Mexico's Quality Combo
Dive House &
Fiesta Americana Cozumel Reef Hotel
by Rick Frehsee, Jul. 1997
We are drifting along in a crystal sea. The effect, however, is that we are motionless, frozen in position as a reef wall as colorful as a carousel and as complex as an abstract painting glides by. This, of course, is Cozumel; an island in the Mexican Caribbean, famous for painted walls and drift diving.
There is the sensation that I am alone; no one is in front of me. That's okay, I know exactly where you are, Juan. You are below me, closer to the reef, hugging the bottom, your arms crossed in front of you, looking for more turtles (we have already seen two). All that I have to do is look over my shoulder and you are there; and 'Pirate,' too. He is our actual divemaster, trailing a safety buoy behind him, so our boat can follow us on the surface. We have been diving together in Cozumel many times and by now each of us instinctively knows where the others are. The rules here are simple but precise: Don't let the divemaster (with the buoy line) get out of view. You play the current; don't let it play you. And, surface as a group or, in our case, as a team of three.
We are three master scuba instructors on a holiday. Actually, Juan Leca owns the boat above us and the entire fleet and operation at Dive House, one of the very best dive services on Cozumel. Pirate (pronounced Peerahtay in Spanish) is a Dive House divemaster and a 20 plus year veteran of Cozumel diving. I, too, have been diving here, at least several times a year, for more than 20 years.
We are three divers with an unusual amount of experience in Cozumel and I am on a photographic assignment. But our dive, and the style of our diving, illustrates a prime example of Dive House's leading edge and unusual appeal for divers in Cozumel: You are grouped with divers according to your own wants and experiences.
This program, originally designed by Juan Leca and informally in effect at Dive House for some time, has now been fine tuned and formalized by Ken Knezick, president of Island Dreams Travel. Island Dreams is an established, respected and Cozumel-experienced dive travel wholesaler, headquartered in Houston, Texas.
Now introduced formally as the Dive House EDP; Experienced Diver Program; the program is in effect year-round and has been combined with summer and fall EDP special vacations. On a daily basis the Dive House EDP works like this. You show up at the Dive House Center (on the beach at the Fiesta Americana Cozumel Reef Hotel) prior to your actual dive and, as indicated by your C-card, dive log and a short conversation, you will be assigned to an appropriate dive boat group. New divers will be together and can look forward to a slow paced program of introduction, improving their skills and fun while in the company of one of Dive House's highly experienced divemasters. Intermediate divers will enjoy new sites and longer bottom times on a boat with divers of a similar experience level. Advanced divers will visit Cozumel's most exotic sites and enjoy the companionship of an experienced group with computer diving, maximum safe bottom times, etc. A final grouping, the Select Diver fast boat option, is designed specifically for a maximum of six advanced divers who want to visit the most exotic sites. Advanced divers who are also nitrox certified can request nitrox tanks (special order 24 hours in advance).
The selection process, with the placement of each diver being the final decision of the Dive House staff, is, of course, dependent upon honesty, fairness and patience. If you feel that you have been placed above or below your level, you can always request a reevaluation of your skills and possible reassignment.
A Dive House package includes one of Cozumel's newest and most beautiful beach resorts. In the popular southern hotel area only a few minutes' taxi ride from the town of San Miguel (and the International Airport), the handsome Fiesta Americana Cozumel Reef is a prestigious and full service luxury resort. The stylish architecture of earth tones and stepped towers offers central and south sections with seven floors and a north section with six. This part of the hotel contains 162 beautiful rooms with either king sized or double beds, 42 connecting rooms, two rooms for handicapped guests, 20 smoking rooms and four one bedroom suites. All guestrooms have direct dial phones, cable/satellite TV, tubs and showers, air-conditioning and purified water (throughout the hotel).
A completely different guestroom mood and ambiance is available behind the main hotel. Here are the resort's casitas; a series of handsome 'suite retreats' arranged in low-rise architecture surrounded by forest and greenery. Accessed by walkways that wind their way around the complex, each casita is equipped with a spa-tub, minibar, safe, phone, TV and air-conditioning. Very spacious and private, they are especially suited to guests looking for a tropical retreat. Golf cart service is available to take your gear directly to the dive shop.
There are several restaurants and bars at the hotel, including the Reef, serving breakfast and lunch; the Miramar, beachside overlooking the pool and gardens, featuring Mexican and popular cuisine; and La Palapa, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Theme nights and special dinners are routinely offered. There are stylish bars inside and outside, at the pool. The hotel also has several gift shops, a gym, volleyball court and lighted tennis courts.
A huge, attractive swimming pool is centered in the front courtyard at the hotel, bordered by an outdoor restaurant and lounge. Walkways and an overhead bridge connect this courtyard to the beachside section of the hotel, just across the road. Here, there are a pool, restaurant/lounge and the pyramid topped Dive House center and dock. An important consideration of this southern location is the availability of high quality shore diving and the shorter boat runs to Cozumel's highest quality dive sites.
Juan Leca and Evelyn La Plante are the owners and originators of Dive House. Nearly 10 years ago Juan, a Cozumeleľo and Evelyn, a former Canadian, began Dive House with their first store, which is still in operation downtown. About five years ago, with the opening of the new Fiesta Americana Cozumel Reef, they opened a larger and now central operation at the hotel beach. They have built their business on good equipment and professional service; the Dive House fleet, consisting of four boats ranging in size from 28 to 46 feet, and two smaller six passenger boats, is among Cozumel's fastest and most handsome. Dive House also maintains one of the best boat size to number of diver ratios on the island. The hospitality is excellent. As Juan says, 'Once we get to know you, it's your boat! As long as it's safe, you can tell the captain when you want to dive and where you want to go.'
With that kind of service and the Experienced Diver Program, you can't do better. And, with the new EDP fall and summer specials designed and offered by Island Dreams Travel, many divers new to Cozumel will become Dive House fans. Here's how it works: This fall, from September 5 through December 15, the EDP special will include complimentary shore tanks (one per each boat dive), roundtrip airport/hotel transfers, free upgrade to Casita lodging with continental breakfast (space available) and a gift of an EDP mask strap for every diver. Optional boat night diving, optional upgrade to the Select Diver boat and optional open water, advanced certification with private instructor are available. One free dinner at Fiesta Americana for stays of four nights or more is also available during the fall/summer special calendar.
It's the Cozumel holiday to dive for!
For more information on Dive House/Fiesta Americana Cozumel Reef Hotel, contact Island Dreams Travel at (800) 346-6116 or (713) 973-9300, fax (713) 973-8585 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The Web page can be found at http://www.islandream.com.