Top 13 Cruise Destinations for Diving

Cruise ship travelers deep sea diving while cruising
Taking a cruise allows you to experience life on and below the sea. | Author: Sebastian Pena Lambarri

While there are many great sites to see above the water, there is something magical about seeing the world below it. Cruise liners offer you the opportunity to see many incredible cruise destinations and that includes some of the greatest diving spots in the world.

There are many fantastic destinations for diving that will let you sample various parts of marine life. There are also some great excursions available, as well as private tours that are going to give you that memorable experience. Here is our countdown of the best cruise destinations for diving.

13. Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands

When you go on a Caribbean cruise there is likely to be many great destinations that have diving opportunities, with Grand Turk being one of them. The clear waters and abundance of marine life make it a sight to behold. 

In terms of operators, Blue Water Divers is a company that offers trips on dive boats to the picturesque reef. The white sand with the colorful finish make for a great scene but it’s best to plan ahead to avoid any delays with your diving adventure.

One liner that often sends a cruise ship to the region is Celebrity Cruises and they will allow you the opportunity to dive under the water and see the wonderful aquatic life, before getting back on the ship and most likely heading off to another great dive spot.

12. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

If you’re a nature and wildlife enthusiast then you’ll know all about the Galapagos Islands. They are known for their incredible range of exotic animals, but that hive of activity isn’t restricted to what’s above the surface, as there is incredible marine life below.

There isn’t much in terms of coral reefs in the Galapagos Islands, but what it lacks in reefs it makes up for with wildlife. There are plenty of larger animals makes an appearance such as penguins, sea lions and sea turtles, and there is also the possibility of spotting sharks and manta rays too.

A planned shore excursion is unlikely in the Galapagos, so it’s generally something you’ll have to organize yourself. In terms of getting there though, Silversea Cruises offers regular trips to the beautiful island where you will be able to explore the depths of the ocean like never before.

A water turtle swimming in the clear sea at the Galapagos Islands photographed by a diver
Having an incredible wildlife, the Galapagos Islands are also a paradise for divers looking for marine life. | Author: Belle Co

11. Queensland, Australia

If you asked most people to name a few of the worlds coral reefs, they would probably only be able to give you one answer and that would be the Great Barrier Reef. It is one of the best dive sites in the world but it is also incredibly vast.

It stretches for 2,300 kilometers off the Queensland coast in Australia and there are a few great ports along the way. It is the world’s largest structure of living organisms with a wide variety of colorful corals, as well as many different species of fish and larger marine life.

One of the best cruise trips you can take along the region is with Princess Cruises who offer a round trip of the Queensland coast. It starts and ends in Brisbane and visiting the likes of Willis Island, Port Douglas, Cairns and Airlie Beach along the way for a dream diving trip.

10. St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

If you’re not a huge deep diving enthusiast or if you’re more of a novice scuba diver, then it would be a great idea to head off to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is a wonderful part of the world that has astounding beauty above and below the sea line.

If you want to see an abundance of sea life, then this destination will deliver hugely with the likes of octopuses, lobsters and eels. One of the great aspects of St. Thomas, is that the diving spots are very close and accessible.

The St. Thomas Diving Club is very close to the port and for only a few hours of your time, you’ll get to see a huge amount of life under the sea. Crystal Cruises is great for Caribbean cruises and offer scuba diving in their excursions.  St. Thomas is a destination that they often have on their itinerary with great diving excursions. 

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9. Key West, Florida

If you want to step back into history, then a visit to the USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg would be perfect. It was a transport carrier in World War II, as well as having many other uses. However, it didn’t succumb to battle, as it was deliberately sunk off Key West in 2009 to make an artificial reef.

It is the second largest artificial reef ever after the USS Oriskany, which is also off the Florida coast, but much further out and deeper. The Vandenberg is still huge though, as it is roughly half the size of an average cruise ship. 

A vast number of cruise liners visit Key West because it’s an enormously popular destination primarily due to its proximity. Holland America Line is one such company that will be able to offer you a memorable experience and will take you to this historic diving spot. 

8. Little Bay, St. Maarten

If St. Maarten is famous for one thing, then it would probably be airplanes flying incredibly close to the Maho Beach on arrival at the airport, with planes often only 100 feet above your head. Apart from that incredible sight, there are tons of wonders below the sea too. 

When it comes on to diving, you’ll want to make sure that you get to the diving spots early, as the times can usually be tight depending on your itinerary. You will also want to check beforehand to see if it’s even going to be possible for you to dive.

This is another location that has some special hidden history as the HMS Proselyte is located there, allowing you to explore the cannons and anchors that it has. MSC Cruises will be able to take you there on one of their many trips to the region.

7. Tortola, British Virgin Islands

Another incredible cruise destination that is situated in the Caribbean is the British Virgin Islands, and Tortola is going to provide you with some great diving experiences. This is another area where you will be able to see a sunken ship but this one much older, as the Rhone sunk in 1867.

The ship was sunk during a hurricane and you will be able to explore it fully. It broke in two but the two segments are remarkably intact. In addition to the diving spots, there is a huge natural beauty to Tortola with the luscious green hills, clear waters and white sand beaches.

Norwegian Cruise Line is a company that offers a great excursion to see the shipwreck. It lasts for 4 and a half hours with only over 15’s being able to complete the dive. There are also many great private dive centers such as Sail Caribbean Divers who will show you the majesty of marine life.

Two deep sea divers on a cruise taking a diving trip into a shipwreck at Tortola
Experience a sunken ship when going on a diving excursion at Tortola. | Author: Vlad Tchompalov

6. Phuket, Thailand

If you have never visited Thailand yet, then you will absolutely fall in love with its culture, the way of life and the food. On top of all that, it is also home to some of the best diving spots in the world. Phuket is known for its beautiful beaches but further out you can see a vast range of marine life.

One of the best aspects of Phuket is that it is able to cater to all skill levels as there are plenty of opportunities for both divers and snorkelers. You will be able to see a wide variety of turtles, sharks, eels and many other types of aquatic life.

This is one spot where many different operators offer a shore excursion and Royal Caribbean is a cruise line that visits the area often and will offer you truly unforgettable experiences. 

5. Kauai, Hawaii

Hawaii is a haven for dive spots as there are many dotted around the islands that are going to quench your thirst for an amazing diving experience. Perhaps the best place in the 50th state is Kauai, especially because of the Sheraton Caverns that can be found there. 

They have an afternoon dive option which is easy to catch and will have you back comfortably in time for boarding your cruise ship. The caverns and topography of the area, together with the vast range of fish species, will give you one of the most memorable dives ever.

A number of great carriers visit the region but Norwegian Cruise Line is the specialist in the area and offer a variety of 7-night cruises to the islands, including Kauai. This will allow you to have many great opportunities to dive and also take in the beauty of Hawaii.

4. Nassau, The Bahamas

In terms of idyllic island beauty, then there is no better example than the Bahamas. It is the epitome of the Caribbean experience and it is an incredible destination for many reasons, including seeing some large fish in its great diving spots.

For the best diving experience in the Bahamas, Nassau is at the top of the list, as you will be able to see some beautiful coral reefs and large marine life such as the Caribbean reef shark. It is easy to reach from the port and you’ll be back on the ship with plenty of time to spare. 

As we mentioned earlier, MSC Cruises has some great itineraries that include many great diving spots, but Oceania Cruises offers lengthier trips that will give you a lot more time to make those dives. Great shore excursions are available but there are also great private trips available too.

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3. Roatan, Honduras

Roatan offers the chance to partake in two great dive opportunities, as you can either see the shipwreck of the M/V Aguila or if you don’t fancy that you would be able to see the incredible Dive Wall which is situated in Sandy Bay.

The sunken ship was 230 feet long when it sailed the seas but is now in various pieces along the Honduran sea bed and around 100 feet deep. It has many fascinating creatures in its various nooks. The Dive Wall requires a more careful eye but there is a lot of marine life to observe.

Princess Cruises offers diving excursions that last for five hours and will give you an immersive experience of an amazing diving area. Honduras may not be the first place people think of when it comes to a dream destination but it has plenty of beauty and charm in the underwater world.

2. Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

If you’re not comfortable with diving down more than a couple of feet, or you are not a certified diver, then snorkeling in Stingray City would still leave you with amazing memories that will last for years. It is where friendly rays gather in shallow sandbars and tourists can play with the creatures.

For those looking for deeper dives, George Town will offer you the opportunity to do just that, with many cruise lines offering excursions as well as other private tours such as Sunset House that offers diving for all skill levels.

As with anywhere in the Caribbean, there are a lot of cruise lines running in the area, but if you fancy heading off on a luxury ship, then Seabourn will give you an amazing onboard experience in addition to  you enjoying amazing excursions away from the ship.

1. Cozumel, Mexico

In terms of the best cruise destination for diving, it’s hard to look past Cozumel in Mexico. It is the home to some great coral reefs, but the biggest attraction is another ship that was purposely sunk, the C-53 Wreck which was placed there in 1999.

It is one of the best dive destinations in the world and it is ideal for tank dives as it sits 82 feet below the water line. One of the great aspects of this dive operation is that you are able to safely travel through corridors and enter the engine and radio rooms.

It is a wonderful experience and Carnival Cruise Lines offers excursions that last for 4 hours where you will be able to create memories that will last a lifetime. In terms of a diving bucket list, Cozumel has to be on it and you might as well get there in style on an amazing cruise vacation.

Two cruisers on a deep sea dive excursion at Cozumel on the way back to the water surface
With coral reefs and a ship wreck Cozumel is the best destination if you are looking for a cruise for diving. | Author: Nik MacMillan

Cruise destinations for diving

There are clearly many great cruise destinations for diving across the world and as you can see here, a lot of them are in and around the Caribbean. It would also be an option to start your vacation from a port in the Caribbean and be in the diver's paradise even before you start your cruise. Regardless, there are plenty of many amazing experiences away from the islands with plenty of copious amounts of reefs, marine life and shipwrecks to see.

The beauty of cruising is that you will be able to enjoy a whole range of different activities both on and off the ship. Combining that with some new diving experiences will provide you with a truly unforgettable cruise vacation.

In order to make your search as easy as possible, you will quickly find the best cruises going to the 5 top cruise destinations for diving directly here: 

1. Best Mexico Cruises

2. Best Caribbean Cruises

3. Best Hawaii Cruises

4. Best Asia Cruises

5. Best North America Cruises

Check out these articles for more top destinations: