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I'm an Open Water certified diver who dives infrequently. Most of my diving has been done on stops on Caribbean cruises. (Mixed marriage. My wife is a non-diver.) As an accident of the other vacations we've taken, it has been about a year and a half now since my last dive.
On our last with-diving vacation I became aware that local customs vary as to how restrictive dive operators are with respect to looking at your recent experience. In Jamaica the operator asked for my dive log -- which it happens I had neglected to pack, and I've only used it for my own records, never got it stamped by divemasters for proof of my dives. That was something I'd never had requested before, all anyone asked for was my C card and my own word on when I did my last dive. As a result, they'd only approve me for shallow (60 feet or less) dives.
(When I related this to some other divers, some said well, that's because Jamaica used to be British and they tend to be more conservative. I have no idea whether this is actually the case.)
No problem, I don't need to go deep (though I'd like the option). But applying this to my current situation I'm somewhat concerned that because it has been over a year since my last dive I may find operators who won't take me without a refresher course.
We're looking at planning another Caribbean cruise now, and for choosing it I'm looking to identify decent dive spots where I would not expect this to be a problem. I have no desire to dive past my skill level; I just don't think that whether my last dive was 8 months ago or 13 months ago or 18 months ago needs to be factor in the casual and accompanied dives I'm interested in doing.
Could take some class locally, just to have something recent on the record, but if it's not actually necessary I'd like to avoid the timing and expense.
Any recommendations for good Caribbean spots where someone who has dived between 1 and 2 years ago would not have a hassle?
"Discretion is the polite word for hypocrisy." Christine Keeler
“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” Winston Churchill
Since your taking a cruise, your options are pretty much limited. Just pick the itinery that you like and dive whereever that takes you. I've been to Jamaica 6 times. 5 staying at resorts and 1 by cruise. Unless you go back to the same place year after year and meet divemasters who remember you (it's happened to me a few times ) you can pretty much count on your first dive being a shallow dive. You're still unwinding from a day of travel and they want to get a feel for your diving. They do this by observing you rather then demanding a logbook check and c-card.
When you dive by cruise, there isn't time for that. They have a tight window to get everyone through the process and they either a) offer only shallow dives or b) have some arbitrary policy such as xyc c-card and log book showing xyz. They simple don't have time to do a better assessment.
BTW, if you really enjoy diving, you could get plugged into the New England dive scene. You can have a lot of fun diving locally on the cheap while really improving your skills. Then when you go to the blue water it's like a walk in the park to you.
On cruise trip excursions, one doesn't really have time to do a 'skills check' in the ocean, since it's a 1 day, 2 tank dive trip with time constraints.
What I suggest for your situation is FIND A DIVE QUARRY (if they have one in your area). Each summer, at least once, go to the quarry with a buddy, gear up and do a dive. Then you can honestly report that you have dove within the past year.
The 'Have you dove in the last year' question is common from what I've seen, and in today's sue-happy world, I could see a dive op. fearing accusations of negligence for taking someone badly out-of-practice diving, the line's gotta be drawn somewhere, for some reason the dive community seems to think over a year is the place to draw it, yadda-yadda-yadda. I have not had people checking my log book, though. Those get big, not everyone brings theirs or even keeps one, luggage space & weight constraints flying to reach the cruise are an issue, etc...
I have no desire to dive past my skill level; I just don't think that whether my last dive was 8 months ago or 13 months ago or 18 months ago needs to be factor in the casual and accompanied dives I'm interested in doing.
And in a culture that greatly valued free will and personal responsibility I would agree with you. On the other hand, for Dive Op.s in a paternalistic litigious society determined to make the world fool-proof, it does need to be a factor due to the risk management needs of the dive op. in terms of liability. Plus, in all fairness, dive op.s don't want you dying on their watch. Law suits & 'bad for business' issues aside, nobody wants a diver death.