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In Barbados, there are many ways to cruise the wild blue yonder, both above and below the surface, the only problem is in deciding which way you want to go and if you want to relax or party hardy. No matter what you decide, you will find a memorable experience awaiting you.

Unless you're in the Navy somewhere, it's unlikely you will have an opportunity to get in a submarine and travel to the bottom of the ocean.

In Barbados, you will have your choice of experiencing two different submarine adventures. Those who are not necessarily adept at diving and snorkeling can share the thrill of descending 150 feet under the sea in the Atlantis Submarine (Atlantis SEATREC), or on the Harbour Master's mini-sub (photo at right). These 45-minutes to an hour tours allow you to view marine life in the deep, mysterious waters offshore or on a near-shore reef, in an adventure you won't soon forget.

Excursions in a mini-submarine will give you a vantage point that turns the sparkling Caribbean into a breathtaking giant aquarium. Special night dives use high-powered searchlights to light up the fascinating array of underwater life just waiting to show you their vibrant colors and designs. This spectacular underwater floorshow is a must-see for those who are not claustrophobic. Unfortunately, I am, and I spent a week trying to psyche myself up so I wouldn't miss this incredible opportunity. I arrived (sweating), picked up my ticket (remembering to breathe), and boarded the boat that would take me out into the ocean to meet the submarine. Feeling brave, conquering my long held fears, I was proud of myself so far. I am going to do this.

The Atlantis surfaced with a whoosh of water tumbling off the top and sides and was soon ready to pop the hatch to allow the exchange of thrill seekers. I was nervous (profusely sweating), but willing, and like everyone else, boarded the ship, went down the hatch and took my place among a row of seats facing the portholes on both sides. This was truly exciting; my knees rested upon the porthole providing a very good view for any lurking marine life. As the ship began to fill-up with passengers on either side, I took one look left and one look right, and knew that there was absolutely no way I would be able to go 150 feet under the sea for nearly an hour. And so, embarrassed, I stood and bolted up the ladder just as the hatch was about to close. Breathe deeply! So much for feeling brave. I felt like a baby, but was more than glad I left. I knew I could not conquer my phobia in that setting for that amount of time. I boarded the boat back to the dock in Bridgetown and (in admiration) watched the previous, non-claustrophobic passengers disembark the ship. Trying to assuage my embarrassment, the Captain and co-Captain allowed me to stay on-board as we headed back out to the meeting site. When I explained that I grew up on boats of all kinds (except submarines), and missed them terribly, they gave me my biggest thrill of the day and let me drive the huge boat. Once we got to the meeting site we turned off the engines and enjoyed the gentle rocking and slapping of waves along the hull. I was even lucky enough to spot a giant sea turtle floating around, so it wasn't a complete waste after all. I had a really great time. I urge you to not be like me and go ahead and take the plunge on the AtlClick for Bridgetown City Guideantis submarine or Seatrec, it really is the thrill of a lifetime, according to my traveling mates.

Editor's Note: Kris King passed the helm over to me, so let's Dive! Dive! Dive! on the Atlantis 3:

The Caribbean Sea is enclosed 90% by landmass with a unique biodiversity and fragile ecosystem, with the second largest reef system in the world. The Caribbean qualifies as a semi-enclosed sea under Article 122 of the International Law of the Sea. Many marine boundaries between countries are undefined, so under the Convention each country has control over their fishing grounds. In 1999 the Caribbean countries asked the UN to grant the region a special marine status, but many of the fishing and shipping powers opposed it and a watered down declaration was implemented.

Luckily, this part of the Caribbean has not been over-fished. On the Atlantis 3 I saw silver streaking Horse-eyed Jacks, mostly in the five pound range, but many of these edible babies get up to 50 pounds! They feed primarily on Silver-sided Anchovies, that could end up on your pizza dockside.

The 36,000-year-old reef is a living theater of coral polyps - each a description unto themselves - such as Brain Coral, Boulder Coral, Sheep Coral, and the unmistaken Staghorn.

Get Your Dive Gear Here OnlineChubbie Blue Fish swim amongst the Hawksbill Turtles that can stay submerged for over 72 hours, outlasting most topside hurricanes, which are actually quite rare in Barbados, which is outside the storm zone. The Bermuda Chubbs are gray, probably here on vacation.

The Barracuda are not a man-eater in these waters, and can actually be eaten, with reservations, of course, as opposed to Barracuda in Asia, which are poisonous. Barracuda are one of the swiftest of fish, cruising at 27 knots, reaching speeds of 30 knots when attacking a school of fish.

Anthony, the Atlantis 3 pilot, plunged the boat load of goggle-eyed kids and adults to a depth of 130 feet, on this, the submarine's 25,136th dive; The Barbados Atlantis has carried over seven million passengers to the reef system. The top of the reef is only 55 feet below the surface of the sea. The submarine's maximinum depth is 600 feet.

Plankton is the most prevalent animal in the sea. Soft Corals have a different structure than Hard Corals. Bloom Coral looks feathery, while the Sea Fans face the same directions to catch their dinner in the currents.

The largest sponge is the Barrel Sponge, growing on the top of the reef like a collapsed giant clam, except when it is in deeper waters. Rope Sponge looks like, quess what — a rope. Tube Sponges are the most brilliant purple I have ever seen. There are green and yellow and orange sponges, but any bright colored sponge is usually dangerous. The orange sponges in these waters will give you a bad rash.

The name suggests it all, Fire Coral burns like the devil.

The bi-colored Damselfish eat the wild algae on the coral banks, keeping the reef clean. Black Dourgon are scavenger fish, eating anything dead, so the waters are always pristine.

The five-striped Sergeant Majors allow tiny, yellow wrasse to cleanse the parasites from their teeth. If the large fish hurts the wrasse, the wrasse sprays a chemical over the fish, and other wrasse will no longer clean that Sergeant Major's teeth, and it soon dies from parasites. It basically commits "Sushi-Cide," — dinner for the Black Dourgon.

Parrotfish break down the coal reef with their tough teeth and excrete sand. About 10 percent of the beaches in the Caribbean are built by Parrotfish and the rest from erosion of the reef. The Sandpile Fish have a use for all that sand. They pile it up and hide under it.

Get Your Beach Gear HereAs we approach our maximum depth on this dive we see Wire Coral on the botton that is coiled counter-clockwise. If we were in the Southern oceans it would corkscrew clockwise.

The Atlantis' low noise electrical engines take us deeper. We all ready lost the red light at 24 feet, and the blue light will last to over 500 feet. Pink turns to violet and yellow turns to green as white light prismed into the ocean.

Suddenly, there was the highlight of the dive! The Lord Whillouby was placed on the bottom of the reef over 35 years ago by Barbados' diving clubs. It will take one thousand years to become fully encrusted. The ship's hatches were welded shut, but tube sponges are all ready at home. The four-deck Lord Whillouby was a water tenderer that went out to the cruise ships to bring them water. Barbados itself was once a coral reef that pushed up out of the sea over two million years ago and now the limestone coral filters rain, giving the island excellent water, sought by the cruise lines.

The Atlantis jettisons its ballast and we rise to 30 feet to meet our shore tenderer; we can hear the screws turning rapidly, even through the thick walls and plate glass.

The Atlantis 3 was built in Vancouver, Canada at a cost of CnD$3.5 million and is 65 feet long and weighs 80 tons. She runs on ten sets of batteries under our feet. The port hole windows are four inch plexiglass, that slightly magnifies the sea life by two percent. That Barracuda in your mirror is closer than you think! Next time it will be a night dive when the Atlantis explores the phosphorescent creatures of the reef. Let's continue sailing with Kris King . . .

A hot sun and cool breeze accompanied our sleek 53-ft. catamaran, Tiami, as her double pontoons sliced quietly through the calm Caribbean Sea. We cast-off with 57 passengers and a crew of five to sail up the West Coast of Barbados on a five-hour cruise.

We could watch the feeding of giant sea turtles, relax on a water mattress or swim and snorkel among the many reefs teaming with abundant marine life.

The gleaming Tiami is spotless and spacious enough to find private space either bow or aft on this first class ship. Even more impressive was the crew. Not only are they tanned, fit, and good-looking, they are also unobtrusively attentive to your every need and then some. The pampering began when they took our shoes and extended a hand-held welcome aboard, as tall glasses of mimosas were distributed to one and all.

Captain Chris and NodieOnce the Tiami moved into the deep, dark blue water, sails were unfurled and the wind took over, advancing us along silently. As we approached the turtle feeding site, the crew handed out snorkeling equipment, instructing those of us who were unfamiliar with the process. Feeding time was already in progress. When we dropped anchor in a secluded bay, eager passengers quickly donned masks and jumped in to watch the daily ritual up close. This day, three giant turtles were up for a buffet of assorted fresh fish, enchanting the group with a couple of gentle brushes as they glided past. It's hard to tell if they intentionally brush against people or if they wander into them by accident. Perhaps they are as curious about us as we are about them. One person on the trip said that they have been brushed by the turtles three times on three different trips, saying it was quite a thrill to have the giant creatures seem to reach out and touch them, as if to say hello.

While people were busy swimming and snorkeling, the crew prepared a delectable buffet lunch, featuring traditional island dishes. Fresh vegetables, tossed salad, potato, cucumber, and dill salad, turkey, honey-glazed BBQ chicken, Bajan stew with deep, rich gravy, rice and peas, coleslaw, fresh flying fish, and macpie were all served to perfection. The open bar stayed busy serving up vast amounts of rum punch and other tasty island refreshments. After lunch we sailed south where we dropped anchor near one of the many reefs that make up the island for more swimming and snorkeling. Large schools of colourful fish darted about playfully, much to the delight of those taking advantage of our third and last stop in a quiet picturesque bay.

Back on-board, the steady beat of calypso music had people dancing all the way back to the harbour. You can't put a deposit on a perfect day like this. Like the brochure says: "It doesn't get much better than this."

Tiami Cruises offers daily lunch, sunset, and moonlight cruises, private charters, options of specialized catering, live music, water sports, beach barbecues and games. Snorkeling equipment and floating mattresses are provided; all you need to bring is a towel, sunscreen, and a camera. The superb crew will take care of everything else.

At 100 feet long, 40 feet. wide and four decks high, the Harbour Master is in a class by itself. Boasting two unique features: a state-of-the-art, fully-retractable, 34-seat, semi-submersible from which you can explore the captivating underwater world, and the famed "Malibu Splash", the wettest, wildest waterslide in the Caribbean that takes you from the top deck into the warm, buoyant waters of a secluded bay below.

While you relax or stay busy with one of the available activities such as swimming or snorkeling, a delicious luncheon is prepared for you to enjoy the traditional flavors of the island. A variety of hot sauces will add some spice, and naturally, you will need to wash it down with the island's beverage of choice, a tasty and refreshing rum punch.

A magnificent Starlight Dinner Cruise runs from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. This is a true romantic's dream.

Come early and witness the giant, blazing sun sink like a stone over the horizon before casting off on your adventure. A specially prepared chef's buffet offers you a choice of the finest fresh seafood, an array of colorful vegetables, and other delectable local dishes. Afterwards, relax and enjoy the dazzling floorshow before dancing the night away to some of Barbados' hottest bands or house DJ, who will ensure your night is memorable. There is also comedy, belly dancing, calypso dancers, and of course, no island floor show would be complete without a bout of fiery limbo dancing. So stretch your backs, you might be called upon to get up and join in the fun!

Ahoy Matey! If fun is what you're looking for be sure to jump aboard The Jolly Roger and party like a pirate. Cannons line the deck of this authentic wooden schooner that allows you to step back in time three-hundred years when pillaging and plundering was all the rage. Set sail with the crimson skull and cross bone flag rippling in the wind as you glide up the West Coast of Barbados for four outstanding hours of fun and frolic.

Once you are welcomed aboard, you'll be expected to take your fair share of the pirates bounty of steak, fish, or chicken while quenching your thirst with their special "pirate punch". If you have ever dreamt of walking the plank or swinging from a rope into the warm waters of the Caribbean, this is your chance to do just that. This party boat is all about fun, eating, drinking, and dancing. You can sunbathe on the top deck in between all the rigorous activities, but you probably won't want to miss anything.
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These pirates run a tight ship and will expect you t
o party hardy or you might find your fate at the bottom of the sea as you are tossed into the swirling water below. These "Pirates" know the meaning of a good time and will guarantee you just that. You will be saluted with the traditional "Hangman's Arch" as you step onto the Pirate dock and back into real life.

By Kris King, Canada Correspondent. Most photos courtesy www.kriskingphotography.com

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