#Scuba #dive shop breaking up: Roatan

Roatan has great diving. Plus lots of dive shops.

Okay, the dive shop breakup in Roatan is much harder to do than the one in Cozumel.

I’ve been here  in August 2014 and in March 2015.

I loved the divemasters, boat captains and most of the folks at the cafe attached to the dive shop. I also really liked one of the dive shop owners. The spouse and co-owner – not so much.

A couple of things occurred during my 2015 visit. One was an issue around pounding disco music being played on weekends from a bar near my hotel. A matter no one seemed to care was a problem.

The other was a small, but significant incident that occurred on the day of my departure.

Getting a cab in Roatan when you need it isn’t always easy. That’s why I took the dive shop owner up on her offer to reserve me one in advance. I was told this would be done.

Lo and behold on the day of my flight, the cab didn’t arrive. I expressed concern about missing my flight. Plus, I needed to make a quick stop in town before going to the airport. When the owner called the cabbie, he claimed he had never received the booking. The owner insisted she called to book.

Luckily, I had the business card of the fabulous cabbie who brought me to the resort. The owner called and said he’d come as soon as he could – in about 30 minutes.

That left me sitting on a hot, unshaded bench in front of the dive shop to wait. Wondering if I’d make my flight. At no time did the owner check in with me or even offer an apology for what had happened. She just left me there and got on with other things.

Just didn’t seem like professional behaviour toward a customer who had spent a couple of thousand USD in her dive shop in the last six months. Especially since there are lots of dive shops and hotels on the island.

I did get to the airport on time with the quick stop in town. I love that cabbie.

The loud music is more of an issue for me than the rudeness of a dive shop owner.

Both Cozumel and Roatan are on my list for a two week dive vacation in August 2016. Can’t say that either has the edge right now.

Here are some pics from my last Roatan dive trip.

Idiot #scuba divers with #GoPros on a stick

I wish for the quick extinction of this noxious underwater species – the scuba diver with a GoPro on a stick.

The owner of this GoPro is a jerk.

The owner of this GoPro is a jerk.

They’re a scourge. As bad as lionfish in non-native waters. Or manspreading on a packed dive boat.

Here’s the problem. Many, but not all, GoPro divers I’ve encountered have NO manners. (And don’t bother defending these clowns in the comments section. I’ve never seen an underwater photographer with a honking big still camera behave this way.)

There’s a etiquette around scuba divers with cameras. Everyone takes her/his turn, one by one, being careful to not scare the subject so that it swims off, not kick up silt and not to hog the subject preventing others from getting their shot before the divemaster and group move on.

What I’m seeing from some GoPro on a stick divers is despicable. No consideration for etiquette or respect for other photographers in the group.

IMG_1307

When the divemaster signals a subject worthy of a photograph, all the GoPros on a stick go charging in. Jockeying for position while unable to hold their buoyancy. Kicking up silt. Bumping into all and sundry. Ensuring no one gets a decent image.

Barbarians.

Thanks a bunch.

Perhaps time for dive shops to make an etiquette pep talk part of their dive briefing.

Dive shop breaking up isn’t hard to do

2014-12-20 09.58.22I believe in rewarding good behaviour.

Here in Vancouver, I patronize three excellent scuba dive shops. Since they’ve all given me good service, I’ve got no reason to breakup. Until they give me a reason to.

As I was leaving a Vancouver dive store where I recently bought a housing for my camera, the owner called out to me, “thanks again for shopping here. I really appreciate it. Really.”

That’s the reason I returned not too long after to buy a new dive computer.

This year, I’m saying goodbye to two foreign dive shops for behaviour that doesn’t merit spending another penny.

  • Cozumel

For the last three years, I’ve spent a couple of weeks each December at a particular dive resort. Dropped about $7,000 USD in those years. What I liked most was seeing the same folks return every year and the non-management staff. What I’d come to dislike was the divemaster disgruntlement, the street noise, the expensive, limited menu, favoured clients, a horrible little dog, not being permitted to flush toilet paper, and the resort’s distance from town.

As well, there was the introduction of the party boat, aimed not at divers – the resort’s core clients, but people who wanted to spend an afternoon drinking and getting sunburned, while snorkelling and swimming and blasting loud music at a remote beach. What a racket they made when they returned to the resort in the evening.

confirmation

Confirmation from resort to initial deposit. CLEARLY says the rest of the balance is due upon arrival. 

Still, I was prepared to tolerate these annoyances, remain loyal and return every December. And, pay up the minute I arrived at the hotel. And, tip. And, recommend the resort to other divers. And, post positive reviews on TripAdvisor.

Then, the tipping point.

This year, as always, I reserved my spot early. For a $2500 USD reservation, a 50-percent deposit was demanded. There was NO way that was happening in July for a December booking. Especially when there’s so much hotel and dive shop competition on the island, and this resort isn’t special. I offered $200 USD, which they accepted and sent back a confirmation saying the rest was due “upon arrival”. Seemed to me the 50 percent demand had been dropped as it had been in the past. Perhaps the owner recalled the conversation we had once had in the restaurant about lowering the deposit amount.

Recently, I needed to add another night. That’s when I was informed I hadn’t responded to an earlier email demanding the 50 percent deposit. I immediately offered another $250 USD and the rest when I arrive.

Remember, this was to be my fourth year at this establishment.

Long story short, I was told my past reservations, where lesser deposit amounts were accepted, hadn’t been authorized by the owner and had been against company policy. The tone was rude and unprofessional, IMHO.

cozmatter

This is how you talk to people who want to give you money? Keep yourself and others in the resort employed?

I was asked to pay up. Or, they could return my deposit.

Yes please to the latter.

I’ve been in touch with several other hotels and dive shops. Guess what? They all have room for me. They offer similar or superior quality, are cheaper and closer to town. I’ve just rebooked with a terrific dive shop. It also booked my hotel. The dive shop owner emailed to welcome me. WOW. I’ve also saved about $1,000 USD.

I just don’t get it, since the resort seemed pretty empty when I was there in December 2014. Wonder what business school teaches this kind of customer service.

Coming soon: Roatan: noise at 3:00 am and the uncaring owner.

Malaysia-bound: #scuba with #orangutans

Travelling Sabah, Malaysia with bug spray and scuba gear. Oughta be fun.

Travelling to Sabah, Malaysia with bug spray and scuba gear. Oughta be fun.

[Okay, not really. But I’ve been scuba diving with Pandas, so anything is possible!!]

I’ve been making the arrangements for a year. Paying for it since last October. But, this journey has been in my head much longer.

Three years roughly. That’s when my orthodontist and occasional dive buddy mentioned (while tightening my braces – OUCH) a couple of scuba videos he’d watched. One was shot in Layang Layang, part of the Spratly Islands, north of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. The other video was from Sipidan, near Tawau in the Celebes Sea.

By the end of the appointment, they’d been added to the scuba diving bucket list. The plan, originally, was to do both in one visit to Asia in the summer of 2015. Then, life stuff happened and the trip was postponed for a year. Turns out Layang Layang wasn’t going to work. So, Sipidan became the focus. Oh, and since I’m there maybe see some orangutans.

I’ll cost it all out in a future posting – but you can imagine it’s a wee bit costly. A ‘take money out of your saving account for a trip in a lifetime costly’. But, I’ve made a commitment to spending money on life experiences rather than buying stuff. In the end, I’ll have made three payments to the dive company-adventure travel agency I’ve been working with. It’s called Dive Downbelow. Very professional, but having to fax documents between Canada and Malaysia is hellish.

I’ll fly from Vancouver to Kuala Lumpur, with a stop in Taipei. Overnight in KL then fly to Tawau, where I’ll be picked up for a bus ride to Semporna then boat ride to my accommodation and home for one week, the SMART resort on Mabul Island. Check out the maps below.

More about the trip next week.

Airplane + bus to #LaPaz, #Mexico – saving $ getting there

Take a look at the price. This is why I'm flying and busing - to save money.

Take a look at the price. This is why I’m flying to San Jose del Cabo and busing – to save money.

There are often cheaper ways to travel, if you’re willing to hunt around.

Recently, I outlined how I came to purchase airfare to Mexico for a scuba diving trip in October.

I’m diving in La Paz, a 3-hour drive from San Jose del Cabo. SJD is home to the state’s large tourism-focused international airport. An airport served by many airlines. The airport I’ve elected to use. La Paz also has a airport. It’s smaller, but would be more convenient.

Doesn't get me all the way to my destination, but a lot cheaper.

Doesn’t get me all the way to my destination, but a lot cheaper.

There’s the catch. I’ll need to spend a night in San Jose del Cabo and take a bus to La Paz. Here’s the cost breakdown in CDN dollars.

  • Airfare: $490.91.
  • Cab fare to downtown San Jose Del Cabo hotel: $20 or city bus: $4.
  • One night hotel in San Jose del Cabo: $73 (Walking distance to bus station and La Paz bus the following day.)
  • La Paz bus fare return to San Jose del Cabo: $40
  • Total: $624 CDN, if I take a cab from the airport. $604, if I take the city bus.

Price to fly directly to La Paz:

  • Airfare: $815 (two stops each way – longer travel time than flight to SJD with one stop)
  • Hotel: $140 (for an extra night, in hotel where I’m booked for the remainder of my stay).
  • Airport transfers: $30
  • Total: $985 CDN

I’ll pay for convenience when it makes sense. In this case it doesn’t. Firstly, the difference in price is staggering. Secondly, I’m looking forward to the bus ride – during day time hours – so I can see more of Baja California’s countryside.

In this case, price and experience trump convenience.

#Scuba diving is a blood sport

Banging my leg on the side of the stairs really hurt.

Banging my leg on the side of the stairs really hurt. (No Photoshopping of photos)

I knew it was going to ‘leave a mark’ when I bashed the side of my knee on the metal stairs leading back onto the dive boat.

OUCH (+ f-word) that hurt a lot. The kind of bump that hurts so much you want to cry, except you don’t want to cry on a dive boat where a bunch of middle aged men are standing around.

I’ll ask a stranger (man) on a dive boat to braid my long hair, but no one sees Tank cry.

As if one week of bruised limbs wasn’t enough, I decided to sign up for another boat dive the next week. The result – more bruises. These ones on the ankle.

Week two bruise. This is before it got really colourful and ugly.

Week two bruise. This is before it got really colourful and ugly.

Scuba diving is a blood sport.

I’ve cut my hand on coral, so bad that it bled. I’ve ripped my cuticles to bits pulling on a thick wetsuit day after day. I’ve dropped a two pound weight on my foot. I’ve fallen on slippery rocks in a drysuit – weighted down by about 64 pounds. But, nothing hurts as much as these deep bruises.

My record for leg bruises is seven at one time. Given my natural clumsiness, it’s a record I except to exceed.

World's ugliest leg.

World’s ugliest leg.

 

One #Mexican destination – #airline prices SO varied

flights

What a range of prices, routes and times. Yikes. (Prices in CDN dollars.)

Here was the plan:

Scuba diving trip to La Paz, Mexico in October. Leaving on a Tuesday (one of the cheapest days of the week to fly). Returning the next Wednesday (also a cheaper day to fly). Flying Vancouver, Canada to San Jose Del Cabo, then taking the bus north.

Sunwing, a Canadian charter airline, doesn’t fly there on those days of the week. On the days it does fly, the price was $760 CDN. As well, Sunwing is a bit of a crapshoot. The flights always seem to be delayed or making unexpected stops to refuel etc. Not, IMHO, a reliable airline.

Westjet, another Canadian airline, doesn’t offer flights on those days. On the days it does fly, the flights ranged from about $700 CDN to more than $1000 CDN.

So, I began searching the scheduled airlines.

You get used to making connections when you travel out of Vancouver. There are limited non-stops and direct flights when travelling outside of Canada.

I collect Aeroplan points, so my first choice is always with Star Alliance airlines, such as Air Canada and United. But, only when the price is right and the timing works.

In this case, Air Canada was stupidly expensive (this was NO surprise) and United’s return flight was stupidly long.

So, American won my business. It offered the best price with the best travel times. I flew with American to Grand Cayman a few years ago, with three connections (LA, Miami, George Town) to get there. Planes were new and service good.

I’ve also booked a flight to Cozumel on American Airlines for December, so I’m now committed to building air miles with American and the One World Alliance.

One thing. I’ll have to stay one night in a hotel in Cabo before taking a multi-hour bus ride to La Paz. This option was still cheaper than flying into La Paz’s airport. I’ll price that out for you next week.