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Dive Review of S/Y Indo Siren in
Indonesia/Banda Sea

S/Y Indo Siren: "Great Diving in Indonesia But Not A Great Value", Oct, 2017,

by Angela Richards Dona, HI, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 9 reports with 8 Helpful votes). Report 9892 has 5 Helpful votes.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 4 stars Food 2 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 3 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments Every diver knows there are three important aspects of a dive trip: Eating, Sleeping, and Diving. This is what we pay for and the amount we paid for the Siren gave us high expectations. The Indo Siren took care of one (1) of those expectations (diving) really well and the other two were...well, not so good.

If you consider only the diving, there is a lot to like about Siren cruises. Of course, one does not book a trip with the same company four times if the operation is terrible. That said, we booked two cruises with them (Tubbataha, Banda Sea) right after the second cruise (Raja Ampat) since we enjoyed the Indo Siren second cruise so much. We encountered more problems on the third cruise but by then we were already booked for the fourth and we were reasonably optimistic the company would make the necessary changes. We no longer have any such illusions.

We just returned from our fourth and longest Siren cruise and it is likely our last. That is not to say we hated it. We did enjoy some of it, but there are issues that we have encountered -- to varying degrees on each of the cruises -- that have not improved (after numerous attempts to communicate with the company about them). Our primary issues are with the food and with how the boat is managed. These things greatly affected the enjoyment of our vacation.


The good:
Diving in Indonesia
Competence of dive guides
Diving deck and kit set up
Wetsuit rinsing after every dive
Nitrox incorporated into price
Dinghy drivers
Dive ops, in general
Camera set up stations
Compressor crew
Serving crew
Crew, in general
Cabin size

The bad:
Food for vegetarians
Loudly creaking cabins
Overworked crew
Cramped crew quarters
Dive guides with attitude


Dive
We really like the dive ops on this boat - from setting up gear on Day 1 to breaking it down on the last day. The crew does a fantastic job. We did not have to worry about anything and most of them do their jobs with a smile. The diving in Indonesia is generally great, however, we saw a lot of plastic in the water floating at the surface and entangled on reef structures. The plastic problem was noted in 2014 and has not improved. This is most unfortunate but has nothing to do with the Siren. It is simply a reality of Indonesia. All diving locations were excellent with the exception of the island of Manuk, which is cool for the fact that a large number of curious sea snakes get really close to divers (some even try to go up your swim trunks, so dudes be warned!). But the site was heavily hit by dynamite fishers at some recent time and is a very sad sight to see. The destruction is great but there were signs of resilience. It must have been a spectacular place at one point. My recommendation, should the Siren return here (the wisdom of this is questionable), is to make the dynamite destruction known during the dive briefing (we were not warned) and to request that divers look for positive signs of recovery. This could make the dive a bit more interesting for some like me that mourned the loss of all that beautiful coral.

We were in Group 3 and as such we were last to enter the water and last to return from a dive. For the first few days we returned from our dives and needed to use the toilet immediately but found one of the dive guides from another group would consistently occupy the bathroom to take a long shower. We would have to wait several minutes for him to emerge while the need to go grew more urgent. The crew rinse our wetsuits after each dive so we tried to resist peeing in them whenever possible. I asked the cruise director to speak with the dive guide to give us just a few minutes upon our return from the dive to get out of our wetsuits and use the bathroom before he jumped into the shower. The next day, the problem was resolved, however, the dive guide in question had a generally unpleasant attitude towards us from that point on.

The Banda Sea trip was about adventure and discovery and for that we knew we needed to be a bit flexible. We just didn't expect it to be so up-in-the-air. The Indo Siren has done this trip before so we expected there to be a lot of dive site options each day and yes, we expected to be in the water at least three times a day, if not four. Instead, on several days we only got one or two dives. We understood the boat was traveling a lot from place to place but none of the crew knew much about our destinations so it was all done by trial and error. That is not exactly what you want when you pay a lot of money to go on a dive vacation. We accepted this because there really was nothing we could do. Additionally, I (and several others) did not like that there was no option to dive on the day when a land excursion was scheduled. Some guests were happy to take the tour while many others weren't. Most preferred to dive but the option was not given and in fact we were denied the option when we asked. Given the sparse nature of known dive sites on this itinerary, the land excursion was a huge waste of our vacation time.

Then there was the general bad attitude of several guests on board due to the fact that they had been sold a different dive trip and the fact that everything seemed so disorganized. Their constant complaining and unhappiness with the way things were going were inescapable on this boat. Long faces at mealtime, grumpy behavior while gearing up, etc.: Their misery became our misery as they even began complaining about things the crew had nothing to do with. Worldwide Dive and Sail, the parent company, should know that improper or incomplete descriptions of their trip itineraries do not only affect those that were given the wrong idea about the trip, it affects all on board.

It has been our experience on Siren cruises that dive guides are either really good at finding small stuff OR big stuff. Only one --Donato on Philippines Siren -- was great at both. On this cruise we had a dive guide that only liked strong current dives and looking out for large animals. Since I prefer looking at coral and benthic creatures, most of the dives were not my preferred cup of tea, so-to-speak. Our dive guide was simply not interested in coral or small stuff but he was very good in current and I felt super confident in his ability despite him not knowing the sites. We were out in the middle of nowhere, after all, and currents can be unpredictable. While he was probably the best guy to be with in current, I do believe he could (should) have shown more interest in OUR interests. When there were options to do sheltered vs. current areas of a dive site, he 100% chose to do the current areas which meant that the dives were spent flying by the very things I wanted to look at OR fighting current to get to the spots where there was potential to see large animals.

We really appreciate the service on board. The host/waiter is excellent and works incredibly hard for very long hours. He is constantly on call—up when we arise and still working when we go to bed. He brought hot drinks to us after each dive and cold water before a dive. Housekeeping was a little off since we noted that the towel service after each dive was not as good as it has been on previous Siren cruises. In the first days of the cruise my towel was often nowhere to be found after my dives, but this did improve. On other cruises, the towels were warm from the dryer - these were not. We learned that the washing machines (3) were all broken so perhaps the dryer was too? The housekeeper was seen washing laundry by hand on the bow on a few occasions. We admired the dedication.

Eat
We are vegetarians and pay the very same amount of money that all guests pay BUT meat-eaters had AT LEAST 3 main course choices every dinner while we always only had 1. We simply cannot understand why the meat offerings are so plentiful (beef or pork, chicken, and fish or shellfish) while we got tofu or tempeh every single night. We appreciated that there was always a plant-based protein available (not the case on previous Siren cruises) but the chef was just not very good at preparing vegetarian meals and definitely lacked imagination. The tempeh was sometimes good but more often than not, it was soggy and tasteless. As a result, we ate more unhealthy fried food in two weeks than we do in a year at home. The vegetarian dinner offering was often the same thing and after a few days, we just grew tired of it and the resentment built up over the course of the holiday. We could see that the chef worked his tail off from morning to night and we felt bad that we didn’t like his food but feel it was and has always been really unfair that Siren has never made a real effort to improve in this area.

Sleep
Although we have been on the Indo Siren before, we never experienced the incredibly loud creaking noise that occurred below deck (especially in our cabins) while the Siren was moving in open seas. The noise was so loud in our cabin that we had to yell to hear one another speak. This was especially unfortunate since we were moving during the night when we were all trying to sleep. I would not recommend taking the Indo Siren for the Banda Sea cruise or any other where many hours of motoring are in the plan. There is just too much potential for long nights of lost sleep and worry.

We have discovered after nearly 10 liveaboard trips that the crew is EVERYTHING. Happy crewmembers can make your trip a dream come true. Overworked, unhappy crewmembers can make it very unpleasant. While I would not characterize the Indo Siren crew as unhappy -- certainly not all of them, anyway -- on each Siren cruise we either encountered cruise directors that were absolutely at their wits' end, and/or dive guides with bad attitudes. On this last cruise we found ourselves feeling truly sorry for the crew because they have very small living quarters with no personal space, little to no personal time during a cruise (or after because the following cruise starts just hours after we disembark), and they work very, very hard. We could not fault them for running out of energy or desire to cater to us when they have so little in terms of creature comforts. Having said that, we have never seen any of the crewmembers (other than dive guides and cruise managers) be anything but pleasant. And yet, we paid a lot of money to enjoy ourselves and have good service from all.

Finally, we learned a bit more about crew compensation during this last cruise and now understand that not much of the large sum of money we pay for the cruise goes to crew compensation. Apparently, however, they make a decent living by local standards. Ok, great. However, at the end of the cruise there is an expectation to tip the crew and we always do, very willingly. We agonize over the amount and often wish we could give them more. This cruise cost us about $6500 pp and the company suggests 10% of the cost of the trip for tips. When we thought about it, we realized that the boat crew is not even getting 10% of the gross revenue of the trip from their employers but they are asking us to supplement at that rate – if we want, of course. This is likely an industry standard and we are always willing to tip these hard workers well but we will be looking for better-treated staff and better value for our money for our future holiday bookings.

So, with sadness, we have decided that the Siren just does not provide sufficient value for our vacation money. We gave them four opportunities! We have already begun inquiring with other companies about our next holidays and we will be sure to ask these new companies how they treat their staff. Very importantly, we are now looking for a liveaboard company that thinks our vegetarian dietary needs are just as important as everyone else’s.
Websites S/Y Indo Siren   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Raja Ampat, Philippines: Southern Visayas and Honda Bay, Micronesia, Fiji, Egyptian Red Sea, Hawaii, Bonaire, Turks & Caicos, Bahamas, Cozumel, etc.
Closest Airport Maumere Getting There From Honolulu no easy feat. HNL to Taipei to Denpasar, Bali to Maumere. Return Sorong to Makassar to Bali to Taipei to Tokyo to Honolulu. China Airlines was excellent, Garuda very good, Sriwijaya Air was adequate.

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm, choppy, surge, currents, no currents
Water Temp 22-28°C / 72-82°F Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility - Ft/ - M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile ?
Enforced diving restrictions 60-70 minute dive times
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins 1 or 2 Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish 4 stars
Large Pelagics 3 stars

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments There is really only room for a few UWPs. But the important point is that there IS room and it is indoor. There is a lot of salon space that is fairly unused. This could be converted to better accommodate UWPs.
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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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