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

Dressel Divers/Barcelo Maya Beach, Mar, 2012,

by Terence Taylor, MD, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 7 reports with 3 Helpful votes). Report 6489.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 3 stars
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments 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 reasonable.

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.

Websites Dressel Divers   Barcelo Maya Beach

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 51-100 dives
Where else diving Curacao, Bahamas, Florida
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy Seas choppy
Water Temp 78-80°F / 26-27°C Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 50-60 Ft/ 15-18 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
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.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? no

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 3 stars Tropical Fish 3 stars
Small Critters 2 stars Large Fish N/A
Large Pelagics N/A

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
UW Photo Comments 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.
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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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