Main Menu
Join Undercurrent on Facebook

The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975 | |
For Divers since 1975
The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
"Best of the Web: scuba tips no other
source dares to publish" -- Forbes
February 2002 Vol. 28, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
What's this?

Readers Lose Money with Scubacan

do we have a scuba scam here ?

from the February, 2002 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

It seems there’s more to worry about when traveling to Cuba these days than the likelihood you’re circumventing U.S. government policy, as we reported recently. Our e-mails have been rife with complaints about Scubacan International, the Toronto-based group operator that promotes Cuban dive travel to Americans.

Many problems involve bookings Scubacan handled for the live-aboard dive boat Ocean Diver out of Havana, which is owned by the same people, including Wayne Hasson, who own the Cayman Aggressor IV. Last year, five divers from Arizona, California and Georgia individually prepaid more than $13,500 to Scubacan for an October 2001 trip. After they made the final payments in August, Scubacan told them that they’d be joining four others on the Ocean Diver. After September 11, Harry Hanes, the spokesman for the group, asked about canceling the trip and says Keith Bolender, who runs Scubacan, told him they would lose everything if they did. That’s not unusual for a cancellation on such short notice, so they decided to go ahead.

Arriving in Havana, they were told their livea
b o a rd trip was cancelled ... then they learned
it had been cancelled before they left home,
but Scubacan had not informed them.

However, a couple of days after the group arrived in Havana, a Scubacan rep told them that Ocean Diver was canceling their trip. Hanes called Ocean Diver and a rep told them that Scubacan had been notified of the cancellation ten days before the group left from home, but Scubacan had not informed them. Ocean Diver explained that they had received no money from Scubacan and that Scubacan was in arrears for other trips. The other four reservations for the trip had been canceled, leaving the “Cuban 5” (as they had begun calling themselves) one short of the minimum booking required by Ocean Diver. The night before their departure, they were told that Ocean Diver had received a partial payment from Scubacan, but it was too little and too late. The boat crew had been sent home.

The Cuban 5 returned home and Hanes called Scubacan owner Bolender, who contended that Ocean Diver had received the entire payment. After the group insisted on reimbursement from Scubacan — after all, Scubacan, not Ocean Diver, had cashed their checks — Bolender ignored subsequent calls and e-mails.

Finall , on October 31, Bolender e-mailed back, stating that the Ocean Diver had left Cuba. He added: “We have initiated legal proceedings and we are hoping they will return all, if not a part, of the monies owed ... Due to the events of September 11 and subsequently, Scubacan has lost a tremendous amount of business and funds. We will not be able to finalize the details of any sort of refund plan (failing getting the money from Ocean Diver) until I come back from Havana next week. We simply don’t have the funds at this time to cover this situation, when in fact the monies owed you should be coming from the Ocean Diver, not us. I hope you appreciate our position and allow us the time to resolve this. If you do, I thank you. If not, then by all means you are entitled to proceed with any legal actions you deem necessary, as we are taking all legal means possible to recover your money from the Ocean Diver. ”

The Cuban 5 took Bolender’s advice and retained a To ronto attorney to investigate Scubacan, but as yet there’s been no resolution to this classic runaround.

Bolender told Undercurrent that Scubacan is in a legal dispute with Ocean Diver, however, Burns Rutty, one of the owners of Ocean Diver, told Undercurrent that he is “not aware of any legal proceeding brought on by Scubacan against Ocean Diver ... however, we have an issue of monies due from Scubacan per our contract ... Ocean Diver is out of service at this time . ”

Scubacan is still taking reserv ations for land-based diving in Cuba. One of our subscribers, Mimi Greenberg (L.A.) went to the Isle of Youth with them in December and said “local agents for Scubacan refused to provide prepaid services, forcing Americans to pay again or go without. I prepaid but never received night dive.” Interestingly, when we reviewed a Scubacan trip two years ago, our reviewer reported the same experience.

Other readers have reported similar hassles, with Scubacan bouncing refund checks or offering to settle for well below the full payments they had received. Charles Denham of Lexington, KY tells us that Scubacan accepted payments from him and two friends just two weeks before Ocean Diver pulled out of Cuba. Denham never got a refund and has joined the Cuban 5’s legal action against Scubacan.

Scubacan’s problems extend further than the Ocean Diver. Howard Pruyn, who operates the Diving Bell Scuba Shop in Philadelphia, said he threatened to have Bolender served with legal papers in his booth at an East Coast dive show before Scubacan refunded his entire deposit for a stay at the Colony. Pruyn told Undercurrent that Scubacan had kept his money after insisting on changing his trip dates, though they had been told that Pruyn and his wife could only travel on the original dates booked.

These horror stories underscore the importance of doing business with reputable operators. Hanes, for example, reports a positive experience with the Solomon Islands live-aboard MV Bilikiki, which he booked through Dive Discoveries in San Rafael, CA. When Bilikiki Cruises cut back from two boats to one, the departure Hanes and his friends had reserved was eliminated. Because they couldn’t travel on the alternate dates available, they had to ask for their money back. Cindy LaRaia, proprietor of Dive Discovery, told Hanes, “The money is in escrow so we will just refund it and hopefully you will find time to take another trip at another time.” Now, that’s the way to do business.

As for visiting Cuba, either find an operator other than Scubacan to get you there, or don’t go.

I want to get all the stories! Tell me how I can become an Undercurrent Online Member and get online access to all the articles of Undercurrent as well as thousands of first hand reports on dive operations world-wide

Find in  

| Home | Online Members Area | My Account | Login | Join |
| Travel Index | Dive Resort & Liveaboard Reviews | Featured Reports | Recent Issues | Back Issues |
| Dive Gear Index | Health/Safety Index | Environment & Misc. Index | Seasonal Planner | Blogs | Free Articles | Book Picks | News |
| Special Offers | RSS | FAQ | About Us | Contact Us | Links |

Copyright © 1996-2024 Undercurrent (
3020 Bridgeway, Ste 102, Sausalito, Ca 94965
All rights reserved.