Wednesday, April 14, 2004



We took a lot of cruises during graduate/law school as they offered a perfect all-inclusive cost-friendly time-sensitive combination of relaxation and "soft travel."

Recognizing they may have many fine points, we quickly learned cruise ship excursions were not for us. We just had a more enjoyable time researching ports beforehand, deciding what we wanted to experience, then making that happen on our own. Sometimes this meant contacting local operators/guides and other times it meant renting a form of transportation and setting off on our own. For each port I will provide a published synopsis and then post our own experience.

Courtesy of WikiTravel:

"An immensely popular diving spot since 1961, when Jacques Cousteau, led by local guides, showed its spectacular reefs to the world, Cozumel lies 71km south of CancĂșn. Measuring 53km by 14km, it is Mexico’s largest island. Called Ah-Cuzamil-Peten (Island of Swallows) by its earliest inhabitants, Cozumel has become a world-famous diving and cruise ship destination. Hurricane Wilma did some serious damage to the snorkeling sites around the island, but most of the deep-water reefs missed the brunt of the storm. Sadly, the squadrons of eagle rays have dwindled, due to overfishing of the shellfish stocks – no shellfish, no eagle rays."

We have been here a few times but without a doubt the most amazing experience was our first visit which was centered around diving with Ernesto.  We had never gone diving before and we found a program that offered an opportunity to get instruction, participate in a dive, and earn our first diving certificate.

Upon arrival we were seated in an open-air hut to watch a diving safety video.  The group included Chris, me, and one other older female (not "older" but older than us).  Our instructor, Ernesto, then spent time with us going over the facts of the video and explaining the importance of and the meaning behind key diving safety features.  Some things, like death, concerned me and while I may have seemed outwardly calm inside I was growing slightly panicked.  Ive never been one that liked to proactively (what I then learned was called) "equalize" so even this was weighing on me as we suited up.

After we had our tanks, our fins, our face masks and all that we practiced our breathing and reviewed some basic hand signals (a-ok)!   Then it was time to head to the water!  Except I couldnt stand.  Of course having zero exposure to this, I hadnt expected the "gear" to be so heavy.

Once in the water it took some time getting used to breathing b/c it feels like taking slow breaths through a straw.  Taking immense comfort in the knowledge Ernesto was mere feet away, I eventually lost myself in the pretty sea life.  After a few minutes he adjusted the weights on my belt so I could better control my movement and I remember feeling safe knowing he had noticed this because it meant he was watching and taking care of me.  The dive itself was absolutely amazing.  It really is a whole other world down there, I cant describe it any other way.  Ernesto, always nearby, scooped something from the sand and brought it to me.  It was a starfish!  I cant recall the details other than at one point I grew nervous and Ernesto was there instantly.  He got close to me and leveled his eyes with mine.  He motioned he was watching me and that I was ok.  I can still remember how he was able to so easily and so immediately communicate this and bring me right back to zen.  I happily flipped away and carried on with one of the coolest experiences of my life.

The other member of our trio had some tougher issues.  She was at points coming out of the water and crying and while I wasnt privy to their interaction I saw Ernesto was right there with her each time.  Its funny-when I began to write this narrative, so many years after the fact, I googled "ernesto cozumel diving" and there are countless reviews singing his praise.  In fact, the first result is "Ernesto is awesome!"  Awesome indeed!

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