• Welcome to ScubaBoard

  1. Welcome to ScubaBoard, the world's largest scuba diving community. Registration is not required to read the forums, but we encourage you to join. Joining has its benefits and enables you to participate in the discussions.

    Benefits of registering include

    • Ability to post and comment on topics and discussions.
    • A Free photo gallery to share your dive photos with the world.
    • You can make this box go away

    Joining is quick and easy. Login or Register now by clicking on the button

Trip Report AquaCat Liveaboard Jan. 23-Feb 6

Discussion in 'Bahamas' started by living4experiences, Feb 22, 2021.

  1. living4experiences

    living4experiences ScubaBoard Sponsor ScubaBoard Sponsor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Tigard, Oregon
    276
    338
    I was on the AquaCat in 2020 just before the world shut down. Allstar Liveaboards currently has reduced pricing, so I booked Jan 23-Feb 6, 2021, two weeks on the AquaCat in Nassau, Bahamas, to dive at Exuma Cay.

    General Information about AquaCat
    The AquaCat is a catamaran and, boy, is she a nice ride. There are 11 cabins for up to 23 guests. There were 13 guests each week. I'm a single traveler, and the single penalty is reduced to 20% through April 2021. In addition to the fare, the port fees and taxes were $276 per week. As opposed to other liveaboard companies, the fees and taxes are paid in advance along with your fare and not as a cash payment on board. You may add crew gratuities to your onboard credit card account. Alcoholic beverages are free. The round-trip airport transfer to the boat is included for free on Saturdays only (day of embarkation and debarkation). If you need a transfer on another day or a pickup from a hotel, it’s $18 per person.

    Nitrox at 31% is $15 per tank or $150 for the week. The analyzer tool is provided, and you need to fill out the log each time. Wi-Fi is not available on the boat, but when you’re in the marina, there’s free wi-fi at The Green Parrot. This restaurant has great food, but the service can be extremely slow. The Bahamas sales tax is 12%, and in restaurants a 15% gratuity is automatically added to your bill, so there's no incentive to provide good service.

    Pre-Trip COVID Testing
    The Bahamas requires a negative COVID test taken no more than 5 days before your travel date. Once you’ve got that, you have to get a Bahamas Visa, which costs $40 or $60 (depending on your length of stay). The Bahamas Visa was really easy and fast to get. Once I paid the fee, the approval came through in about 20 minutes. Since I was there for 2 weeks, I paid $60. The Visa includes insurance coverage in case you get sick or test positive. You are also required to get a negative antigen test every 5 days in order to continue your stay. The liveaboard had an exception because we’re at sea for more than 5 days. Allstar provides the antigen test for free, but since I was staying on for 2 trips, the second antigen test, which got me home, was $25.

    When I arrived in the Bahamas, the rule was you were required to quarantine, but since you’re in the marina and then on the boat, it’s considered quarantining on the boat. During my two weeks there, the Bahamas lifted the quarantine rule and now you can roam about the island without any quarantine.

    Flights
    I flew on American , which is not blocking middle seats for COVID. However, the flights to Nassau were about two-thirds full, so I had the entire row to myself. The flight home had only 9 people on the flight. Now that mask wearing is required by federal law in airports and on planes, there is better compliance, but there’s still those people who don’t care about the rules.

    COVID Protocols on the Boat
    There is no reduced capacity on this liveaboard, so I was thankful it was only half full. The staff wore face coverings, but the guests had the discretion to wear a mask. Lots of hand sanitizer was everywhere on the boat and the staff and guests were very diligent about using it. The self-serve buffet has been substituted with the food being served in the buffet line by the staff. The silverware is individually wrapped in a paper sleeve versus the bucket with knives, forks and spoons where lots of hands are touching. The drink station is still self-serve with a soda and beer dispenser available anytime. You can also still make your own tea and coffee.

    Demographics
    All guests were from the U.S. ranging in age from a 22-year-old to 60s and one family of five, with an 11-year-old boy getting his open water certification on the trip.

    The Boat
    I love this boat! It was very clean and sparkly from the sprucing up it got last summer during the shutdown. The entire interior has been painted. Everything about this catamaran is spacious, from the dive deck to the salon to the upper deck. There is plenty of room in the salon to spread out and relax or watch a movie on the big screen TV. This boat has 3 levels. The first level you will find the cabins and dive deck. The second level is the salon and dining room plus the outdoor dive briefing area. The third level is the sun deck with loungers and the bar.

    The staff shared with us that during the lockdown, they spent five months on a mooring in Exuma Cay, only setting foot on land a couple of times and only for a couple of hours. Apparently, the dock fees in Nassau to sit idle is $2000 per week, so they went out to sea to sit on their own mooring for quarantine.

    Unfortunately, the boat was shut down for a few weeks last November because a guest brought COVID on board and infected two crew members. One was mildly symptomatic. The other was moderately sick with visible symptoms and loss of taste and smell, which still remains. The guest didn’t find out he was positive until he returned home.

    SB won't let me continue, so more to come......
     

    Attached Files:

    • AQ 1.JPG
      AQ 1.JPG
      File size:
      56.8 KB
      Views:
      62
    • AQ2.JPG
      AQ2.JPG
      File size:
      74.6 KB
      Views:
      60
    • AQ3.JPG
      AQ3.JPG
      File size:
      42.4 KB
      Views:
      61
    • AQ4.JPG
      AQ4.JPG
      File size:
      60.1 KB
      Views:
      60
    drrich2, AdivingBel, Johnoly and 5 others like this.
  2. living4experiences

    living4experiences ScubaBoard Sponsor ScubaBoard Sponsor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Tigard, Oregon
    276
    338
    AquaCat Trip Report Continued.

    Here's some pics of the boat.
     

    Attached Files:

    drrich2, Redfoot, AdivingBel and 3 others like this.
  3. living4experiences

    living4experiences ScubaBoard Sponsor ScubaBoard Sponsor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Tigard, Oregon
    276
    338
    AquaCat Trip Report Continued.

    Dining
    Chef Yari is a master and a food artist and her cooking skills are wonderful. The pastry chef, Nakita, made beautiful, artful desserts. The meals on this trip were fantastic! Very fresh ingredients and a varying menu from traditional Mexican food, chicken, beef, pork, seafood, vegetarian. I loved all the food.

    Dive Deck
    The dive deck has lots of room and everyone has a tub below their seat for your dive gear. The camera table is large. There is a separate dry charging station and we were told to using this area for charging your electronics, but you may charge devices in your room as long as it was not left unattended. Dive entry is done at water level from the back or a 6-foot entry off the sides.

    Daily Schedule
    Because of the rough weather conditions, the schedule was fluid, but breakfast was always at 7:30, lunch at 12 or 12:30 and dinner at 6 or 6:30. There are 5 dives per day, 2 in the morning before lunch, 2 in the afternoon before dinner and a night dive.

    The Cabin
    I was originally in cabin 5, which is two twin beds, but since the boat was not full, I was given an upgrade to cabin 10, which had a queen bed and a twin bed. I was a very happy guest! Each bed has two drawers in the base. All cabins have a mini fridge. The closet is quite large. There are two standard U.S. outlets and the A/C works great. Bathroom amenities include a hair dryer, and the soap and shampoo are in dispensers in the shower. Conditioner and lotion are not provided.

    This cabin measures 7’6” X 3’6” in the bathroom with the shower stall being 3’6” X 2’8”. The main sleeping area measures 7’2” X 4’9”.

    Dive Conditions
    January and February are not the best months to dive in the Bahamas. The first day of diving and the last day of diving were the only days we had flat water. Everything in between was varying degrees of swell. One day we had 40-knot winds, so I chose to sit out and have cocktails for the day. There were only a couple of divers who chose to knuckle through it. The crew did an outstanding job of fighting the wind and rain to get us tied up to the moorings so we could have our dives. It reminded me of the movie The Perfect Storm.

    The water temps ranged from 74 to 76 degrees, with the last day of diving being 68 degrees. The air temps were in the mid-70s.

    Non-Diving Activities
    The AquaCat has an extra excursion boat called Sea Dog that’s pulled behind us during the trip for offshore excursions. The extra activities were seeing and feeding the pink iguanas, interacting and feeding the swimming pigs, going hiking on an island, spear fishing for lobster, snorkeling in a grotto, or going to the white sand beach to hang out. On board to use was also a kayak, paddleboard, and a rope swing.

    Photography
    All the dive guides are filming both still and video all activities of the trip and then put together a montage for presentation on the last night on the boat. They are available for purchase and they do a nice job with the filming.

    The Animals and the Reefs
    Having been diving in Exuma Cay last year, I have a basis of comparison of the tropical fish stocks pre- and present pandemic. The Bahamian government made a really bad decision a few years ago and banned the killing of lionfish. The lionfish last year were very noticeable, but this year they are a dominant presence and they are very large. They are not shy around divers and you have to swat them out of the way. Thanks to the lionfish, the presence of tropical fish is nearly non-existent. There are tiny juveniles but not many adults. Adding to the pressure on the ecosystem, the locals have fished out the ocean. There were several sharks with large lures and long lines stuck in their mouths. One of the dive guides said the locals will put anything on the end of a hook, including a sparkplug, which he was able to remove from the shark by free diving.

    The AquaCat does a shark feeding dive once on every trip and I noticed a drop in the number of reef sharks from last year. Even the protected black Nassau grouper was elusive and I did not see even one in two weeks of diving. The food chain has been drastically disrupted.

    The reefs are suffering from some bleaching or the stony coral tissue disease (not sure which) in many dive sites. The large purple sea fans have big holes in them and look sickly. It wasn’t all bad, though. Many of the walls and swim-throughs are intact with lots of vibrant color. I did see the regular Caribbean critters, turtles, stingrays, reef sharks, nurse sharks, crabs, lobsters, as well as some macro critters. Thanks to some great spotting by the guides, I made a few new discoveries, such as a headshield slug, which is the size of a grain of rice. I'll attach some photos in upcoming posts.

    The Dive Experience
    The captain and crew were awesome and did a great job to deliver a fun diving vacation. The customer service, the diving experience, and the meals were all top-notch for me, which is why I returned. The captain did an extraordinary job in finding the right dive sites to keep us sheltered from the weather, so we were bobbing and weaving around the storms and had to revisit a couple of dive sites. I didn’t mind. I was there to get wet. He worked really hard to make us happy and even took requests for favorite dive sites. Everybody works so hard and I so appreciate them making my vacation experience so much fun.

    The Bahamas Economy
    Nassau is very quiet and devoid of any activity. There is no tourism whatsoever and many, many places are closed permanently. Junkanoo Beach used to have beach vendors set up, but they are all gone. What remains are two bars. What local artisans are doing is setting up their wares on a street corner. The bustling boating industry at the Bay Street Marina is gone except for the multi-million-dollar yachts.

    All in all, even with the change in scenery both topside and below the water, I really enjoyed the dive trip.
     

    Attached Files:

    drrich2, Redfoot, AdivingBel and 3 others like this.
  4. scubadada

    scubadada Diver Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Philadelphia and Boynton Beach
    14,246
    10,637
    Thanks for the report, doesn't sound all that attractive.
     
  5. living4experiences

    living4experiences ScubaBoard Sponsor ScubaBoard Sponsor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Tigard, Oregon
    276
    338
    AquaCat Trip Report Continued.

    Here's some critter photos.
     

    Attached Files:

    Redfoot, AdivingBel and Johnoly like this.
  6. living4experiences

    living4experiences ScubaBoard Sponsor ScubaBoard Sponsor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Tigard, Oregon
    276
    338
    AquaCat Trip Report Continued.

    More Photos.
    The cucumber pic has the headshield slug circled in red.
     

    Attached Files:

    drrich2, Redfoot and AdivingBel like this.
  7. Redfoot

    Redfoot Contributor

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Detroit, Michigan
    356
    382
    I am going on the AquaCat in May, a rollover trip from May 2020.

    Thanks for the great info, I have heard very similar things from everybody. Great crew, great boat, great topside fun, but the diving is lacking.
     
    living4experiences likes this.
  8. drrich2

    drrich2 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    8,631
    6,402
    You managed to make a sea cucumber look like Godzilla by pairing it with that nudibranch. Good to see shots of the yacht environment, an important but sometimes overlooked aspect of reports.

    Your report carried forward an impression I've had reading about the Bahamas, and the AquaCat in particular, before...a great operation in a subprime dive setting (except for reef sharks, which are a substantial draw for some divers). I haven't been to the Bahamas; I think about it, then get side-tracked by the lure of somewhere else. Glad to hear some of the sites looked good to you.

    Not happy to hear of the lion fish situation (which has been mentioned elsewhere before, I think). One might think the government would've reversed course on that by now.

    In the shot feeding the pigs, that is a big hog! Considering it's out in the open with no fence between human and animal, hope it's 'friendly.' In theory it must be...I'm just mindful pigs are intelligent, having minds of their own and some can be dangerous. I've been around farm animals enough not to be paranoid...but a pig that size warrants respect.
     

Share This Page