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
April 2008    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 23, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
What's this?

Dealing with “Difficult” Divers

a former liveaboard captain’s perspective on customer service

from the April, 2008 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

We are always on the side of the traveling diver, but we’ll always listen when Bob Halstead, a dive legend who introduced Papua New Guinea diving, offers his perspective as owner and captain of the liveaboard Telita, which he sold just a few years ago. As you’ll notice, Halstead isn’t worried about being politically incorrect. After all, he’s an Aussie.

It is said that there is one on every cruise. The diver who does not fit in, behaves selfishly, and generally spoils the cruise for the other guests. When operating the Telita, I would take the offending character aside for a friendly private chat to point out that I was getting complaints about his behavior and ask if he could perhaps be a little more considerate. That was when I still had patience.

Evolution transformed my private chat into a public dining- room story along the lines of how, if a guest was being particularly annoying – eyeballing the particular guest at this point – and making the cruise unpleasant for my other guests, I would get the passenger and all his belongings and dump them on the nearest island. I pointed out that I was operating in PNG, where it was impossible for foreigners to sue, and that I would become a hero in the dive travel industry. The resultant publicity would encourage hordes of frustrated divers to book with me.

However, Undercurrent, reviewing Telita and my hand at the helm, called me “opinionated and irascible.” Me! Personally, I think it was a misprint and meant to be “knowledgeable and irresistible.” Anyway I got quite angry about it, told them exactly what I thought, and thumped the table a few times.

I must admit to growling at clients when they came to visit me in the wheelhouse in the middle of a particularly tricky bit of maneuvering, perhaps negotiating a narrow reef passage or coming alongside a wharf with tide and wind doing nasty stuff. Completely oblivious to my obvious concentration on the task, they would ask, “Tell me, Bob, how high is that mountain over there?” or perhaps, “How many kinds of parrots are there in this area?”

But I do know all about winning friends and influencing people. For example, if divers were a bit reluctant to get in the water, I would promise a practice session on one of the several musical instruments I have failed to learn to play over the years. That got them in the water, particularly the trumpet, and they thanked me later.

Empathy is my middle name when chatting up my clients. I explained to a man my age who was a gynecologist how lucky we both were. “How come?” he asked. “Well, we both managed to turn our hobby into our profession,” I replied. I still do not understand why he was offended.

Another guest introduced himself. “I’m from Texas, call me Tex.” “No, you are not,” I proclaimed, as sensitive as ever. “Texans are three feet wide and ten feet tall. I think you are from Mississippi.” He did not even speak to me for the rest of the cruise.

One diver flooded his Nikonos V camera and asked me what he should do about it. “Throw it away and buy a new one,” was my sound advice. He then went on to tell me that last time he went diving, the very same camera flooded and the photo pro had spent two hours taking it apart and “fixing” it for him. He had not bothered to get it serviced since but expected me to do the same. I laid my hand across it, closed my eyes and muttered an incantation. “Best I can do,” I explained.

I miss the power of being a dive boat captain. I like being in charge. I honestly did try to take note of my guest’s interests, but when incompatible people booked on the boat, it was impossible to please everybody. So I made sure I pleased myself. Arguments would develop until some nincompoop would demand a vote on where we dived next. This would get me going. “Hold fast! This is not a democracy, we do not vote on this boat. I, the Captain, decide!” And did exactly what I wanted to do. If I fancied muck diving that is what it would be, or whatever. Vote! Hah! Of course this all changed if Dinah was on board. Then I would proclaim, “I am the captain of this boat and I will do exactly as my wife tells me.”

However, one thing I always insisted on was if any female clients wanted to do any topless sunbathing that they always use the foredeck. This saved me from getting a twisted neck. Inevitably some of the “Earth Mother” types, overcome with the splendor of PNG landscapes, would insist on taking off all their clothes to be one with nature.

One lovely insisted on snorkeling undressed and it was amusing watching the male divers rotate from watching the corals to swimming upside down watching the surface. She told me she intended to go to England and walk from the easternmost to the westernmost part of the country. In empathy mode, I told her I was very worried about her obsession with extremes and why didn’t she just walk from the middle of somewhere to the middle of somewhere else? This really messed with her brain, and she would come up to me at various times during the trip and say, “I’ve been thinking about what you said, do you really think ….?”

And still the guests keep coming back. One told me recently that she hoped I would not be too polite, she had preferred me when I was rude. It is enough to make me repent..

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 © 1996-2022 Undercurrent (
3020 Bridgeway, Ste 102, Sausalito, Ca 94965
All rights reserved.