Frequently Asked Questions

Here is the Deal

What does the travel package include?
Seven nights and six days accommodations aboard, starting with guests boarding Saturday evening at approximately 5:00 pm; and disembarking the following Saturday morning at approximately 8:00 am.

  • You will have five days on the Silver Bank with up to four and one half (4.5) days of tender (small boat) time to look for whales, up to nine tender excursions, weather permitting as per Sanctuary rules.
  • Three meals a day aboard the vessel, except for the last (Friday) night, which will be ashore at guest’s expense.
  • Morning and afternoon snack.
  • All beverages, including carbonated, non-carbonated, and alcoholic; a limited selection of beer (local) and wine is provided. Distilled spirits are not provided, but may be brought on board the vessel if desired.
  • Morning in-room beverage service.
  • Nightly turn down service.
  • Fresh towel service daily.
  • Entertainment library.

Please see our Costs, Terms & Conditionsfor complete details.

 

What is not included in the travel package?
  • Any airfare or airfare related expenses.
  • Tourist Card required at arrival airport (US$10 cash at arrival airport).
  • Excess baggage/lost baggage charges.
  • Transfers to and from or between airport, hotel, vessel, bus station, tours; any ground transportation.
  • Hotels or any type of shore accommodations.
  • Airport departure taxes (US$20 cash at departure airport).
  • Any Sanctuary & Port Fees (currently $250 pp, fees subject to change).
  • Any Fuel Surcharges (currently estimated $175pp, surcharge subject to change).
  • Any additional Permit Fees required for professional photography or videography in the Sanctuary.
  • Gratuity for Crew (10% of retail price suggested).
  • Dinner the last (Friday) night, which will be ashore.
  • Distilled spirits or hard alcohol beyond the supplied beer (local) and wine.
  • Snorkeling and/or camera/video equipment rental.
  • Souvenir Video DVD, and/or Photo CD, and/or Audio CD.
  • Souvenir t-shirts and/or sundries.

Please see our Costs, Terms & Conditionsfor complete details.

 

How do I reserve a space?
To place a reservation guests need to complete and submit an online Reservation Form and receive a reply from our staff. Once we verify the details we will send you registration information and paperwork. To confirm the reservation, guests must then provide to Conscious Breath Adventures (CBA) within seven days of initial reservation a non-refundable deposit of $1,000 and a complete, signed and unaltered Charter Application/Waiver Agreement, which is required from all guests. Please note that space cannot be held more than seven days without a deposit and Charter Application/Waiver Agreement and all guest information must be submitted prior to the final charter payment.

Please see our Costs, Terms & Conditionsfor complete details.

 

Do I need trip insurance?
Conscious Breath Adventures strongly recommends each guest purchase comprehensive accident, medical, baggage and trip cancellation/interruption insurance. Trip insurance will protect you from financial disappointment if you are prevented from making your scheduled trip due to unforeseen illness, delays in transit, or in the event that unforeseen circumstances prevent the vessel from making its scheduled trip. In an event where it is necessary to cancel or interrupt a charter due to weather or any matter beyond the control of the servicing vessel and therefore Conscious Breath Adventures, there will be no refund or credit issued. We also recommend diving accident insurance, which provides coverage while snorkeling and will cover evacuation costs in the event of an emergency. One important note: some travel insurance companies cover snorkeling in their policies. Read your policy carefully, if snorkeling is a covered activity then additional dive insurance may not be necessary. See www.CSATtravelProtection.com; www.TravelGuard.com; www.DiversAlertNetwork.org; www.DiveAssure.com.

Travel Information

What currency is used?
In the Dominican Republic, the currency is the Dominican Peso, but U.S. dollars and credit cards are widely accepted.Unless you will be staying in the Dominican Republic for an extended visit, it is not necessary to exchange U.S. dollars to pesos. Be sure to know the currency exchange rate before arriving. Once aboard, cash US$ and credit cards (Visa or MasterCard) can be used to pay vessel related costs such as crew gratuity; while cash is needed to pay Conscious Breath Adventures-related costs such as merchandise.

 

How do I pay for onboard expenses?
Expenses related to the M/V Sun Dancer II, such as gratuity, fuel surcharge, and purchases from the onboard Boatique can be paid via cash U.S. dollars or with Visa or MasterCard. Expenses related to Conscious Breath Adventures, such as photo & video discs or CBA apparel, can be paid via cash U.S. dollars or RD pesos, or by personal checks drawn on U.S banks.

 

What is our port of embarkation?
Our port of embarkation for your journey to the Silver Bank is the Cofresi Beach area a few miles west of the gateway city of Puerto Plata on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. We sail from Ocean World Marina, the only full service marina on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. A tourist destination featuring an adventure park, restaurant and casino, Ocean World Marina is where your transportation will deliver you to board the vessel on Saturday afternoon, and where you will disembark at the end of your adventure. Learn more about our port of embarkation here.

 

Where do I fly into the Dominican Republic?
It is anticipated that all passengers will arrive in the Dominican Republic by air. In Puerto Plata, the Gregorio Luperon International Airport (airport code POP) is closest to the Ocean World Marina. Transport from the airport to Cofresi should take about 30 minutes, less to area hotels. Another option is Cibao International Airport, located in Santiago (airport code STI). Transport from Santiago to Cofresi is about 90 minutes. Be advised that since airfares and flight times can vary significantly between POP and STI, you may want to investigate both options keeping in mind the differences in costs for ground transportation. Other international airports are available but will add significantly to travel time and expense.

 

When should I plan to arrive?
Guests board the vessel Saturday afternoon at 5:00pm. We recommend that if you will be flying from, or connecting through, any airport that may be affected by winter weather, or are arriving from outside of North America, you should consider arriving at least the day before embarkation, on Friday. This will allow time to overcome any delays in travel or baggage issues that may occur en route.

 

What travel documents will I need?
You are required to have a valid passport and have proof of return or onward ticket. Depending upon your citizenship, you might also be required to obtain a visa. Please contact your local Embassy or Consulate for your destination. US citizens do not need a visa; please see below about the required tourist card.

 

What should I know about customs?
Visitors who do not obtain a Dominican visa prior to entry must purchase a tourist card upon arrival to enter the country. Tourist cards cost $10 U.S., which must be paid in cash. Tourist cards are purchased at Dominican airports at the time of entry. Tourist cards normally permit a legal stay of up to 60 days. Customs formalities are usually quick and trouble free. Tourists are allowed personal articles for use during their stay. These include items of personal adornment, apparel, toiletries and portable articles that someone can reasonably be expected to use during their stay.

 

Where should I stay when I get to the Dominican Republic?
The Dominican Republic is a major tourist destination, and the north coast areas of Puerto Plata, Playa Dorada, Cabarete and Sosua abound with all levels of accommodation. A brief search of internet travel search engines will quickly yield dozens of options. Contact us for much more information on accommodation.

 

How do I get to the marina?
Once in the DR, guests have two options for ground transportation: local cab or pre-arranged transfer. For small parties of 2-3, local taxis are efficient and cost effective. At the airport assertive but polite porters will, with your permission, help you to curbside where professional taxis stand by. Gratuities of a dollar a bag for the porter are appreciated. Taxi fares to all popular destinations are plainly posted at the taxi stand so you need not fear being “taken for a ride”.

Another option is to pre-arrange a transfer through a transportation company. In this case a uniformed driver will identify himself by holding a sign with your name on it. The van will then carry you to your destination. This can be very economical for groups of 3 guest or more. The transfer company we recommend is AligaTour (http://aligatour.net/). For assistance, please contact Fabiola Disla (809) 669-7664/ (809) 705-7661, fabiola_disla@hotmail.com
or Jorge Fernandez (809) 669-7660, jorge_fernandez@yahoo.com

If you fly into POP, you can expect to pay approximately $125 U.S. for all your ground transportation needs, per person, for your whole trip. If you fly into STI, that figure will be approximately $250. If you travel with a companion these costs can be cut in half.

 

The Onboard Experience

What amenities are aboard?
All staterooms are individually air-conditioned and fitted with private toilets, showers and sinks. Some toiletries are available for your use onboard. The yacht is equipped with hairdryers in each stateroom. Linens are changed mid-week and fresh towels are placed in each stateroom daily as requested. Each stateroom has a television with DVD player and a large panoramic window. The Sun Deck boasts lounge chairs and hammocks.

In the main salon, the M/V Sun Dancer II has a multi-system TV/Video, a compact disc player, a DVD player and stereo with connections for iPods. etc. There is also a small library in the salon, as well as consoles for charging small electronics. The electrical current on the M/V Sun Dancer IIis 110 volts/60Hz AC (American standard outlets).

 

How much storage space is available in my cabin?
There is ample storage space in your cabin, including hanging closets and hangers, drawers, and space under the beds, but it is a good idea to pack in soft-sided luggage(duffel bags), not hard suitcases. That will ensure that your bags fit under the beds and you will have room to spare.

 

What languages are spoken on board?
English is the primary language spoken on-board. Spanish is also spoken by some crew members.

 

What kind of food is served?
The three daily meals, prepared by our onboard chef, are a delicious international mix with a local flair. Breakfast (cooked to order), hearty buffet lunch and an elegant meal at dinner with tableside service are served daily in addition to fresh mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks. Beverages (including beer and wine) are complimentary while onboard. Distilled spirits are not provided but guests are welcome to bring aboard their own to enjoy.

If you have any special dietary requirements, please advise us as soon as possible so we can adequately prepare to meet your needs. Vegetarian and vegan meals are not a problem with prior notice. However, certain special dietary and beverage requests may not be available on a consistent basis due to the remote nature of this location and local availability of supplies so advanced planning may be required.

 

What additional expenses will I be responsible for while onboard?

Any “Boatique” purchases aboard the M/V Sun Dancer IImust be settled onboard (using cash or credit cards) prior to departure. In addition, Conscious Breath Adventures offers video and photo discs documenting your week on the Silver Bank for sale, as well souvenir t-shirts. Acceptable methods of payment for CBA merchandise include U.S. Dollars, Traveler’s Checks and personal checks but no credit cards. Crew gratuities are not included and can be paid to the vessel by cash or credit card (Visa or MasterCard). As a guideline a gratuity of 10% of retail price is customary.

 

Is there internet access?
Once the vessel leaves the marina there is no internet access available. The vessel does have a proprietary satellite e-mail system but there is no web-browsing capability. If guests would like to have email access, for a fee they can set up an onboard account to send and receive text-only communications but it is not possible to check personal accounts such as _@gmail.com, _@hotmail.com, _@yahoo.com, etc.

 

Is there cell phone service?

Cell phone service might be available to you when you are ashore in the Dominican Republic. Check your carrier’s plan and be sure to turn off international roaming services to avoid hefty charges. You may have service ashore but there is NO CELL PHONE service once we leave the marina. The vessel is equipped with satellite-based phone and email for emergency communications.

 

What to Bring

Essentials
WE RECOMMEND BRINGING AS MANY OF THESE ESSENTIALS IN YOUR CARRY-ON BAGGAGE AS POSSIBLE

  • Passport- be sure to check expiration date when placing reservation
  • Prescription medications/medical supplies (There are no pharmacies on the Silver Bank; carry essential medicines in your carry-on baggage on the plane.)
  • Snorkel
  • Mask
  • Fins
  • Bathing suit
  • Wet Suit (2mm – 3mm should keep you warm enough unless you tend to get really cold)

 

What are the essentials for an in-water encounter?
SUNSCREEN:A high SPF waterproof sunscreen to use liberally every day; enough for a week. The tropical sun is very powerful, even in February, March and April. Please consider a biodegradable, eco-friendly product.

MASK: A good fit on the mask is essential. There are as many sizes and shapes of masks as there are sizes and shapes to people’s faces: one size does not fit all. The only way to ensure that a mask fits properly is to try it on. And this may sound funny, but check to see if the mask leaks when you have a huge grin on your face; it can be a real problem for happy whale swimmers! When shopping for a mask, focus on fit. If you order from somewhere online and your first choice does not fit, return it for another. Check the return policy first; if a company won’t accept a return, shop elsewhere. This is a good example of why to buy early.

SNORKEL: With snorkels, gimmicky, complicated, expensive snorkels are not always the best. Snorkels with some type of relatively streamlined splash protection and a purge valve will provide good service. Some good examples are the Aqualung Impulse (brand name and model name); the Aeris Cuda Dry Snorkel; or the Tusa Hyperdry, to name a few.

FINS: We suggest full foot, closed heel snorkel fins, rather than open heel scuba fins. They are lighter and smaller, which makes them easier to pack, more comfortable, and they are designed for the job. Keep it light and simple. Be sure they are not too tight. You do not need very long freediving fins, and avoid very small exercise/boogie board/body surfing fins. Your fins are what give you your power in the water! Some very good examples are the Cressi Sub Pro Star full foot fins; the Aeris Velocity full foot fins; and the Mares Avante Excel or HP full foot fins, to name a few.
Note on snorkel equipment: these recommendations are to help guests make informed purchases if the have no equipment. If you already own different equipment that you are happy with, bring it.

DIVE SOCKS: With closed heel fins we recommend purchasing a pair of “dive socks,” which are 1-2 mm thick neoprene socks designed to help prevent chafing and blisters. Matched with a properly fitting pair of fins, you will be very comfortable. Look for them where you would find dive boots or “booties”, either in the local dive shop or online retailer.

WETSUIT OR “DIVE SKIN:” Highly Recommended. Water temperatures will be in the mid 70’s (22-25 Celsius), and the sun will be shining. A wetsuit will keep you warm in the water, and protect from sunburn at the same time. Do you chill easily? Then you should consider a full-length suit of 3mm or more. Don’t get cold too easily? Then maybe a “shorty” of 3mm or so will do. Comfortable in cooler waters? Then maybe a 1 mm suit, or thin lycra dive skin is all you need. Remember two things: first, a good whale encounter is passive, and you may be floating in the water without exerting yourself for an hour or more, which is an easy way to catch a chill. Second, these suits also provide valuable sun protection. You do not want to have to get out of the water during a good interaction because you got cold, sunburned, or both.

MASK DEFOG DROPS: Small bottle of drops that will help to keep your mask clear so you can see the whales better. Mask defog drops are also available aboard.

If you need to purchase snorkel equipment, a local dive shop in your town is better than a general sporting goods store. If you do not live near a dive shop, Austin’s Diving Center can provide personal service, professional advice, and a CBA discount. Austin’s Diving Center is familiar with the equipment necessary for the Silver Bank and they ship worldwide. Their website is: www.AustinsDiving.com, or click their link on the CBA “Resources & Links” webpage at www.ConsciousBreathAdventures.com/resources. Other online equipment providers are: Diver’s Supply (www.Divers-Supply.com/); Diver’s Direct (www.DiversDirect.com/); or Leisure Pro (www.LeisurePro.com/).

 

What weather can I expect?
Humpback whale season is late winter to early spring and the weather may be cool and windy during the passage of stronger cold fronts, but the coral formations throughout the area provide us with plenty of protection from rough seas while at the mooring. Once moored, movement of the vessel is minimal. The nights are cool, around 68F – 75F (20C – 24C) but during the day the temperature can warm to 85F (30C). Days are generally sunny to partly cloudy, rain is uncommon but possible during fronts. The water temperature ranges from 72F -80F (22C-26C). Please note that sanctuary rules prohibit any whale watching activities from the tenders when winds exceed 25mph.

 

What clothes should I pack?
Attire aboard is tropical casual, with the only dressier occasion being the final Friday night when guests dine ashore, but even that evening is casual. Below is a suggested packing list. Please remember that it is easier for everyone if you travel light.
FOOTWEAR: Sandals and a pair of lightweight walking shoes will do the job.
PANTS: A pair of jeans or light trousers will suffice.
SHORTS: A couple pairs of fast drying shorts, suitable to wear on the tenders.
SHIRTS: A handful of t-shirts, some short sleeved, some long. One or two nicer shirts for dining and ashore.
SWEATSHIRT/LIGHT JACKET/WARM CAP: It can be cool in the evenings when the breeze blows.
LIGHTWEIGHT WIND BREAKER/RAINCOAT: Lightweight waterproof outerwear is recommended to help keep you warm and dry on the tenders on those days when the wind, waves, and spray might be up.
BATHING SUIT(S): One to wear, one as spare.
TOILETRIES: Whileeach cabin’s head comes with soap, shampoo, and conditioner dispensers, we recommend bringing your own personal toiletries.

 

What are some highly recommended niceties?
POLARIZED SUNGLASSES: Polarized sunglasses will help you see through the water’s surface glare and see the whales much better.
BROAD BRIMMED HAT: For sun protection, with a chinstrap for windy days.
DRY BAG: A small dry bag for use on the tenders to hold any sensitive personal gear, cameras, spare dry clothes, windbreaker, etc. Found at dive shops.
SNORKEL BAG: A compact bag for snorkel gear, to help keep it organized aboard the boats. A large mesh bag is simple, inexpensive and highly effective. Found at dive shops.
CAMERAS: Still or video, surface and/or underwater: photography/videography opportunities on the Silver Bank are exceptional! Whether it is a professional level DSLR, or a single-use point and shoot, a HD camera or a handy cam, for use above or below the water’s surface, bring it. Ample dry storage for topside cameras is available aboard the tenders. Don’t forget the batteries, chargers, tapes, film, memory cards & readers, etc.
PERSONAL TOWEL: A synthetic chamois or micro fiber mini camping towel: Great to carry on the tenders, they are compact and durable and will allow you to dry yourself off quickly after you get out of the water, which will help you to stay warm. They are also useful to wipe your hands before handling your camera.
BINOCULARS: A small pair of field glasses might be nice, especially while relaxing on M/V Sun Dancer II between tender excursions. Whales are often seen near the boat.
LEISURE ITEMS: Although there is a selection of books, movies and music aboard, you may want to bring some of your own. There is an entertainment center at your disposal.

 

Odds and Ends

May I scuba dive with the whales?
Under regulations set forth by the Dominican Republic’s Dept. of the Interior and Parks Dept., no scuba diving is permitted in the Sanctuary for the Marine Mammals of the Dominican Republic except under special permit. These permits are generally only granted to researchers and/or film crews for specific projects.

 

What are the rules governing professional photographers and videographers?
Professional photographers and videographers working in the sanctuary must identify themselves as such and undergo a separate application and permitting process with the Dominican authorities governing the Sanctuary. Any additional required fees are the responsibility of the person or persons making the application. Contact us for more information.

 

What are the age limits for participation?
There is no upper age limit but the guest is responsible for determining their own fitness to participate.

We welcome children aboard as they are the stewards of the future, but please consider whether the trip is appropriate for your child. There are limited recreational activities onboard (movies, games, books, but no internet); there are no islands or beaches to go ashore until the end of the cruise. The vessel is scheduled to remain offshore the entire week. Be sure your child will be interested and engaged for the duration of the cruise!

Policies regarding minors are as follows:

  • minimum age 12, with the above conditions considered
  • children age 6 and over are welcome on special designated “Family Weeks”. Please contact us for availability.
  • all cabins are double occupancy only, three to a room is not permitted
  • a parent must berth with the minor child
  • the child must be supervised/accompanied at all times

 

What do we do on the day we disembark?
The M/V Sun Dancer II typically returns to port Friday afternoon around 4:30 p.m. Lunch will be served onboard and upon arrival in Cofresi, passengers will be at their leisure to relax onboard or shop in Puerto Plata. Dinner will be ashore at your expense Friday evening; usually it is a group dinner at a nearby local restaurant. You may stay onboard Friday night or disembark for a local hotel. Final disembarkation will occur Saturday morning at 8:00 a.m. after a continental breakfast.

How Do We Communicate in Case of Emergency?

How do we communicate in case of emergency?
The M/V Sun Dancer II crew is trained in first aid and accident management. The yacht is equipped with a complete first aid kit. Since emergency transportation and treatment cost is the responsibility of each passenger, we strongly recommend that you obtain special insurance to cover these costs, if they should arise.

If someone ashore must contact you in the event of an emergency while the vessel is on the Silver Bank, please contact vessel owner Dancer Fleet, as they will be able to relay messages to CBA and the vessel. During regular business hours (Monday-Friday 8:00 am-6:00 pm eastern time zone, Miami, FL) call: toll free (800) 932-6237 or (305) 669-9391. Outside of regular business hours please call the Dancer Fleet emergency contact cell phone at (305) 778-8004 and you can also contact Conscious Breath Adventures shore-side staff in the U.S. at (239) 248-7101.

Please reserve calling these numbers for after hours or emergencies only.

Cell phone service might be available to you when you are in the marina in Cofresi but there is NO CELL PHONE service once we leave the marina. The M/V Sun Dancer IIis equipped with satellite based phone and email for emergency communications.