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March 2018    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 44, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Liveaboard Trip Canceled 24 Hours before Departure

and it’s a struggle to get fair compensation

from the March, 2018 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Erica Watson (Chicago, IL) won a trip aboard the Oman Aggressor at a drawing at the Aggressor booth at Our World Underwater in February 2017. While her voucher was good for a year, the liveaboard's maiden voyage wasn't until late November 2017, so she had a narrow window of opportunity.

She signed up for a December trip and flew 20 hours to Oman. After settling into her hotel room, she received an unexpected call. The next day's departure and the entire cruise was canceled, because, she was told, a group due to board had canceled, and it was now too expensive to take the boat out for just two people.

She was shocked. Who wouldn't be? The best the Aggressor could do was let her stay on the boat in the harbor and take day dive trips with a local operation. She turned that offer down because "I didn't really want to stay on a boat in a marina on Christmas." So, they offered to extend her voucher, and she could return another time. "There was one other person who was to be on the boat, and he was given a refund and offered a half-price voucher for the same trip at a later date (the same incentive that is being offered in many emails I currently get). My best guess is there was no group, and somehow they forgot to tell us until we were there or on our way. [That the Aggressor was offering half-off trips on the Oman Aggressor in January implies they're having trouble filling the boat.]

Erica had Dive Assure trip insurance, but the policy wouldn't reimburse her airfare or other expenses because the Aggressor did not cancel because of bad weather or mechanical problems. It simply had refused to sail.

So, instead of spending a week aboard the Aggressor, she paid for her hotel, meals, and diving, hoping for some good photos. But, "the water was very green, and the visibility was horrid. I made the most of the situation while there, and I had an amazing time exploring Oman and UAE."

Having seen the green water and done the tourist thing, Erica didn't care to buy a second round-trip flight to return to Oman, so "I have written to the VP of Aggressor to ask that I be allowed to use the voucher for another boat as they only offered to extend the one I had for the same boat on the phone call [from the president, Wayne Brown]. No reply yet. I also tried calling, but there was no answer. I do not currently have a new/extended voucher in my hands. I am still waiting on that. I see two versions of making good here. One is they can just extend it -- crappy in my mind and doing the minimum. Or they could excel and even just speak to me or return my calls/emails. I still have NO response at all."

What complicates this for the Aggressor is that most boats are owned individually, and the Aggressor Fleet is essentially a marketing organization. Regardless, there are surely creative ways for the Headquarters and the owner of the Oman Aggressor to figure out how to apply the voucher to other boats, so we can't let that get in the way.

To resolve the matter, on February 16th, we sent an email to our subscribers and our list of nonsubscribers, asking them to vote on: 1) whether the Aggressor Fleet should pay for her next flight, whether to Oman or elsewhere? 2) whether the Aggressor Fleet should extend her voucher to other boats in their fleet? or 3) whether a return trip aboard the Oman Aggressor, to all of which she is entitled?

The following day, Erica returned to the Aggressor booth and the Chicago Show where she had one her trip a year ago, and while no one there could help her out, she was given Aggressor Fleet owner Wayne Brown's email address and eventually spoke with him. She told us that after hearing complaints about her going on social media and excuses about why her emails were not answered, she was offered a choice of seven days on the Belize boat, Turks & Caicos, Bahamas or Cayman in 2018 and will gladly take the cruise. And, she says, she may be making some progress with Dive Assure.

She told us, "I had a person tell me they had just read about me in your article while I was [at the Aggressor booth]! I believe that your article, along with a sharply worded response to the owner, helped. Thank you again!"

As for our poll, we received 394 responses. As to whether the Aggressor Fleet should pay for her next flight, 85% answered "Yes." As to whether the Aggressor Fleet should extend her voucher to other boats in their fleet? 95% answered "Yes." And, as to whether a return trip aboard the Oman Aggressor is all to which she is entitled, 11% answered "No."

- Ben Davison

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