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August 1997 Vol. 12, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Readers beg to differ

from the August, 1997 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Tritons to the Rescue

Dear Undercurrent:

I read with interest the sidebar in your June 1997 issue about crown-of-thorns starfish on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. About seven years ago there was a similar influx on the Kona Coast. The dive operators were also concerned about damage to the coral. Within two years, the crown-of-thorns invasion was followed by a significant increase in Triton's trumpets. They consider the crown-of-thorns starfish a gourmet feast, and nature corrected the problem. Let's hope that a similar solution is found for the Great Barrier. Ed Pasini

Pasadena, California

Another Tip

When an Undercurrent reader took a trip last summer on the Belize Aggressor, he was told that the standard for tipping was 10 percent of his $1,800 trip cost and 15-20 percent for good service. Extrapolating those amounts with the number of guests and divemasters, he came up with the divemasters making $30,000 a year in tips. After collecting information from our readers, we printed our finding on tipping in the April 97 issue. The Aggressor Fleet thought it only fair that they should be able to respond.

Dear Undercurrent:

It has always been Aggressor policy that tipping is voluntary. Information about tipping is provided to all guests by Aggressor Fleet Ltd. when a trip is booked.

This information, also included in each guest's "Welcome Aboard" packet, states, "We believe gratuities should be voluntary and based on the quality of service the crew has provided." All tips are shared equally. The crew respects and appreciates whatever is given without hesitation.

Guests will occasionally ask a crew member what is a "usual or standard tip." He/she may offer a range of what is commonly collected (5 percent for an average tip to 10 percent for a good tip). This is done on an individual basis, however, and not broadcast as an expectation.

Since charter work is a sevendays- a-week business, most crew work only 35 to 40 weeks a year, and do rely on tips to help them through non-charter weeks. Some people do not leave any tips, even when the service was great. For whatever reasons, this is simply not fair in any service industry.

We do not understand what the writer meant by saying only a portion of the trip fare was for service. Everything that goes into an Aggressor trip is based on servicing our guests.

Unfortunately, on occasion a captain or crew member expresses expectations rather than what is the norm. When we are made aware of such isolated incidents, it is immediately addressed and the individual responsible reprimanded.

Wayne Hasson
Aggressor Fleet

Dear Undercurrent:

I am a crew member on one of the ships going to Cocos Island. We, the crew, have been trying to figure out a way to obtain larger tips, discreetly, because the base salary is not enough to pay the bills -- we ARE working for tips. Ship's management will not permit soliciting of tips, so we are hoping to find another answer. We do everything possible for the clients -- carry all luggage on and off the ship, set up gear, fix gear, loan gear, take them sightseeing, baby-sit some divers and put up with others, and always head for the dolphins when we see them. We start work most days about 6 a.m. and do relatively hard physical labor for 8 to 14 hours a day,seven days a week, usually for several months at a time. So what would be wrong if we did earn $30,000 a year? Should we just concede and say to ourselves that our biggest tip of all is our workplace or that we get to go diving for free?

"Europeans don't tip.
Since we are not allowed
to solicit tips, the crew is
always very down when
we have several Euros
on the ship."

Our guests probably think after paying $3,000 for a dive trip that the crew would be well paid. The crew is not well paid. The average base salary is $352 a month, which comes to about $1.60 per hour. Even though the diving public is paying outrageous prices to go diving, he who owns the boat wins, and the rest of us are expendable grunts. Europeans don't tip. Since we are not allowed to solicit tips, the crew is always very down when we have several Euros on the ship. I have even considered putting copies of your article on the beds along with the rest of the literature, but I would probably lose my job.

[Name withheld]

Cousteau Resort Feedback

Dear Ben,

Regarding the Cousteau Team, that was the best piece of writing I've seen in my years with Undercurrent and In Depth. Thanks.

Rhondda Dennis
Jacksonville, Oregon

Dear Undercurrent,

Re: "Diving with the Cousteau Team." I was appalled by your judgment to publish a sophomoric attempt at humor and sarcasm in a publication dedicated to objective, unbiased reporting. The author clearly is neither objective nor unbiased, and the editors are to be chastised. I recommend that you retract the article and apologize for it. Please cancel my subscription immediately. In case you are wondering, I stayed, dived, and ate at the resort six months ago.

Robert R. Luther, M.D.
Los Altos Hills, California

Dear Undercurrent:

I enjoy your newsletter. I've avoided some disappointments by taking your advice on certain destinations and operations, and have agreed with your favorable responses on others.

Incidentally, loved the format of your "Diving with the Cousteau Team" article. That's about the way I would have addressed it, and I think I would sue a relative over the use of a name for that kind of misrepresentation as well. Nothing angers me more than marketing campaigns that do nothing more than take your money and expect you to enjoy the privilege of being ripped off.

Paul McFall
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Dear Ben,

Re your review of the Cousteau Fiji: that it was written in personal letter form to Jean- Michel bothered me.

As you mentioned, Cousteau is an investor and not the owner. He is not the responsible person for all the negative aspects of the resort that you portrayed

You pointed out that the marine biologist was a new graduate. So what? Everyone starts somewhere. Give her a chance.

I don't know what female needed to purchase Tampax, but most traveling females bring their own supply; you should always be prepared, especially in remote parts of the world.

As for the food, I don't know how bad it really was, but is Jean- Michel also responsible for that?

Lastly, you kept referring to the price. Okay, we know it's expensive, probably too expensive, but there are a lot of alternatives. If you don't like the price, don't go.

I personally hope to visit the resort in the next couple of years. I have always been an avid Cousteau supporter and have been a member of the Cousteau Society for 17 years. These men have made great contributions to the public education on the dangers facing (and the beauty of) the earth and sea, and they deserve respect, not scorn. So please, lay off Jean-Michel.

Maureen Zande
Topper Lake, New York

Dear Maureen,

I indeed recognize the contribution made by both father and son to the preservation of our water planet. But Jean-Michel is not Jacques. With his father's death, Jean-Michel will no doubt try to carry the torch, but he will have competition from his father's second wife, Francine (see sidebar).

Cousteau Fiji, however, is a commercial operation where the investors hope to make a profit. Since I -- and most citizens of the water planet -- would expect something with the Cousteau name to have the highest standards, I registered my disappointment when it didn't meet those standards. The resort has been hyped from the outset as a cutting-edge resort, and during my visit it didn't measure up for the reasons I stated.

What, in God's name, is a resort named "Cousteau Fiji" doing dropping its anchor on coral? What's with the lousy kitchen, when a Post Ranch chef was on the premises? As a luxury resort trading on the famous, why can't it have basic toiletries available for its guests, when such items are readily available down the road? What about a room sold as an "ocean-view room" that has no ocean view? Yes, the marine biologist was competent, but the well-publicized effort to market Cousteau Fiji's commitment to environmentalism as a cut above every other resort didn't hold up (I forgot to mention that their hand soap came wrapped in plastic, but that's only picking nits). I won't let any resort get away with exploiting environmentalism, just like I won't let Chevron get away with their "People Do" ads (but that's another story).

I have high regard for the Cousteau reputation and Post Ranch properties. That's why I was disappointed in their joint venture, especially after reading their ads and advertorials in dive magazines. As you say, if you don't like the price, don't go. That's exactly what I'm telling my readers. And I had a little fun doing it.

Jean-Michel Cousteau has pride in his family name and, I'm sure, wants Cousteau Fiji to measure up to high standards. No emperor wishes to be seen without clothes. After you make your trip, I'll be pleased to publish your report. I bet things will have changed for the better.

Ben Davison

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