We've put together a list of the best cruise lines for watersport fans. These ships specialize in offering the cruiser snorkeling and scuba techniques through onboard programs followed up by special shore excursions:
CruiseMates' Editor's Best Cruise Ship Awards:
American Safari is a small ship cruise line with boats that hold from 16 to 32 passengers. Onboard are skiffs and kayaks which they use often to get close to wildlife and other attractions. In Alaska, they will take a skiff and follow a pod of whales for hours watching the feed and breach. Near glaciers they will load passengers in kayaks from the rear boat loading platform and let them paddle close enough to see the pippins and sea lions lounging on the ice bergs. When you return from the cold, enjoy fresh hot chocolate laced with Kahlua.
Norwegian Cruise Lines -- Start learning the best techniques for snorkeling the first day onboard the ships with NCL's "Dive In" snorkeling program (Caribbean, Bermuda and Hawaii cruises). They give you demonstrations on how to handle your equipment, show slides of the most common varieties of fish topological clues on where to find then, and then upon arrival in the islands, accompany you to the best reefs and wrecks for snorkeling.
Princess Cruises -- Princess was the first cruise line to offer an onboard scuba certification program, and with theirs you can actually become PADI certified by the time you leave the ship. Ironically, the program takes the full seven days, so by the time you are certified the cruise is over, however, they also train enough to do a "resort dive" which is actual scuba diving but always within the presence of a well-trained, certified dive guide. Some of the "resort dives" are more than anyone needs to do to know what it means to scube dive.
These ships have dive platforms off the back of the ship which they lower in quiet waters and offer everything from banana boating (pulled by a ship's tender) to scuba diving.
Windstar Cruises -- The three motorized yacht vessels of Windstar Cruises, Wind Star, Wind Spirit* and Wind Surf have aft water sports platforms that lower into the water for swimming, banana boat rides and water-skiing. Laid-back, no dressing up: a casual chic dress policy with top levels of food and service. In addition, Caribbean and Tahitian itineraries visit small isles, many with some of the best underwater locations for viewing wildlife.
Paul Gauguin -- This luxury ship, which sails exclusively in the South Pacific Society Islands (Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora), offers several water sports activities from its own fold-down water sports platform. For the novice there is wind-surfing and kayaking, and snorkeling equipment can be signed out at the beginning and retained for the duration of the cruise. For experienced scuba divers, the ship has its own PADI certified instructors and special boats.