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Dive Review of Aqua Cat Cruises in
Bahamas

Aqua Cat Cruises: "Good Diving, Great Boat", May, 2015,

by Mark Kimmey, NY, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 10 reports with 2 Helpful votes). Report 8218.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments Aqua Cat was our first liveaboard dive boat back in 2008, and it pretty much spoiled us for everything after. We still like day boat and shore diving in various destinations, but liveaboards are now our first choice. Aqua Cat has set a high bar against which we judge everything else: everything about this boat is easy, from the online reservation system, to travel and transfers from and to the airport, to boat operations. She still has about the nicest layout of any boat we’ve been on. Spacious cabins and common areas, and a well-organized dive deck really make a week on the water quite pleasant.

Passenger cabins are conveniently forward of the dive deck, but divers are asked not to traverse the corridor in wet gear, which is appreciated by all. Cabins are airy, well-lit and clean. There are adequate plugs (US 110v, 60 Hz) and mattresses were comfortable. Aqua Cat is very steady: on our previous trip we encountered rough weather but it was never too bouncy to move around (with caution) or sleep. On this trip the seas were mostly calm.

Cabins feature their own climate controls, so buddies can adjust to their preference. Small refrigerators are also provided, though we didn’t have much use for ours.

Fresh water is plentiful, but don’t be greedy or abusive.

Each dive station is two tanks wide, which gives each person enough room without feeling crowded. Plastic bins under bench seats – “tuppers” – are large and hold fins, weight belts and other gear, while clotheslines above make a nice place to dry towels and the occasional swimsuit. There is a shelf above the tanks that the crew advises is not really for personal gear: it’s where the air and nitrox hoses go when they’re not filling tanks, and anything there is subject to having something dropped on it. If you’re using an expensive or custom mask, that could be a problem, so be warned! There is adequate hanging space for wetsuits and dive skins on the inside bulkheads on either side of the dive deck.

There are two showers on the forward end of the dive deck, and a fully functioning bathroom. The showers in particular are quite popular in which to strip off wetsuits and skins after dives, the warm, freshwater rinse also contributes to odor minimization as the week progresses.

Diving from Aqua Cat is simplicity itself: gear up and walk to a gate on either side and drop in. The six-foot drop takes a bit of getting used to, but you can also walk down the stairs on either side to the swim steps aft, which is also where divers exit the water. Each of these also has a warm-water shower, and the crew will hose you off at the end of your dive. Again, this helps keep odor on dive deck under control.

Diving is at your own pace: Aqua Cat puts a divemaster in the water whenever divers are playing, but buddy teams can tag along or not. During the first two dives several divemasters took to the water, including a photographer and a videographer, but I suspect they were really there to check us out and figure out who was going to require more supervision. Once we established that we were proficient – despite a short run of embarrassing personal equipment issues! – the divemasters were pretty comfortable with our diving our own profiles.

During dives, a “hang bar” is suspended below the swim steps, along with two second-stage regulators on long hoses from tanks on the deck. In an emergency, a buddy team would be able to off-gas underwater. The crew advises divers not to actually hang onto the bar and instead use it as a visual reference: since the bar is suspended on lines, it and any attached diver will sway to either side as the boat swings on its mooring, and an unobservant diver could suddenly find himself much shallower than he planned. Though this bar was supposed to be suspended at 15 feet, I did not observe it to be deeper than ten during the week we were aboard.

In general, Aqua Cat appears well-cared for. A tour of the engineering spaces revealed a clean operation below decks, which usually indicates that maintenance is being conducted on a regular basis. We did have an “oops” moment during the week when a generator cable arced and lost us electrical power for a few minutes, but Engineer Randy had the problem resolved quickly. We also enjoyed a plumbing issue, reportedly caused by a paper towel that someone down the line from us had flushed. Like most boats, divers should refrain from putting anything in the toilets that hasn’t gone through their own bodies already, plus toilet paper (which disintegrates in water). Paper towels and those darn baby wipes that so many senior divers are so fond of should not be flushed! Lucky for us, the crew had the problem fixed in record time.

Meals are taken in the large salon forward of the “alfresco deck,” one level above the dive deck. The alfresco deck is also where dive briefings are conducted. The salon spans the width of the boat – not insignificant – and has a hatch (door) forward onto a small observation area immediately below the wheelhouse. Food was well-prepared and abundant: most meals offered at least two entrée choices, and my vegetarian dive buddy was always presented with something made just for her. One tradition that I was pleased to see discontinued was the constant offering of snacks between dives: I discovered they were still available, but they weren’t put in my face every time. My waistline formally thanks the crew of Aqua Cat!

Beer and wine were always available, but the traditional rule of drinking-ends-diving was observed. Hard liquors were available on the sun deck bar, one level up from the salon and aft of the wheelhouse.

Overall, the crew was awesome. Captain Des Grayling was assisted by a Mate, Engineer, Chef and Sous Chef, four Divemasters and the “House Mouse” (housekeeper). Everyone was cheerful, patient with stupid questions (an art in itself), and ready to help. They also had great senses of humor, which you probably need in this business!

Dive sites are varied: everything from shallow finger reefs to deep walls. Diversity on the reefs has definitely declined since our last trip in 2008, perhaps accompanying the increase in algae and lionfish. The former is choking the reef everywhere, and there wasn’t a single dive we did not encounter the latter: on some sites, we stopped counting the lionfish. The Bahamas needs to declare “open season” on these guys - perhaps a bounty? We only saw two scrawled filefish the entire week, and but a single cowfish, species which were once plentiful.

It was common to find schools of Horse-eye Jacks, along with a reef shark or two, hanging out under the boat during dives.
One note about “The Lost Blue Hole:” the feature is deep and in my opinion unimpressive. Instead, check out the coral heads on the north rim where you might find sharks, rays, juvenile morays and lionfish, and a lot of other small stuff.

We had a couple of non-diving opportunities during the week, including beach jaunts, a chance to feed grapes to iguanas, a snorkeling trip to “Thunderball Grotto,” and a visit to the beach of swimming pigs (who are quite friendly).
Websites Aqua Cat Cruises   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving New York, Hawaii, California, Kwajalein, Florida, Grenada, Bonaire, Caymans, Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Belize, Mexico, Australia, Sea of Cortez
Closest Airport Nassau Getting There Airlines from numerous countries; transfers from/to the airport arranged through the Aqua Cat reservations office.

Dive Conditions

Weather cloudy Seas calm
Water Temp 73-83°F / 23-28°C Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 40-50 Ft/ 12-15 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Normal recreational limits in effect; NITROX limits as appropriate to mix (32% was about average).
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales 1 or 2
Corals 2 stars Tropical Fish 2 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish 2 stars
Large Pelagics 2 stars

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

Subject Matter 3 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments A central camera table is well-lit and supplied with compressed air, and the crew is careful to explain which towels are for drying bodies and which are for drying cameras. A separate shelf is provided as a battery charging station, and I believe it offers other voltage options.
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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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