There are several types of scuba charter available aboard yachts. The most common is called rendezvous diving, and it is offered by virtually all charter yachts worldwide. That’s because with rendezvous diving, the yacht’s crew doesn’t actually handle the scuba operations. The captain contracts with a local dive operator, who meets you at the yacht and takes you out for a dive using either your gear or gear provided by the local operator.
Rendezvous diving has benefits for the charter crew and charter guest alike. For the crew, it allows them to concentrate on offering onboard service for non-diving guests while the third-party dive operator focuses on the scuba experience. For the guest, rendezvous diving lets you schedule scuba outings with experts who have local knowledge, as opposed to diving with yacht crew who may be new to the area, its reefs, and its wrecks.
This style of diving has become so popular in the British Virgin Islands that in 2011, The Moorings created a formal partnership with Sail Caribbean Divers. Clients who charter yachts through The Moorings have full access to the PADI five-star scuba center for rendezvous diving, seven days a week. At the upper end of the yacht charter spectrum, the 178-foot Alloy sailing yacht Tiara has formed a partnership with Dive Butler International to bring that PADI five-star center’s equipment and team onboard the yacht for the exclusive enjoyment of charter guests.
The Tiara program solves the one problem that rendezvous diving creates: It does not allow the convenience of gearing up and diving straight from your charter yacht’s swim platform. To enjoy that pleasure—and it is a fantastic benefit of any charter vacation—certified divers will need to book a charter yacht that offers scuba led by crew who are trained, at a minimum, to the level of PADI dive master.
A charter broker can tell you which yachts offer diving from onboard, but in general, look for a yacht that promotes diving and ask whether the yacht is covered by a separate insurance policy for scuba. Yachts whose owners have gone to the trouble of hiring PADI-certified crew, and of purchasing insurance riders, are usually well outfitted for diving because the owners, themselves, enjoy the sport. Charter clients on these types of yachts tend to enjoy top-quality gear that the owner already has onboard, convenient changing areas adjacent to the swim platform, and smartly outfitted tenders with dedicated space for scuba tanks.
The third, and least common, form of scuba charters are instructional. That’s because only a handful of charter yacht crew hold certification as PADI dive instructors, which allows them to teach beginners the sport. (Most charter crew, if certified at all, hold the title of dive master, which means you can dive with them if you already are certified at the open water level.)
Charter yachts that offer scuba instruction tend to combine onboard class time with shallow-water skills testing in calm bays close to the beach. A handful of the largest megayachts offer scuba instruction in their onboard swimming pools before completing a new diver’s certification in-water.
Since charter yachts are not ranked by PADI the way that land-based scuba centers are, it can be difficult to determine just how serious any given charter yacht’s scuba operation really is. One good option is to book through a charter broker who has personal scuba diving experience. They tend to ask the best questions of captains and crew regarding gear, stowage, and all the practicalities of diving, since they know firsthand how involved the sport can be.