Yesterday, Jan. 30, 2014, I took 3 of my 5 boys (ages 14, 12, and 10) to Sweet Bottom Dive Center at the Carambola Resort on the West end of St. Croix for the Intro to Scuba class. My other two boys were too young (10 years old minimum). We had been snorkeling a few times before we visited Sweet Bottom. We are not staying at the resort, just popping in now and then for lunch, Friday night party, etc. We had no scuba experience whatsoever. The Intro to Scuba was designed for people like us. The cost was $90 per person, which included a sit down lesson for about 30 minutes, about 45 minutes in the pool, then about 30 minutes in the open water. The whole thing would take about 2 1/2 hours. Sweet Bottom said that if, after the pool section, we didn't feel comfortable, they wouldn't charge the full $90, only $30, I think. They also explained that they would have 1 on 1 in the open water. We decided to give it a try, called to schedule and they got us in two days later. They had to make sure four instructors were available. We arrived a 15 minutes early to start the paperwork, which consisted of a medical questionnaire, personal information, and waivers. If you have any medical conditions, or even have a cold, you have to get a doctor to sign off (which they do not do). Also, if you are flying within 12 hours, you can't dive. I would just tell them up front, while you are scheduling, any concerns you have.
My 12 year old was a little apprehensive, but with the option of opting out after the pool, he decided to give it a try. The staff was incredibly friendly. The class portion is very simple. My 10 year old grasped everything. Then you get fitted with a mask, fins, wet suit, and vest with a tank. The vest and tank are heavier than you think. My boys are in shape and handled them with no problems. (The have smaller tanks for the smaller kids). We spent about 45 minutes in the pool, where we learned how to find your regulator (mouthpiece) should you lose it, how to clear your mask, how to equalize, etc. then a few tasks, to make sure everyone was comfortable. Then out to the open water. My 12 year old was still a little concerned, but after Sweet Bottom made it so easy, he decided to give it a try. I told him that if he gets out there and still isn't comfortable, then just stay at the top. The water was a little rough out front of the Carambola, so they took us a couple miles east to Cane Bay. This was a nice touch, they wanted to make sure we had the best experience.
Well, so much for 12 year old's fears. All three boys took to it like nothing. I was the one holding them back. We dove in 37 feet of water for 31 minutes. The reef and fish were better than I expected. The instructors went above and beyond to make sure we all felt comfortable, and pointed out cool things. We got great video with a go-pro. All the boys want to get certified. This alone tells you how great Sweet Bottom did. I would highly recommend them to anyone who wants to experience Scuba diving.
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