Celebrities and Dive Legends Drawn to the Cayman Islands Again and Again

Since 1957 when the Cayman Islands was recognized as the Caribbean’s birthplace of recreational diving, visitors have flocked here to enjoy the spectacular drop-offs and diverse dive experiences that have made Cayman a mecca for divers. Among them are well-known celebrities and dive industry pioneers who keep returning to the Cayman Islands year after year. In Cayman they find a convenient destination that offers incredible dive sites, top-notch dive services, world-class accommodations and restaurants, plus one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

image

Apollo 11 Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who famously walked on the moon and traveled in outer space, recently made his 4th trip to Cayman to share a dive adventure with the winners of an auction. They paid thousands of dollars to win the “astronaut experience”, and the money raised will help the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation support science and engineering students. Aldrin could pick another destination, but he chooses Grand Cayman and Divetech exclusively for this adventure.

“Grand Cayman is one of my favorite dive destinations in the world,” he said. “We continue to bring patrons of the nonprofit Astronaut Scholarship Foundation to the island because the people there strongly support our efforts by donating their services and facilities. The hospitality is, pardon the pun, out of this world.“

 “We dive deep oceans, go to the moon, so I thought we’d get involved,” said Divetech owner Nancy Easterbrook, who made the decision to work with the foundation because it is tied to the environment and exploration. Astronauts train on scuba to simulate the weightlessness of space, and Easterbrook says Aldrin, an excellent diver, has developed an easy rapport with her staff through the years.  “He taught our staff to do an upside walk on the bottom of the boat, and explained that this is like a moonwalk,” she said. “They all thought it was a hoot, they had fun.”

image

NBC Today Show weatherman Al Roker is perhaps one of Cayman’s biggest fans. He first visited Grand Cayman in 1995 to tape a news report for NBC on Stingray City, Cayman’s most famous dive. After completing a resort course with Red Sail Sports, Roker dove with the rays and got hooked on the adventure.

“I had not seen anything like that before – it was so amazing!” he recalls.  He was also hooked on the Cayman Islands. Al Roker came back to complete his certification with Red Sail Sports, and has made Cayman a regular family vacation spot, estimating they have been to Grand Cayman about 15 times since his first trip. Roker, his wife Deborah Roberts, an ABC News correspondent, and their children Leila and Nicholas, vacationed here last in March 2012, but he says they’re always ready to come back. “Cayman can be any kind of vacation you want,” says Roker. “It’s friendly, easy, has wonderful scuba diving, the food is great – it’s hassle-free.”

Easy access is why well-known author and international speaker David Meerman Scott, an American marketing strategist, recently chose Grand Cayman for a quick getaway with daughter Allison. Ocean Frontiers and the island’s remote East End proved the perfect combination for quality family time.

“We both love the ocean, so we decided to get certified together and it was fantastic,” he said vowing to come back.  “It’s good to start at the top.”

At the top is where pioneer of underwater film and photography Stan Waterman places the Cayman Islands. Waterman, who worked on films that include Blue Water White Death and The Deep, recently hung up his fins after his final dive in Cayman. In an interview published by the Caymanian Compass, Waterman was described as the unofficial ambassador for Cayman Islands diving.

“I am often asked by people who haven’t come to the Caribbean where they should start and I tell them that Cayman has more that can be depended on than any other place I know. You have these jewels in your crown like Tarpon Alley, Stingray City, the drop offs, the wrecks that have been put down. There’s more here for people who are coming diving than anywhere else in the Caribbean. Without being paid to do so, I always beat the drums of Cayman,” he said.

Cayman diving will soon receive additional exposure through a new music video being released by country singer Stephanie Quayle. Big Blue Town is a song inspired by the work of Sea Save, a non-profit organization working to stop the finning of sharks among other conservation projects. The video was shot on location at Sunset House (who is very familiar with country stars and being a part of award winning videos) and its famous reef.

Other celebrities who have dived and snorkeled Cayman’s waters through the years include; director James Cameron; actors Tom Cruise, Gene Hackman, Rob Morrow, Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Jessica Alba, Leslie Neilson; professional athletes Tiger Woods, Marcus Allen, Joe Montana, Edwin Moses, Nolan Ryan, Fox NFL’s Howie Long; TV personalities Stephen Colbert, Regis Philbin, supermodel Cindy Crawford and General Charlie Duke.

Cayman has also been a big draw for entertainers in the music business: Phil Vasser, Travis Tritt, Blake Shelton, Chris Cagle, Bryan White, the Beach Boys, Rascal Flats, Little Texas, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, among many others.

“We love it when people keep coming back year after year, like Buzz Aldrin and Al Roker do,” said Rod McDowall, Operations Manager for Red Sail Sports. “They become part of our dive family and it tells us we are doing something very right.”

About Us

The Cayman Bottom Times is news collaboration by five leading dive operators to promote the superb diving of the Cayman Islands, and keep the diving public informed of important developments and events. Divetech, Ocean Frontiers, Red Sail Sports and Sunset House in Grand Cayman, and the Southern Cross Club in Little Cayman, all members of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, represent more than 100 years of solid experience in a destination that is recognized as the birthplace of recreational diving. With a unique combination of deep wall and shallow reef diving, several wrecks, and world-famous Stingray City, the Cayman Islands has cemented its place as the top diving destination in the Caribbean.

Offering diverse and wide-ranging dive programs on both Grand Cayman and Little Cayman, the members of this dive group represent the best Cayman has to offer; Divetech (www.divetech.com), Ocean Frontiers (www.oceanfrontiers.com), Red Sail Sports Grand Cayman (www.redsailcayman.com), Sunset House (www.sunsethouse.com) and the Southern Cross Club (www.southerncrossclub.com).

Cayman’s Legends and Lions Weeklong Scuba Celebration Launched with a Resounding Start

image

The birthplace of recreational diving in the Caribbean inaugurates an annual celebration of what makes the Cayman Islands special

Tanks, tuxedos and tasty lionfish were all hits at Cayman’s first annual Legends and Lions scuba celebration, which rolled out October 4 – 11, 2014 with great success thanks to teamwork, a good turnout and perfect weather. The celebration showcased Cayman’s superb diving, honored dive legends inducted into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame, fought invasive Lionfish and then served them up at a celebratory street party on the waterfront.

“Legends and Lions was a successful event for its first time,” says Red Sail Sports Operations Manager Rod McDowall, one of the participating dive operators. “ We hope to make it a yearly celebration that highlights the fantastic scuba diving of the Cayman Islands and the reasons we are one of the world’s leading dive destinations.”

“It went really well, I’m very pleased,” agreed Keith Sahm, General Manager for Sunset House, also one of the event dive operators. “It pulled together very nicely.”

Dive industry leaders teamed up with the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism to combine several existing scuba promotions during this traditionally slow time of year to take advantage of off-season rates. The dive deals offered by Red Sail Sports, Sunset House and Divetech attracted new divers to Cayman from as far away as Germany, and drew repeat divers from closer markets in the US back to a destination they know well and visit often.

image

Some visitors started the week of diving aboard a Red Sail Sports dive boat with scuba pioneers Bill Acker, Dan Orr and Leslie Leaney. The three hall of famers spoke to the group about the history of diving and their experiences in the sport. The legends and divers then hit the water together to dive Cayman’s spectacular North Wall where they explored dive sites Creole Cliff and Pinnacle Reef. It was an experience Carolyn Larrivee and her husband George from Utah won’t forget.

“I loved it! It was great to be with people who love what they do and who want to share that passion with us,” she said. “I love the camaraderie – it reassures me as a diver who loves the sport.”

“They shared this wonderful dive experience with us,” said Dan Orr, who thoroughly enjoyed the meet and greet on board. “Diving is done as a community – we are a community.”

“This is the essence of diving, which is a non-competitive sport,” agreed Leslie Leaney, a dive historian. “It’s about sharing this fun activity as a community.”

image

Also attending the festival were top performers from dive shops and booking agents participating in Cayman’s Tanks A Lot Rewards Program, courtesy of the Department of Tourism and Cayman’s dive industry.  A couple of the FAM attendees – Paula and Dean of The Dive Academy in Ontario – celebrated by getting engaged and then picking out a ring. The weeklong fun continued with topside events that Lionfish culling certifications and culling dives to remove the predators from Cayman’s reefs. The day’s catch was then cooked up and served during a street party sponsored by Aqua Lung.

image

“I’ve never had Lionfish before and it’s tasty!” said a surprised and pleased Rich Peterson, visiting the island from Jacksonville, Florida.  The meal included Caribbean staples rice and peas, plantain and “cho cho” a tropical fruit.

image

image

Legends and Lions also hosted a photo contest during the week that drew local, as well as visiting underwater photographers. The winners received prizes awarded by Scubapro, Guy Harvey and the Cathy Church Underwater Photo Centre.  Coordinator Keith Sahm says the images submitted for the event were astounding and the response to the collections has been great. Categories included; Unusual, Macro, and Turtles, Stingrays and Fish. Winners included local divers Charlie Reaney, Brittany Slade, Amanda Nicholls, Chase Darnell, Courtney Platt and Ellen Cuylaerts.

image

“The response that we have received from our social medial site showing off the winners has been absolutely fabulous and it give us great pleasure showing off these talented photographers work,” he said.  “Next year, we will get started much earlier, now that we have a new format in place. We’ll have more prizes, more categories, the goal is to get more entries.”

The scuba week celebration was capped off with a formal, black tie International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame Induction Dinner hosted by the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism. These year’s inductees were Alese and Mort Pechter, Bill Acker, Chuck Nicklin, Dan Orr and Neal Watson.  Rod McDowall of Red Sail Sports was also honored for his contributions to Cayman’s dive industry through the years.

“The induction into the local Cayman Islands Scuba Hall of Fame is appreciated,” said McDowall. “It’s always nice to get recognition for just doing your job in a diving paradise.”

The dive legends inducted to the hall of fame had this to say:

Alese Pechter: “What a fantastic weekend we had! Thank you so much for making absolutely everything so perfect. Grand Cayman has always held a special place in our hearts and this weekend just solidified that feeling even more.”

Neal Watson: “Thanks a million for the hospitality extended to my friends, family and the ‘Dive God’.”

Dan Orr: “Keith, it was a wonderful week thanks largely to you and Karin. Having all of our family stay at Sunset House was the best decision – our family loved every bit of it.  The rooms, the staff, the food and the diving were all first rate.  We sincerely thank you and Karin for everything! “

Bill Acker: “Thank you so very much, for your help, hospitality and friendship during the past week in the Cayman Islands.  My entire family as well as our friends from Germany had a wonderful time at Sunset House.”

Chuck Nicklin: “Thanks to the Cayman Department of Tourism and to the hospitality of Karin and Keith Sahm of the Sunset House Dive Resort, Leslie Leaney, our eloquent MC and Co-founder of the Historical Diving Society, and to the many friends who attended. Congratulations to all inductees! It was a great event!”

image

Everyone involved in Legends and Lions is anxious to get started on plans for 2015 since this first event was so successful – there are new ideas to discuss for next year.

“We want to put this event on every divers calendar – fantastic diving, great dive deals, diving with industry celebrities and a street party – the perfect Cayman Islands dive vacation!” said Rod McDowall.

About Us

The Cayman Bottom Times is news collaboration by five leading dive operators to promote the superb diving of the Cayman Islands, and keep the diving public informed of important developments and events. Divetech, Ocean Frontiers, Red Sail Sports and Sunset House in Grand Cayman, and the Southern Cross Club in Little Cayman, all members of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, represent more than 100 years of solid experience in a destination that is recognized as the birthplace of recreational diving. With a unique combination of deep wall and shallow reef diving, several wrecks, and world-famous Stingray City, the Cayman Islands has cemented its place as the top diving destination in the Caribbean.

Offering diverse and wide-ranging dive programs on both Grand Cayman and Little Cayman, the members of this dive group represent the best Cayman has to offer; Divetech (www.divetech.com), Ocean Frontiers (www.oceanfrontiers.com), Red Sail Sports Grand Cayman (www.redsailcayman.com), Sunset House (www.sunsethouse.com) and the Southern Cross Club (www.southerncrossclub.com).

Red Sail Sports Grand Cayman Launches New Dive-Specific Website

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands (Dec 16, 2014) Red Sail Sports, Grand Cayman’s leading resort watersports operator, is gearing up for 2015 with the launch of a new dive-focused website www.diveredsailcayman.com.  The website, a one-stop online shopping location for diving customers, offers quick and easy access to all Red Sail Sports dive information, showcasing the company’s new competitive dive rates and dive packages.  Red Sail Sports’ Summer Spectacular package includes 5 two-tanks for just US $465, a savings of 30% from last summer’s rates.

“Our goal is to inspire visitors to book some of the great dive specials and packages Red Sail Sports is offering in 2015,” said Operations Manager Rod McDowall. “Rates have been lowered considerably for volume diving and we hope the site will show Red Sail Sports as the best operator and option when visiting Grand Cayman.”

The dive website is also part of the company’s ongoing efforts to keep improving its stellar customer service. Red Sail Sports has been offering services on Grand Cayman for 27 years and it operates facilities at resorts along the island’s famous Seven Mile Beach, Rum Point and East End. Customers access all the information they need when planning their dive vacation, including a complete dive boat schedule and list of Red Sail Sports’ training courses, and easily book their adventures online.

The website is designed to answer questions divers might have; certification cards, water conditions, the best time of year to dive the Cayman Islands, dive refreshers, making reservations, diver ratios, what’s needed on the boat, medical facilities on boat and on the island, and more. Visitors can browse through descriptions and colorful photos of the dive sites and check out the maps. Dive instructors Vicki Jones and Chris Kirrage spent six months writing the content for the dive site and they will keep it updated with the latest from Red Sail Sports and the Cayman dive scene.

“Divers like to research and know a lot of information before they arrive; what they might see on the dive, which staff will take them diving, what the boats are like, what equipment they will use,” said Vicki Jones.  “We are very much involved in the diving ourselves here in Grand Cayman, so this allows us to write the content from what we feel is a diver/instructor’s point of view.”

As dive instructors Jones and Kirrage also want to make the process of signing up for PADI eLearning courses much simpler for their students. “Within 2 clicks they can be directed to the PADI sign up page for any course that we offer,” said Kirrage.

Red Sail Sports’ training program includes PADI specialties such as Wreck Diver, Nitrox Diver, Deep Diver, Search and Recovery and Scuba Tune Up. Customers can also sign up for Nitrox diving, with its own nitrox compressor, Red Sail Sports is making diving with nitrox more accessible for customers.

Also new in 2015, Red Sail Sports is making Go Pro action video cameras available for rent at all locations. Customers can rent them for a full day or half day with accessories to suit their activity and capture their Cayman vacation in high quality video. The company has an Action Camera Specialty Course in the works.

“The aim of the dive-specific website is to give visitors browsing online a little bit of a dive experience with our Red Sail Sports team,” said Rod McDowall. “It is such a fun time diving in Cayman – spectacular warm, clear water diving, and entertaining, friendly and professional staff making our guests comfortable on big, spacious and well-equipped boats.  We like to spoil our customers and hopefully a bit of that fun and color will come out to the reader on the new site.”

To visit the new Red Sail Sports dive website go to www.diveredsailcayman.com.

About Red Sail Sports
Red Sail Sports, a member of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association is a leading resort based dive and watersports operator. Since 1987 it has been setting the standard on Grand Cayman by providing the highest level of guest services. On Seven Mile Beach Red Sail Sports operates locations at the Westin Resort, the Marriott Resort, the Grand Cayman Beach Suites and the Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman. At remote East End the company has a watersports shop at Morritt’s Tortuga Club, also offering dive and catamaran services to The Reef Resort. On North Side Red Sail Sports offers watersports activities at the Rum Point Club.  The company offers several dive packages through its affiliation with island hoteliers.