Trip Advice from the PROS
Here at Sea Dwellers Dive Center, we want to ensure that your trip is everything you hope it will be. Every single member of our amazing crew is a highly trained, experienced and certified Dive Professional. Combined, our crew has well over 100 years of dive experience and been on many, many tens of thousands of dives. It's pretty safe to say that we know what we are doing in the water and on a trip. We have put together some tips, tricks and advice to help you plan and prepare for your trip.
What to bring
Any snacks or drink you may want other than the provided ice water and cookies
A good attitude
*Divers are required to bring a copy (digital or hard copy) of their diver certification from a recognized training agency (PADI, SSI, NAUI, etc.,) and present it upon check in.
What NOT To Bring
Your own personal sunscreen - we have a reef safe option on the boat that is complementary for our guests to use. Many brands available on the market have very harmful chemicals that add tremendous amounts of unnecessary and completely preventable damage to the reefs. This is ESPECIALLY true of any spray on sunscreens.
Drugs including medical marijuana
Pets including emotional support animals - service animals are different. Give us a holler if you have a service animal because there are still some restrictions and requirements that must be met to bring them on the boat.
Guns ((including concealed carry) yes, even with a valid permit, there's some funky Coast Guard regulations)
Any item the Captain deems unsafe to be on the vessel
BANANAS (they are bad luck on boats and Captains get cranky when they see them)
Sea Sickness Prevention
If anyone in your group is prone to motion sickness or sea sickness, PLEASE have a plan for how to manage symptoms. Few things are more miserable on your vacation than the inescapable nausea caused by being seasick.
*The NUMBER ONE way to prevent motion sickness is to stay WELL HYDRATED along with avoiding anything spicy or greasy the day before and day of the trip. Dry, starchy carbs like toast, bagels, crackers are very gentle on the stomach and Ginger-Ale, ginger chews and generally anything ginger based is a good option to have on hand.
*We recommend Bonine and/or Dramamine taken as directed or under the guidance of your medical provider. There are some anecdotal sources that have claimed that taking 1 pill before bed, 1 pill immediately upon waking up and 1 pill exactly 1 hour before departure is the bee's knees in preventing sea sickness but we are always going to officially recommend that you take it as directed.
*Sea-Bands are also another good option for a preventative strategy, they are snugly fitting wristbands with a hard plastic button that rests on an acupressure point in the wrist and for some people, helps to interrupt signals from the vagus nerve that cause nausea.
*In extreme cases and with enough preparation, it may be advisable for guests to contact their medical provider to request a prescription for the Scopolamine Patch which is a small band-aid type sticker loaded with a transdermal medication placed behind the ear that temporarily (about 72 hours) blocks/prevents/relieves nausea.
*AVOID spending time looking at screens as it sends very confusing messages to the brain when on a moving boat.
*Be aware that we are a No touch, No Take operator. Nobody is permitted to collect shells, coral, animals, etc., on our boats.
*Don’t forget to charge your camera batteries before your trip!
*There ARE places on the boat to keep your bags relatively dry but keep in mind that there are others on the boat as well so be ready to share those spaces.
*We are only going out for a 4.5 hour trip, you don’t need much stuff so leave the extras behind.
*Walking around on the boat deck can be a challenge depending on ocean conditions so please help us provide a safe environment by keeping the deck clear and stowing personal items and gear neatly at your seat.
*Please pay close attention during the Captain’s safety briefing before the boat departs and to the Mate’s amenity briefing once we get underway, the information will at a minimum help ensure you know where all the conveniences are on the boat and in the event of a catastrophe, may save your life.
*PLEASE keep your belongings together and set them down only at your seat, this will prevent your items possibly being lost, damaged or accidentally knocked overboard when guests are returning to their seats at the end of each location.
*In the winter months, bring hoodies or jackets to help warm up on the boat on the surface.
*In the summer months...it's HOT...way hotter than you think it will be...stay extra, super duper hydrated.
As providers in the tourism and service industry, our dive pros work VERY hard to keep you and your family safe as well as to provide an incredible experience that will provide memories that will last a lifetime. Our Shop Crew, Instructors, Guides, Mates and Captains put in an extraordinary amount of effort into each and every trip, class, and dive. In major dive destinations, shops fall into one of 2 categories. The first is us where we pay every member of our crew. Every one of us are Divemasters or Instructors and we do everything we can to find the balance between keeping our overhead costs as low as possible, keeping our prices as low, fair and competitive as possible for our guests and paying our crew as much as we can while still being able to afford to keep our doors open for business. It’s a TOUGH and very delicate balance that results in very low wages in comparison to the cost of living in the area. The second category that shops can fall into in destinations like Key Largo are the ones who operate based on putting as many people as humanly possible through their doors and on their boats and running their business primarily on the backs of unpaid (or so poorly paid they are barely more than indentured servants) interns and inexperienced brand newly certified DMs and Instructors. The idea behind that business model is to fill them with hopes and promises of living the dream and working an incredible job in paradise only to work them as hard and long as possible before they inevitably burn out, and often leave the industry entirely or until they realize that they were essentially lied to, used and abused and decide to look for an opening with the first type of shop. However, no matter how you slice it, unless someone lives on a boat, lives with multiple roommates or lives with a partner/significant other with a solid income to help cover many monthly expenses, nobody can afford to live down here for long while working at a dive shop. Every single dive pro will tell you the same thing. We all know we will never get rich financially doing this for a living, we do it to feel rich in our souls because we LOVE what we do, or to check off an item on our bucket lists. Rent on a 1 bedroom here on the island (not even a full apartment, but 1 bedroom in someone’s house with access to a shared bathroom and common areas) can run from $1500 - $2000 per month, utilities not included during the off season and significantly more during the peak seasons. That’s JUST to have a roof over your head, then add in all the other monthly expenses. To be able to pay a living wage, shops would need to charge literally DOUBLE what they do now, so, around $200 per trip for divers and $150 for snorkelers, plus double the cost for gear and guides, etc. It would essentially push the affordability of diving beyond the means of all but the wealthiest of our guests and that’s not cool.
The compromise between shops, crews and guests becomes gratuities. Shops are able to hire high quality crews on razor thin labor budgets while still being able to remain open for business and stay relevant in the competitive price market. Instructors and Divemasters are able to afford to live in the area and keep working at the shop because when they do good work for the shop, the shop stays busy, the crew stays busy and they have more opportunities to supplement their income with gratuities when they work hard. Guests massively benefit from it because your favorite activities remain affordable and accessible for a small fraction of what you could and would be paying if gratuities went away from industries like ours.
SO, what does that translate to in regards to how to determine an appropriate gratuity? It easily and accurately breaks down by crew type.
Shop Crew - receives hourly pay and unless you just really want to show some love and appreciation, no gratuities are needed. (Shout outs by name in reviews are just as nice though!)
Boat Crew (Captain and Mate split evenly) - For good service, $5 - $10 per person in your party to the boat crew is appropriate. Stellar service, adjust accordingly. Poor service, adjust accordingly.
Non-Private Dive Guide - Good Service $5 - $10 per tank, per person in your reservation is appropriate. Stellar service, adjust accordingly. Poor service, adjust accordingly.
Private Dive Guide - Good Service $25 per person in your reservation is appropriate. Stellar service, adjust accordingly. Poor service, adjust accordingly.
Course Instructors - For Good Service 10 - 20% of the course total per person in your reservation is appropriate. Stellar service, adjust accordingly. Poor service, adjust accordingly.
Our crew all have various apps that can accept gratuities as well as each person has an envelope in the shop for gratuities dropped off after trips or on days they are off.
If you have any other questions about gratuities, feel free to give us a holler and ask. We are happy to help however we can!