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June 2008    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 23, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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What Happens If You Miss the Boat?

from the June, 2008 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Reader Marcia Seymour (Traverse City, MI) and two dive buddies were booked on Peter Hughes’ Wind Dancer leaving from Grenada in January, but they didn’t make it to the island in time. Their Air Jamaica flight landed unexpectedly in St. Lucia instead, and the last leg of the flight was cancelled due to too much crew time.

Seymour says she was unable to contact any of the Peter Hughes numbers from St. Lucia phones, but she got a message to the Grenada motel Peter Hughes used as a pickup. She told the operator they weren’t going to get there in time, and the motel confirmed that the boat had received her message. “ We did actually make it to Grenada but not until late the next day -- well past the time the Wind Dancer left the dock. It was a $5,000 prepaid trip.”

But Seymour probably should have been more thorough in her communication and asked if the crew could help her meet the boat. “Even though she arrived too late, she still could have been picked up later,” says Peter Hughes executive vice president Larry Speaker. “While Seymour did relay a message to the boat, it was only that she was not arriving.”

For all trips, Peter Hughes publishes a planning guide with contact numbers for its local agents, and a U.S.-based emergency cell number carried by somebody on staff 24/7. “Had she phoned our emergency line or our Grenada agent, or even sent a message to us to call her back at her St. Lucia hotel, we could have arranged a Monday embarkation from Carriacou or even a Tuesday or Wednesday arrival in Bequia,” Speaker says.

Peter Hughes’ policy is for divers delayed by only one day, all the liveaboards can use alternative pick-up locations. For longer delays, it depends on the destination. “For the Wind Dancer, we can get divers to the vessel at any point during the trip and are happy to do so if they just contact us,” says Speaker.

He says Peter Hughes’ standard policy -- cancellations inside of 60 days, including no-shows, are non-refundable -- applies to Seymour’s situation. Still, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for boats to offer a partial credit for a future trip. With more airline delays and snarls than ever, trip delays and missed boats will probably be more common, so arriving at least 24 hours before the boat leaves is crucial, as is purchasing trip insurance.

Seymour unfortunately did not carry trip insurance. She asked Air Jamaica for restitution but only received three travel vouchers for $200 to use within a year. That’s probably the most a delayed passenger will get from any airline. They usually have no liability if safety, such as crew fatigue, is the issue. Airlines’ fine print says that they’ll find a way to get you to your destination shown on your ticket as soon as they can, but that’s where their responsibility ends.

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