Trouble on the Palau Aggressor...
Susanne Lorenz - Tour Company Operator
September 13, 2002 at 11:02:37
Thank you for these interesting comments and articles. We spent a week last Christmas with Aggressor on Palau and had a less than good experience. Before boarding the boat we did some land based diving with Neco Marine and had four of the best dive days ever. Once on the Aggressor, we were surprised by many unexpected things.
First of all the dive masters where brand new on the boat and did not know where to go and when to go diving. We wasted a day seeing almost nothing, until we cornered the captain and asked him when we would see fish again, knowing it was all out there. Finally he took us to Blue Corner and other good dive sites. However, Palau diving is totally dependent on currents, that change with the tides, so local knowledge is imperative to seeing many fish.
Dives were done off a skiff so everyone had to be ready at the same time, taking away the benefit of doing your own dives when you are ready or interested. We never had very many good dives on the boat, we attribute it to the lack of location and tide knowledge of the crew. I myself run a tour company and we take great pains to pass on location information to new guides, knowing that they have a lot to learn and eventually a guide will be new to an area. Obviously Aggressor does not think that is necessary. It really showed in the dive quality. The advertisement suggests, you can get 5 dives a day. Because the dives where done off the skiff, the most we were ever offered were 4.
The food however, was excellent. On the other hand, I have dietary allergies and I was told the crew would accommodate me no problem. When we arrived on the boat, the crew had never heard of my dietary requests. When they had to go to shore I asked them to buy some soy milk for me, I was told that they could not find it. Well, I saw the soy milk on the super market shelves. So the truth is if you have dietary restrictions, they might or might not accomodate you. But I felt reassured that I did not have to bring anything or worry about that from the US Aggressor office.
The captain, an overweight American, was so hot under his extra padding, that he kept the aircon in the main room and dining room so cold, that at the end of the trip, many passengers had developed colds. I talked to him numerous times and he would not adjust the temps to accommodate the passengers. It was appalling. Some passengers stayed out side the common room for the entire trip except for meals to avoid the meat locker. The captain obviously did not give a shit about the passengers comfort.
In terms of safety I am appalled at the Galapagos story. It is unacceptable to put passenger's lives in danger. When diving with Aggressor, we were told to roll into the ocean from the skiff at a place where a few days before we had been snorkeling in 3 feet of water. When I pointed this out to the dive master he blew me off. Being stupid, I trusted the guy's guidance more than my intuition and rolled over hitting the reef. Good dive masters need to listen to the passengers and not assume they know it all. This could have ended bad, since I hit my head on the tank valve.
It all shows that a tour experience is only as good as the local staff. Unfortunately tourism has a high turn over rate. If you are lucky you have a kick ass experience with people that care and protect your safety and have fun, if you are unlucky, you can have a miserable experience. In the end it all boils down to the tour campany's committment to go the extra mile to ensure quality. After Palau we spent a week on the Odyssey which in stark contrast was AWESOME!