We just returned from our Big Trip. Exhausting! I’m still processing if it was all worth it, and I think it was but of course I’m having to pay bills now, so that colors things.
Regardless one thing that was fun that I mentioned I’d revisit here was the Divequest tour at Epcot. So this is a review of that experience from my perspective.
You can do this tour without using up a park day, if your schedule allows. Ours did not, so we burned about 3 hours of park time on this tour. That was OK- it was a refreshing break to go swimming in the middle of our EPCOT day.
We met outdoors near customer service just outside the gates at EPCOT. That’s where we were checked in, and our diving credentials were checked. It took a little while to do this, as we had a fairly large group (I think there were about 14 of us on the tour.)
We were also able to select either a hat or a t-shirt, for no added fee. Very cool!
From there, we went on to the backstage area of the Seas pavilion. We were able to see the impressive water filtration system, and the hoist that they use to lift some large animals into the pavilion.
We went inside to tour the facility more, including the food prep area and the backstage area for the manatees. We went into the pavilion to see the manatees as well, so that was cool to see both sides of the room.
Then we rushed to get into our gear. We were provided shortie wetsuits. You can wear your own rash guard underneath, and you can request a long wetsuit if needed. The water was around 77 degrees, so YMMV but my son who ALWAYS gets freezing when we dive in 80 degree water with long wetsuits was perfectly fine with his lavacore under the shortie suit. Some ladies on our tour did request ahead of time to have a full wetsuit, and the staff was very accommodating.
After getting geared up, we walked through the aquarium, which was an experience in itself. The guests were interested to see a processional of “divers” walking through the pavilion! We went into the seas area to look at the fish from outside, and then went through a door and climbed some stairs to get to the top of the tank where the dive would begin. They set out all the gear and prepped it, so it was pretty easy to just hook it on and slide out into the tank. There were sea turtles and rays swimming around the surface of the tank while we were getting our BCDs on. Pretty cool!
The dive briefing was short, basically saying that they would swim with us for a quick tour around the tank and then we could go off and explore with our buddies for the rest of the dive. The dive was limited to 40 minutes in length, during which point you could change air as many times as you needed by simply going to the surface where there were staff there ready to change your tank. BUT a 40 minutes dive at a depth of about 20-25 feet… No one needed to change air.
We did a quick tour of the tank, then were off. I was able to see my non-diving family members through the glass as they were watching part of the dive. The photographer was able to really capture some cool video of that interaction.
The tank was awesome- plenty to see and do. There were a lot of varieties of sharks and rays, as well as fish. One sea turtle was busy at a cleaning station for a lot of the time. The animals there are very docile and so used to people, of course. A highlight for me was when I was just looking up towards the top of the tank tracking my son, and then I rolled over in the water and a 8’ shark about 2’ under me. Awesome! You can’t go and TOUCH a sea animal, of course, but if they get close to you, that’s totally allowed. In the wild you won’t get that close to a shark, in my experience.
After the dive (which ended too quickly!) we were greeted by a warm towel. I think next time I’d try to get 2 towels if I’m allowed, because after you end your dive you go over to the dolphin area and can see the dolphins, and it was a little chilly in there. It was very interesting to see the back-side of the dolphin enclosure also. The CM running the tour had a lot of interesting things to share about the dolphins as well.
After the dolphins, we went to go shower off. They provide you with plenty of towels, and the showers have soap/shampoo/conditioner, so it was great. They have a swim suit water extractor thing also to try to get your swim gear dried off a bit. I did bring some extra plastic bags, which were helpful because most people on the dive forgot a plastic bag for their wet swimsuits.
After getting all washed up, you go into a room where they show the video that they shot of the dive. It’s a great quality video- they have so much better lighting than anything I can ever get on my own dives. The video showed everyone from the dive, and it showed those who had family members watching on the other side of the glass too- a fun memento. The video was $35 (it’s a usb card) and it’s considered a donation to the conservation fund, so that is OK. To me, it was worth it. I think most people bought the video. They had hot cocoa, water, coffee, etc in the room as well to enjoy while watching the video. After that was done, we were free to go back into the park. Our CM scanned our bands to let us straight into the Seas pavilion, and then he walked those who were there only for the dive to the park exit.
I think that for me, it was a great experience. I’m not sure I’d try to fit it in the middle of an EPCOT day again. I think it would be great on a non-park day, for sure. My family would not be able to see me in the dive if they were not in the park, but that’s OK. It’s a long time for them to be “on their own” (with their dad and grandparents).
This dive really made my son feel good about diving again. On his last boat dive he couldn’t go in on the second tank because he ascended too quickly and had ear issues. He was bummed about diving in general. With totally still water, fixed temperature, and plenty of species to see, this dive really was a highlight for him. Also, seeing the back side of everything was super interesting for him (and for the rest of us.).
There were plenty of dive masters just watching us the whole time too, and so it was a very safe and controlled environment.
We did get a discount (for Disney Visa) so I think it was around $160 a person, which is less than most of the aquarium dives I’ve seen. We did get to see exclusive behind the scenes areas, we got a t-shirt or a hat, and obviously gear rental. It was a fairly decent value for a dive, Disney or otherwise. There were several repeat divers on our tour, as well.