USS Kittiwake & Reef Two Tank Dive Excursion Review

Carnival Cruise Excursion Review | Grand Cayman

Jason Daniel Shaw

CARNIVAL LEGEND – GRAND CAYMAN

Getting your scuba certification opens up a whole other world and that underwater world is now one of my favorite places to explore. If you share that same sense of adventure, then scuba diving in Grand Cayman is for you. We recently visited Grand Cayman as part of our 7-day Western Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Legend and booked the USS Kittiwake & Reef Two Tank Dive excursion with Divers Down. This is a review of that excursion. If you want to skip to my final verdict, click here.

Diving USS Kittiwake Grand Cayman

DIVERS DOWN – GRAND CAYMAN

We met our tour group in the theater of the boat the morning of our arrival. The group leader led us (around 15 people) to the dive shop. The shop contains both Divers Down and Cayman Diving and I am not sure what the difference between them is between them. However, they are a very professional group located just a short walk from the cruise terminal in George Town, Grand Cayman. We were given paperwork (waivers and sizing sheets) to fill out on the boat and were told that we needed to return them to the excursion desk by 6:00pm the night before arrival, which we did. Unfortunately, the dive shop didn’t receive them and we had to fill them out again. We were then fitted for gear (we had brought our own mask) and asked to wait outside on the dock and eventually shown to our boat where we met the crew (Jack – Captain and Andrew? – Dive Master). It was then clear that not all of the group from our ship was going on our boat which made me feel a little better. Some of them plus others that were arriving from elsewhere were put onto another boat, presumably for the other dive excursion that we looked at booking (which doesn’t go to the Kittiwake). We stayed at the dock quite some time while they were sorting some things out but finally got underway.

Diving Couple Grand Cayman

USS KITTIWAKE – GRAND CAYMAN

After a 15-minute boat ride, our first stop was the USS Kittiwake wreck. The crew gave us a dive briefing and some history about the ship. First launched in 1945, the USS Kittiwake mainly served as a submarine rescue vessel. A lot of the work that it conducted is still classified but one of its more notable missions was to recover the black box from the Challenger disaster. If you want to read more about the ship’s history and how it came to Grand Cayman, click here. We were told that the ship sits in 60 feet of water and you can explore many of the decks. There are many photo opportunities such as in the decompression chamber inside, at the captain’s wheel and the titanic pose on the bow of the ship. Now super excited, we jumped in the water and were told to meet at the bottom of the mooring line.

Clear Water Grand Cayman

The visibility was incredible! There were a few stingrays swimming along the sandy bottom and a field of garden eels bobbing up and down. Then you turn around and see the massive ship listing over on its side in the distance. It took a few minutes for the dive master to get everyone together in a group and then we started swimming over to the ship. Once at the ship, we made another stop to make sure everyone was still together. Continuing on along the side, we made our way to the stern where we stopped once more. Everyone was just kind of floating around. We took the opportunity to get a few photos with the ship.

USS Kittiwake Grand Cayman

After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, we made our way along the other side of the ship to a hole. The dive master approached me and gave me his carabiner and signaled to stay there and tap if anything went wrong with the rest of the group. He took the first pair of divers into the ship. He came back out and got another two and took them inside as well. We all ended up in a small room inside the ship. The communication seemed to be a bit different than what was discussed in the pre-dive briefing. And then, in less time than it took to gather everyone, we were back outside the ship.

Inside USS Kittiwake

We swam along the top deck of the ship towards the bow. Just passed the bridge, you could see the captain’s wheel below us out in the open. I signaled for the Amanda to swim down so that I could get a photo of her standing at the wheel but the dive master signaled no. I thought that maybe we were going to explore some other part of the ship first and then we could take the captain’s wheel and Titanic photos that they talked about. However, just after he told us no, he signaled for a 3-minute safety stop. I thought I must have misunderstood him or that he was joking – he was not. With almost half a tank of air left, the dive was over. I was furious. We were told about all of these photos that we could take and in the end, we weren’t able to take any of them.

ORO VERDE – GRAND CAYMAN

Our next dive was just a 5-minute ride away and was a combination of reef and another shipwreck – the Oro Verde. We were once again given the history of the ship at the pre-dive briefing. It was first a military transport vessel that may have seen some secret missions. After its sister ship was captured, it was de-commissioned and turned into a research vessel and then finally a banana boat, hauling green gold (the bananas start as green when loaded and ripen on the journey, turning into gold) on its journey from Ecuador to Florida. The captain allegedly hauled more illegal cargo as well and when the crew demanded some of the profits, he denied them their share. That secured him a permanent home at the bottom of the ocean. When the crew tried to escape with the boat, they ran aground on the reef and it partially sunk. Eventually it was moved to a new location and sunk as an artificial reef. Today, it is scattered about and there isn’t much left of it.

Coral Reef Grand Cayman Scuba Diving

This second dive was a shallower dive and Jack, the captain of our boat, dove with us and left Andrew on board. We first visited what was left of the wreck, which included a piece of the bow and other random twisted metal pieces. One of the engines was still down there and was impressive to see. There was also some random bicycles scattered about that made for a nice photo opportunity. We continued on to the reef where I spotted one of the biggest eels that I have ever seen. There was what looked like a trail cut through the reef that you could swim along, eventually coming to sort of a swim-through. We were given some time to “hang out” until our time was up. It was then back to the boat for another short ride back to the dock.

USS KITTIWAKE DIVE REVIEW – FINAL VERDICT

As I said in the beginning, Grand Cayman is one of the best places in the world to scuba dive. If you are cruising to the island or otherwise visiting, I would highly recommend it. I will definitely go back and I want to spend a lot more time exploring the USS Kittiwake. It is known as one of the easiest wreck dives in the world. With that being said, I do not know if I would go with Divers Down again. If so, I would let them know what my intentions are with the dive and that I do want to spend as much time as possible focused on the wreck. They are very professional and I did not have any complaints about them other than talking up the dive and then getting to see just a fraction of what they promised. One of the nice things about the dive is that it only takes a few hours of your day so you still have the rest of the day to explore George Town.

Check out how we spent the rest of our day while in Grand Cayman. Additionally, you can follow along with our 7-Day Western Caribbean cruise on board the Carnival Legend that also stopped in Roatan, Belize and Cozumel or read the review of the entire cruise.

Bicycle Scuba Diving Grand Cayman Oro Verde

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