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Dive Review of Emperor Divers in
Red Sea/southern Red Sea

Emperor Divers, Apr, 2012,

by Mel McCombie, CT, US (Contributor Contributor 13 reports with 2 Helpful votes). Report 6538.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving all over the world
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy, dry Seas choppy
Water Temp 71 to 74 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 7
Water Visibility 100 to 15 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions No decompression diving; must use SMB when surfacing; depth limits reasonable
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 3 stars Tropical Fish 3 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish 3 stars
Large Pelagics 3 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter N/A Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments [None]

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 3 stars Food 1 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 3 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments We dived the southern Red Sea itinerary (Saint Johns and South) on Emperor Elite during mid-April. It had been a cold winter, and the waters were, to us, shockingly cold. Despite wearing 7mm steamers and hooded vests, neoprene socks and gloves, we were freezing on every dive. As a result, we did only 13 of 21 possible dives, which was bitterly disappointing. After diving the Red Sea for a year, my advice is to remember that its waters are surprisingly cold; warmest dive months are August and September.
This southern itinerary involved a lot of boat travel, and the best diving was in the Saint Johns reef area near the Sudanese border. Because it takes many hours to steam there, the boat can only stay at Saint Johns for two days, which is a shame because it is hands-down the prettiest. The reefs are pristine and the water clear; it's a truly scenic area. We saw mantas and sharks there, as well as a number of pelagic piscavores like tuna. The more northerly sites nearer Marsa Alam are more dived and the water can be less clear. There is one area where we saw a dugong from the boat, which was quite a thrill.
Our disappointment about the water temperature is no one's fault; the dive guides, Daniela and Cseba, were terrific; but I do point a finger at the company for a few things. One is the food. It was as bland and overcooked as possible, and in a country where the local food is tasty and full of flavor, there is no excuse for that. Did they aim at pleasing a bland western palate? If so, peppers or seasonings other than hot sauce on the table should be offered. And overcooking the vegetables was inexcusable, meal after meal. Excepting salads, nothing crunched. We found that we ate enough to not be hungry but never ate with real pleasure.
Another aspect of the trip that made it less pleasurable was the mix of divers. About half were from eastern Europe and Russia, and in one case, spoke no English at all. The language difference meant that excepting the one or two with excellent language skills, the eastern Europeans kept to themselves at table and diving. It diminished the sense of camaraderie that "makes" a liveaboard. Everyone meant well and no one was rude; it just split the group.
Finally, we were rather unceremoniously shunted off the boat a day early (Thursday lunchtime rather than Friday morning) so the boat could accomodate a group arriving from Sweden Thursday afternoon. All of us were driven from Marsa Ghalib to the Hilton in Hurghada (3-4 hours, typically Egyptian bumpy roads), where we stayed overnight and awaited our afternoon flights on Friday. Frankly, we would much rather have just gone to our home in Cairo after the trip. Spending time at the Hilton was boring and wasted time we could have used at home. Had Emperor informed us ahead of time that we would be taken off the boat early, I could at least have booked a flight home on Thursday rather than idling away until Friday afternoon. I considered that highly unprofessional and resented having my time wasted.
The staterooms on the boat were quite nice, and each came with a flat screen TV hooked up to a server; you could watch all kinds of movies and shows on demand. Considering how many dives we sat out because of the cold water, that was particularly nice. Towels were changed mid-week, the water was usually hot in the shower (thank heavens, given how cold we were after diving!), little problems with the cabin were fixed promptly, and the bed was firm but pleasant. It was not luxurious but quite comfortable.
Wine was served with dinner on the Elite (only on the Platinum class of Emperor boats) and it was a decent Egyptian brand. You could buy beer and wine outside of dinner from an honor bar (and if the count was off, it was taken out of the dive guide's salaries!). They offered hooded robes to wear on the dive deck; Nitrox fills came from a membrane system for a small extra fee for the week; and each diver got one beach towel. I don't use a camera but it looked like there was enough room for shutterbugs, and ample charging facilities in the saloon. The saloon kept a stock of ID books on Red Sea reef life and dive sites.
Although it was no one's fault that the water was so cold, the food, the mix of divers, and the day-early departure should be addressed. It was only the second time we finished a dive trip wishing we had not bothered to go (after thousands of dives), disproving the bumper sticker that says "a bad day diving is better than a good day at work." I'd rather have been at work, and that's just a shame.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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