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July 2015    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 30, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Avoid New Liveaboards for at Least a Month

from the July, 2015 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Subscriber Carol Cox (Tampa, FL) wrote us recently to ask what's going on with Nautilus Explorer's new liveaboard, the Nautilus Belle Amie. "We ran into a group of disgruntled divers in Cabo Pulmo who were booked on what was supposed to be the third trip of the new Belle Amie to the Revillagigedos Islands. They said Nautilus Explorer had cancelled the two previous trips because the new boat wasn't ready, but were assured that the boat was going to be ready for their trip, so they flew to Cabo. When they arrived, they were told they would have to come back the next day to board. They were left on their own to find rooms in Cabo San Lucas during spring break. This went on for three days, and each time they had to find rooms at a different hotel. Then they were told they were going to get to dive the rest of the trip free, then they were finally told their trip was cancelled."

Here's an online review, posted May 13, from a diver on Belle Amie's first voyage. "The crew kept us waiting for 90 minutes in boiling heat whilst they decided whether to run the trip, something to do with the Mexican authorities not letting us go. After a seven-hour delay, which lost us a day's diving (with no reasonable explanation) we set off. Arriving late at our first dive site, the crew faffed around with two unserviceable tenders before getting us in the water -- then we were down to one tender for 30 divers. Luckily the diving was exceptional, as were the food and staff -- who worked their socks off to make up for the lack of management."

We contacted Nautilus Explorer owner Mike Lever, who was candid with us (he also wrote about the problems in detail on the company's blog). First, he said he'll never build a boat in Mexico again. "It took 17,000 hours to build the Nautilus Explorer in Canada. The Belle Amie, albeit a bigger ship, took 60,000 hours. Mexican customs was another nightmare -- we still have containers, including nitrox systems, hot tubs, brand-new 25-foot RHiBs (which is why we had to buy replacement RHiBs last minute that weren't as reliable), and furniture locked up in customs, six months late! But all of these headaches should be invisible to our clients. We promised a luxury diving experience and we ran late, and the boat was not perfect to our obsessive standards. It's my fault, and my responsibility."

Lever said he offered loads of compensation, such as covering hotel and dive excursion costs for passengers stuck on land when the Belle Amie was delayed, full refund of airfare or payment of airline change fees for those who decided not to go, and makeup trips for all affected passengers. He believes the boat will be fully good to go starting this month. "In the meantime, we are being straightforward about no nitrox or hot tub, and offering clients a refund if they wish, or a 50 percent discount on a future trip of their choice, in addition to joining us on their booked trip. I hope people will judge us both on our sincerity and everything we are doing to make up for trouble caused by building the ship in Mexico."

Lever's doing a fine job in being honest, apologetic, and forthright about the Belle Amie's problems -- too bad more dive operators don't follow his lead. However, as we've said many times, avoid the maiden voyage of any liveaboard. In fact, avoid the maiden month. It seems that more often than not, they are fraught with problems, cancellations and severe disappointments. Better yet, give a new boat a minimum of four months' cruise time -- about the amount of time it will probably take for the Belle Amie to settle in -- before you plan to board.

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