much larger boats were adequate
with a small table- 26-28 stations in two exterior rows- and larger camera
rinse buckets.   As expected, there were no accommodations at the Cenotes.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
5 stars
4 stars
Service and Attitude
4 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
4 stars
Dive Operation
4 stars  
Shore Diving  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
3 stars    
4 stars   
3 stars    
The diving on the Riviera Maya was mediocre, not on par with my diving the
last year in Curacao and the Exuma Islands- but better than sitting by a
pool IMHO, and not bad by any stretch of the imagination.  The DMs and the
Boat Crew were good from getting the divers set up and making sure we were
taken care of.  The Dive Masters were all very experienced, but didn't
point out a lot of critters, maybe two or three critters/turtles per dive-
I am suspicious there was not a lot to point out.  Did have fun with quite
a number of turtles.   

When they closed the beaches for 2 days due to high winds, we opted for a
trip to the leeward side of Cozmel ($100 plus the original dive fee of $45)
to the Columbia and Plancar reefs.  This involved a van trip to Playa
Carmen, a 45 minute ferry ride and 20 minute taxi ride to the Iberostar
resort.  All of the facilities of the All-inclusive resort were made
available to us.  The trip back varied- instead of a taxi, we were treated
to a boat ride from the resort to the taxi with ample drinks available.
Diving- while the visibility was limited (50-60ft) due to the rough
weather, the coral formations were fabulous.  My daughter and I spent two
dives at 70-100 feet continuously swimming through 50-60 foot high walls of
coral, often popping out of the swim-throughs to see turtles, barracuda,
rays, lobsters, crabs, etc.  There were strong swirling currents, which
were evidently due to the weather and were not typical.  Truly a fun
afternoon, but with a lot of travel.  Dressel made the trip very

We did two cenote dives at Dos Ojos, and these were most enjoyable.  We
were 12 divers, so they were required to break us up into three groups (DM
plus 4 max).  My biggest complaint is that we only had two DMs, and being
in the last group, we had to wait in the heat for the first groups to
finish for both dives before we completed our dives (we were suppose to be
back by 2:30, which became 4:00 due to the separated dives). Lunch was
rather poor, but there were ample drinks.   The first two groups had many
new divers, and each DM spent 20-25 minutes in the water before the dive
working with them on their buoyancy. They take these dives very seriously. 
 With our group, two minutes in the water weight checking and we were
diving.  These were truly unique and fun dives, swimming for 45 minutes
each through a necklace of caverns/caves, filled with stalagmites,
stalactites and piers.  Most of the Cenotes are located within 20 minutes
of the resort, being a 90 minute drive south of the Cancun Airport.  It
should be noted that in many locations, the definition of cavern diving was
definitely stretched.  IMHO, these dives would not have occurred in the US
and be considered cavern diving.  But also to be fair, I never felt in any
danger, and it was a very controlled experience.  Note that all the DMs
dove twin tanks, and the groups followed the DM, least experience to most
experienced (which allowed me to hang back and get a few pictures).  

From a photo point of view in the Cenotes, with my P&S setup (Canon S95
with Ikelite 160), photography was tough.  I really needed my DSLR, 2
flashes and most importantly, a wider focal length.  I was constantly
wishing for my 17mm on my full frame Nikon D700.  There was not a lots of
maneuvering room, and the S95 could rarely go wide enough to take in the
entire view of stalactites or stalagmites.

At the Riviera Maya, one of my concerns was being on a boat with new divers
and having 25 minute dives.  On each boat out of the Barcelo, they
typically had 3 group of 4-8, broken up by experience.  The first dive was
typically full, and often the second dive only had 6-10 divers.  We (my
daughter and I) always were diving with experienced divers, so bottom time
was reasonable- 45-50 minutes on 40-65 foot deep dives.  They came back to
the dock (Dressel Divers Barcelo has a full facility and dock, but does not
make air there) after every dive, but trips to the site were no more than
15 minutes, some directly in front of the resort. After two dives starting
at 8:30, we were back after the second dive around 12-12:15.

I should note that the staff was very personable and friendly, ready to
assist at a moments notice.  On my first dive, I lost an integrated weigh
pocket, managed to get down and borrowed 4 pounds from the DM, who was very
accommodating- tough dive, high air consumption for I was still light, but
considering the problems they made it a reasonable dive.  When I got back,
the Manager, Sergio, went out of his way to dig up an old BC of his, which
happened to match my pockets.  And I was surprised they only charged me $2
US a pound for the weight- in this scenario, they could have charged a
hefty premium.

All divers were provided with large plastic bins for your equipment, kept
in the Locker Room staffed by the dive operator (not self service).  They
also had two large rinse basins and the water was kept fresh.  Each day the
staff would hang up your skin/wetsuit and was typically dry by the next
morning.  They also dispensed weights from this counter.  The locker room
counter was open from 8:00am until about 5:00pm.  

For beginners, they are a PADI 5 star resort, and appeared to take the
classroom, pool and open water training seriously.  I saw many people in a
classroom when I arrived in the morning and still being worked with when I
left after my morning dives.  Definitely not a 45 minutes in the pool and
throw them in the ocean operation.  Due to the tightness/cramped quarters
on the Riviera Maya dive boats, it naturally made for a fairly harried
environment, which is not great for beginners.  The crew and DMs did spend
a fair amount of time checking and accommodating these divers.

Overall, the dive operation was excellent, the photo facilities (at Riviera
Maya) were weak, and the reefs were adequate-not great, not bad.   This was
a vacation with the family first, diving second, so I very much enjoyed my
diving.  If this had been a dive trip with 3-5 dives per day, I would
highly recommend one look into the diving on Cozmel, which was definitely
several notches better with diving and boat facilities.  Dressel has a very
nice facility (and much larger) at the Iberostar on Cozmel.

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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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