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February 2005 Vol. 20, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Pre-Paid Diving

Contents of this Issue:
All publicly available

Sunset Waters Beach Hotel

Thumbs Down

Moving Your Weights

Divers in the Tsunami

Tsunami Damage

Caught in the Wave

Hawaiian Tips

Dead Fish, Dying Reefs

Pre-Paid Diving

A Guide to the Coral Reefs of the Caribbean

Flotsam & Jetsam


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— what happens if you choose not to go?

from the February, 2005 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In the October Undercurrent, we reported on various dive operators’ policies when they have to cancel trips due to weather problems. Some cheerfully offer refunds or “make-goods,” others don’t. While researching that article, we came across a similar range of policies when divers cancel for personal reasons of their own. Last month we told you the Good. This month it’s the Bad and the Ugly.

The Bad

Some operators are rigid in dealing with customer cancellations.

Katrina Adams of Kosrae Village Ecolodge in Micronesia maintains, “If it is safe to take the boats out, but the guest declines to go because of rain or rough water, then there is no refund.” Adams offers some sound advice: “Divers who will not dive in the rain or rough water should not take a dive package — they should just do a pay as you go trip.”

Another Micronesia operation, Yap’s Beyond the Reef, has a simple if somewhat austere approach. Owner/manager David Vecella says “If an ‘Act of God’ such as bad weather prevents us from conducting dive trips, we would refund the guests’ prepaid diving (but not the hotel) portion of the package.”

However, he adds, “If a guest has prepaid but cannot dive due to illness or injury, or if it’s simply raining and the boat is going out but the clients choose not to dive, there is no refund.” Vecella highly recommends travel insurance to cover such possibilities, especially since “many travel agents will not give refunds.”

Angel Rovira, owner of Puerto Rico’s Parguera Divers, charges 50 percent of the total fees if a diver cancels less than three days prior to an advance booking — and 100 percent for no-shows who give no notice at all. “A client must understand,” he states, “that when you make a reservation you are holding a spot and if you don’t show you are making the operation lose money.”

He adds: “If someone gets too seasick and does not dive, we are sorry, but they will be charged.” Imagine losing your lunch and your deposit at the same time!

The Ugly

Then there are those operators who take an even harder line. Kim Andersen, owner of Dive Kiribati on Christmas Island, allows no wiggle room. He states flatly: “If a customer chooses not to dive or go out [due to conditions] then there is NO refund. I believe this is fair to all parties.” We wonder how many of his customers agree with that assessment.

Some operators who dig in their heels when it comes to cancellations are among the industry’s most highly regarded. “The only time we refund is when we cancel the trip,” says Ed Robinson of Ed Robinson’s Diving Adventures on Maui. For customer cancellations he demands 48 hours notice, unless the customer “can come up with a receipt from a doctor or medical facility confirming they actually had a medical emergency.”

Robinson acknowledges, “Our largest customer service issue is unhappy customers who have agreed to our cancellation policy upon booking and then fight no-show charges.” For that reason, he says, “My office staff do not have authority to release customers from our cancellation policy. I do this so the customer can see it is pointless to argue and badger a hapless employee on the other side of the phone. My instructions to the office are to inform the customer they (the employee) have no authority, to acknowledge the customer’s sentiment, and to tell the customer they will pass the information on to the owner.” Sounds pretty hard-nosed, but even Robinson makes occasional exceptions to his own policy. “Do I give in otherwise?” he asks rhetorically. “Yeah, sometimes, but usually not. If there is any question in my mind that our office may have in some way contributed to the customer missing the charter (like poor directions to the boat), I will give the customer the benefit of doubt.”

As in most aspects of dive travel, there are no industry standards governing customer canceltraillations. This article covers only a small sample of dive operations, to give you an idea of the options available as you select an operator for your next trip.

“Divers who will not dive in the rain or rough water
should not take a dive package — they should just do
a pay as you go trip.”

If you’re at all concerned that dive conditions or extracurricular activities might cause you to cancel some diving, there are a few measures you can take to hedge your bets.

Avoid rough waters by researching the best dive season. You may pay more, but you should experience optimal conditions.

When you prepay, the cancellation policy isn’t always spelled out on a website or even on a reservation voucher, so request a copy before booking. Now that virtually all dive operators have e-mail, use it to create a paper trail in case of future disputes. If the policy seems unfair, look elsewhere.

Travel insurance can help if it includes trip cancellation/interruption coverage. But policies have tightened since 9/11, so confirm exactly what’s covered before you buy it. Don’t expect any help from your credit card company once you’ve signed a charge slip (and just try getting on a dive boat without having signed one).

For those who might really be bothered about paying for a dive or two they didn’t take, you can take your chances when you arrive -- that’s easy at Cozumel where there are scores of dive operations, but it can surely be risky elsewhere. Every year there are reports in the Chapbook of divers who haven’t prepaid who arrive at resorts and spend a couple of days finding space on a boat. And some of the small operators our readers love are filled up with prepaid divers most days.

Overall, our best advice is that if paying for missed dives is a concern of yours, review your chosen operator’s cancellation policy ahead of time and assume you’ll have to abide by it. And, if you miss dives and are charged for them according to the policy, there’s no harm in asking for a little consideration.

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