Drinking, Diving & Boat Etiquette – Do they mix???

Drinking, Diving & Boat Etiquette – Do they mix???
By Deb Disney

I recently booked a boat trip for a few students, another instructor and myself. Since we had to be onboard by 6am the morning of the trip, we decided to spend the night on the boat as opposed to getting up at o’dark thirty. We arrived the night before about 7:00 and unloaded our gear and chose a bunk. Since we had already had dinner, we decided to sit in the galley do our paperwork, brief the students who were staying onboard with us and just visit.

Sitting down at the table, I was a bit surprised to find almost a full bottle of vodka on the table. I thought, who does this belong to? It was only a few minutes later when a group from another dive shop came in and poured themselves a shot. The group sat down and started some pretty heavy drinking, then left for dinner. We finished our paperwork and went to bed.

About 10:30 or so the group showed up back at the boat. They were, as they say, “well into their cups”. They stayed in the galley drinking & partying until about 2:00 am, LOUD, keeping most of us awake. At one point I did ask them to please try to be a little bit more quiet as I was trying to sleep. They toned it down for a few minutes but then went right back to the loud laughing and storytelling. This was bad enough, but when a few were hanging over the side of the boat, “chumming for fish”, I thought that not only is this rude but it is downright dangerous! The group who were drinking consisted of an instructor and a group of students. To say that I was surprised at this is an understatement. Why would an instructor, or for that matter anyone drink that much the night before diving?

The next morning I got up about 6:00 am to meet our other students that had not spent the night on the boat. I needed to brief them on paperwork, where to put their gear and all the other things that you need to be told your first boat trip. The group that were up half the night yelled at us to be quiet which caused more than a few people to raise an eyebrow. One of the other passengers swore under this breath and then turned the lights on in the bunkroom stating that they kept him up half the night it was his turn to pay back.
Fast forward to what went on at the first dive site. To say that the drinking group were a little slow is an understatement, but then what would you expect? On the trip, over to the island a few of the group were fairly sea sick (or should we say hung over?) and a few others did not look so well. The instructor seemed to be somewhat better off than the students were and commented that drinking was not a problem as long as you drink water.

My thoughts on all of this is that there is a time and place for everything and drinking that much before diving, or even setting this type of example with students is not a good idea. Drinking dehydrates you which can lead to an increased risk of DCS. Drinking impairs your judgement, not a great when diving. It slows down your reflexes, not good for an instructor who is responsible for students, or for students that need to have a clear head and good reflexes to perform the skills required to get certified. Drinking dehydrates you which is a leading cause of cramps. The list can go on and on. Forget about how rude it was of them to keep most of us awake half the night.
The good news is, nobody was hurt on the trip. A few people sat out the last dive since they were tired and at least two people I talked to said it was because they did not get the sleep needed the night before due to the other group keeping them up. We all pay good money for boat trips and want to take advantage of all dives on a trip. It was not fair to the other passengers.

Keep in mind, I have no problem with drinking & having a good time. But again, there is a time and place for everything. Drinking on a dive boat the night before and partying to the extent that you keep fellow divers awake and are hung over the next day is not the time or place…in MY opinion.
ANY THOUGHTS?

IS GROUPON OR LIVING SOCIAL GIVING YOU THE WHOLE TRUTH ABOUT THE TOTAL COST OF A SCUBA CERTIFICATION COURSE? MAYBE OR MAYBE NOT! YOU DECIDE!

ARE GROUPON OR LIVING SOCIAL ADS GIVING YOU THE WHOLE TRUTH ABOUT THE TOTAL COST OF A SCUBA CERTIFICATION COURSE?
MAYBE OR MAYBE NOT!
YOU DECIDE!
By: Chris Russello, Worldwide Master Instructor Trainer
Certified Diver since 1972
In today’s “I want good, fast and cheap” internet market place, scuba certification courses are no exception, but what happens when you try to get “good, fast and cheap” scuba classes via Groupon or Living Social?  Are they giving you the “total amount” you pay or just a “hook” to get you to purchase it then the dive retailer hits you with additional costs.  Let’s find out.
When I first signed up for my scuba certification course, over 44 years ago, I had eight classrooms sessions (2 per week for 4 weeks), three pool sessions and 8 open water ocean dives (4 at the beach and 4 on a boat).  Back then, the equipment wasn’t as good as it is today, so we had to have more intensive training. Not everyone was fit to become a scuba diver, but those who finished turned out to be good trained divers.  Now let’s fast forward to current times. The minimum standards with most certification agencies are less time in the classroom, if any.  Why?   You guessed it, on-line training.  Also, less skill training in the pool.  Why?   You guessed it again; equipment is much better.   But I don’t agree with less open water ocean dives. Does doing 4 open water oceans dives really train a person to become a scuba diver?  This author says NO.  A Scuba Certification Agency located in Southern California though it was a good idea to increase diver certification, so they lower their minimum standards and therefore all the other agencies had to lower their minimum standards in order to compete.
Now, in the age of on-line shopping, Groupon and Living Social have emerged. You shop around the internet looking for the “best deal” to get scuba certified. You are “surfing around” looking at Groupon or Living Social and come across a “Groupon Deal for a Catalina Island Weekend Getaway”.  Does it include “total cost” of the scuba certification course or it is just a “hook” to get you to purchase it and then they “hit” you with additional costs.  My opinion, it’s a “hook”.
In advertising this “deal”, does is mention the “total cost” of the certification…NO.
There are “hidden” fees.  For instance, when you read the details, you take the Catalina Express, however is doesn’t mention there is an additional fee for 2 days parking. Is the total cost of food included for the weekend? It talks about an additional fee for equipment rental on the island.  What specific equipment are they talking about? Is there any additional equipment needed, and if so, how much?  Does this ad mention the experience of the scuba instructors? Class size?  
How long the dive shop has been in business?
Also, the ad mentions “the course is over two weekends”, one weekend is class and pool, but what happens if you cannot complete the required classroom academics or pool skills required for ocean dives within that weekend? Do you pay extra to transfer to another class or what?  
It is the opinion of this author; the merchants who post “deals” on Groupon or Living Social DO NOT disclose the TOTAL cost of your scuba certification. There are “hidden fees” but what the merchants are hoping for is that you purchase the Groupon Deal and then after you are “hooked” they tell you about all the additional hidden fees that are not included.  The merchants believe you will pay the additional fees since you have already committed to the on-line purchase.
Don’t be fooled, do your due diligence homework. Before you purchase Groupon or Living Social, call the merchant and ask what the deal includes and if there are any additional costs. Maybe the merchant has a better deal for you that fits your needs. If you don’t ask you may not know until you are “hooked” and by then it may cost you more that you had originally planned to spend!

Catalina Dive Park – Is it a true savings???

I was recently was talking to one of my customers about boat trips and the Catalina Dive Park, also known as the Point.  My customer was telling me that he goes to the Point to dive because it is so much more convenient and cheaper.  We had a good discussion and at the end he admitted that maybe he was wrong.  Let me break it down for you and then let you decide.

Boat trips are wonderful (in MY opinion).  You can go to the boat the night before, as a rule, and spend the night onboard.  No extra charge.  You get up in the morning and you have fresh coffee, breakfast and a nice trip to one of the islands.   You get to the first dive site and jump in…no waiting for your tank & weights, no stairs to go down or climb and no modern day portable toilets or commonly known as smelly outhouses.  After finishing your dive, the dive master, or another crew member, will pull your fins at the swim step and help you up the ladder.  You are then greeted with some tasty snacks, water, soda, tea or coffee.  While you are chillin’ and doing some surface time, the Captain moves the boat to another dive site and they fill your tank with more air.  You are briefed on the new site and conditions and then you jump in.  Again, after your dive they pull your fins and serve you a hot lunch and something to drink.  They fill your tanks and move to a 3rd site.  After the last dive you have deserts or something on the way back to the dock.  You can take a shower and take a nap if you are tired.  The cost for the day?  About $135 – $140.

Now, let’s talk about the Point.  First, you have to get up at o’dark hundred & drive to the boat.  You have to be there an hour before it leaves, so if you take the 7am boat you have to be there by 6am to get in line with your gear and wait to board.  Now you take an hour ride over without breakfast, unless you buy it or take it with you.  You get to the Point and pay baggage to take your gear to the Point and you walk over to the dive area.  You can take a taxi if you prefer, but again, it costs.  If you take your lunch, an ice chest, you pay extra for baggage to take it for you.  You can take your own tank & weights, or you can rent them….and most people rent.  If you take your own tank you pay for your air fills.  Now you get ready and change in an outhouse that smells.  You suit up and then wait in line on the stairs to get in the ocean.  After the dive, you pull your own fins, climb the stairs and then hump your tank to the fill station for an air fill.  Food or snacks; only if you took them with you or want to buy some water and a candy bar for a marked up price at the fill station.  So you do three dives and repeat the above…then you walk back to the Express.  You wait in line with your gear and find a seat.  You’re tired and hungry?  Snacks are sold on the boat for an inflated price and you sleep sitting up.  The cost for this day?  The boat is $72, round trip, parking is $17 for the day, baggage is $11, an ice chest is $8, (or a taxi is about $17) tank & weight rental is $35 for a 3 dive day.  Did you take your lunch or are you buying on the Island?  Lunch on the Island is about $15 per person for a burger and a coke.  Let’s assume you took your lunch but rent tanks and weights, your cost for the day will be $135 and you still have to stand in line and do not get to dive different areas of the Island but the same area over and over again.

Now I’m not a rocket scientist but it seems to me that boats are a better deal.  The Point is nice if you have children and need a confined area or only want to be out ½ day but still, the cost is more per dive without any of the amenities.

Tell me what you think.  Comments & feedback are welcome.   deb@dive-aloha.com

Call Aloha Dive to book your next boat trip.  We have many trips planned for 2017 and would love to have you join us!

The above article is the opinion of the author and may not express the opinions of management.

Customer Loyalty: Does it Still Exist? Maybe or Maybe Not?

In one of my past articles I mentioned that I had a conversation with a friend of mine and we were talking about a person who walks into a dive shop to gather information about a certain product or service with NO intention whatsoever of purchasing either.

My friend’s opinion was, this type of person, or customer, IF you want to call them that, is nothing but a user and a thief.  My opinion is that maybe the word thief is strong, but they take and use without paying and is this not stealing?  That type of person uses and takes the knowledge of a professional person and steals their time.  They give nothing in return.  They take the time of the person helping them and interfere with the establishment’s ability to help a “true” customer.  When I am helping a customer my phone calls go to voicemail and I ask the next person who walks into the shop to please be patient, I will be with them as soon as I am finished.  I give the person I am helping my undivided attention…hence I cannot help a true customer while this person is stealing my time.  I am of the opinion that time is a luxury we cannot afford to waste.

Another friend of mine, who has been in business for some time, and I were discussing our thoughts on “loyalty of customers” when it comes to small business.   My friend was of the opinion that there is no more loyalty in business any longer.  I asked him why, “how do you come to that conclusion?”  His answer was, “Modern age of technology, via the internet; more customers are price driven than loyalty driven”.   I disagree.  I am of the opinion there still is some customer loyalty with small business, maybe not as much as the past, but there is still some.

I believe small business are the backbone of any industry, and the same pertains to independent dive shop stores like ALOHA DIVE.  Many small business owners, including myself, spend years developing customer relations or “loyalty.”  You do have those certain customers who you think are loyal but then you find out differently.  Let me share a brief story about such a past customer with ALOHA DIVE.  We at ALOHA DIVE are continually working on perfecting our customer service and helping all of our customers.  With that being said, I had a previous customer who wanted to buy a wetsuit.  This “customer” stated that they needed some time to save the money, but didn’t want to stop diving.  I made a decision to let this person use one of our rental wetsuits, at no charge, for a period of time, to give them the time to save the money needed to purchase the wetsuit.  After a number of months, this person came into my store to drop off the wetsuit.  I asked “Are you ready to buy the suit you have been asking me about and the one you tried on?”  The person’s answer was “NO” I bought one from another dive shop.  Needless to say I was surprised, but asked why.  The answer was “I got it cheaper.”  I asked “why didn’t you come to me first, maybe I could have matched the price” and all I got was a “dumb look.”  This person took my time & knowledge to another shop and asked them to beat my price.  Why?

 

During the time when this person was “sucking my knowledge and time” out of me they also were asking me about dive computers.  Again, I was under the impression this person was a “loyal customer”, but as I learned later they also bought a computer from another dive shop.  A mutual friend of ours asked this person, “Why did you buy this equipment at other shop when ALOHA DIVE has been so giving and loyal to you?”  This person answer was “Loyalty doesn’t pay my bills!”  When I heard that, my answer was it pays mine and letting people use equipment without paying for it does not pay my bills.  Needless to say I fired that customer and I never want to see that person in my dive shop again.

 

It seems customers of today want things “Good, Fast and Cheap” and that’s ok if that’s what you want.  However, my feelings are you can only pick two.  You cannot have all three.  I.e. if it’s Good and Fast is not Cheap. If it’s fast and cheap it’s not good.

 

Any small business depends upon customer loyalty, that’s how they survive.  When a customer is loyal to any business you will be amazed how that business owner and their employee(s) will go above and beyond for you.  If the business charges a little bit more than a competitor, maybe it’s worth it because you have their support and help when you need it and that goes along way.

ALOHA DIVE has many loyal customers and I am very blessed for that.  ALOHA DIVE understands the modern technology via the internet is here to stay and customers are looking for the best value at the best price.  However, when it comes to scuba diving where you are going into another world that could be hostile, you need a dive professional.  ALOHA DIVE will give you expert professional training and sell you the right gear in order to reduce the risk of injury.  We will ask you and evaluate your long term goals and customize a package that is right for you!  We will be there to help you and will stand behind any product you purchase from us, and if you do find something for less, give us the chance to match or beat the price.

 

Our goal at ALOHA DIVE is to establish long term customer loyalty.  We will go the extra mile to ensure you get the best value for your dollar with expert training to ensure YOUR safety!

 

Scuba Diving is a safe, fun and enjoyable sport.  The formula is simple:

 

COMFORT + SAFETY= ENJOYMENT.

 

This article represents the opinion and views of Chris Russello, the President and Director of Training with ALOHA DIVE a worldwide Instructor trainer with over 43 years of diving experience.  He welcomes your comments and opinions.  You can contact him by Email at aloha@dive-aloha.com

Scuba Training, Is All Training Equal?

Scuba diving is a wonderful sport.  With today’s equipment and training scuba diving is extremely safe, but is this really true?  Yes, the equipment is great and helps us be safe but is all training equal?

 

The first time I wanted to get certified the instructor I chose spent the time with me and one other student in classroom and pool training.  When it came to the open water portion, I was with a group of 6 students and at the beach.  I was the only female and by far the smallest of the group.  My instructor told me I had to keep up and not hold the rest of the group back.  Unfortunately, I lost my mask in the first attempt.  Second attempt was no better, I lost one of my fins.  This “instructor” informed me that I did not have what it took to be certified.

 

My second attempt at certification was a few years ago.  I paid for my classroom and pool sessions.  This time there were three of us in class.  We met at the boat Saturday morning but low and behold there were 5 other students on the boat.  This time I had trouble with not having enough weight and having trouble getting down and staying down.  The instructor brought me back to the surface and yelled at me to get back on the boat, he could not give me personalized attention with so many other students.  He informed me that he would address my weight issue before the second dive and I would have to pay for another boat trip.  Needless to say I did not get certified and decided that maybe scuba diving was not for me.

 

About 16 months ago I won an all-expense paid vacation to Maui, HI.  As a water baby, people told me I that that the diving on Maui was fabulous and that I really did need to dive with the turtles.  I decided to try again but this time I “interviewed” a number of shops.  I asked questions; how many students in a class and how many in the ocean?  What would happen if I had trouble with a portion of the training?  Would I get the extra attention or time needed?  Was there beach diving involved or was it all boat?  And what was the complete cost and what exactly was covered?  Were there any extra “hidden” costs?

 

After speaking to a number of shops I made the decision to try again with ALOHA DIVE.  Training was done on my schedule, not a set rigid schedule.  This was important to me as I work long hours and sometimes work later than planned, or on weekends, if a client needs me.

 

My boat trips were small groups of 3 students with plenty of individual attention.  The cost was no more than the three other shops that told me the class would consist of myself and 5 to 7 other students and had to be completed in two consecutive weekends.  Let me restate that…individual attention vs being one of many, flexibility in schedule, same cost.  It was a no brainer.  Needless to say, the experience was wonderful and I am close to 100 dives on record.

 

The difference between the training I received and the other shops is best compared by the following incident.  A few months ago I was out diving at Casino Point on Catalina.  I was with my instructor and another student who was doing his rescue training.  This student had been a lifeguard a few years ago and is able to recognize a panicky person in the ocean.  The three of us did our first dive and were spending some time waiting to get back in again when a class showed up from another dive shop.  The instructor had 8 students with him doing their first open water dive.  We sat and watched while they went out and started to drop down.  One of the students panicked and was at the surface struggling.  The instructor came up (and I would guess he violated protocol by leaving divers down below because I don’t believe he had any help with him) and told her to swim back to the steps and get out of the water.  He stated he had to go back down to attend to the students he left below.  The girl was extremely upset and very frightened.  The rescue student that was with us went out and helped her in.  Again, as a lifeguard he recognized the signs of a panicky person in the water.  He spent the time reassuring her that she was ok and safe.  Needless to say this gal stated that she was done and did not want to try again.  Boy did I understand that she had a bad experience and did not want to try again, déjà vu.

 

Today people are looking for the most bang for their buck.  I get it.  Money doesn’t grow on trees.  Most of us look for the best buy we can find, but is the best buy always the best?  Probably not.

 

I was recently talking to an acquaintance of mine who decided to look into the cost of open water certification.  She started to call around to find out what the dive shops were charging in her area and discovered one store that advertised online that the cost was only $389.  I told her to ask about additional costs and when she did she found out that she needed to purchase her personal snorkeling package from them…to the tune of $300 – $500!  She also found out that the trips to Catalina were not on a dive boat, but on the Express…so food and parking was extra.  Another store was only $299 but it is only beach dives and you need to buy your gear from them, again over $300.  Both store have large classes and are very rigid in their training schedule.  Both stores have instructors that have varying levels of experience teaching, some are very new and some are seasoned instructors.

 

This acquaintance asked me where I received my certification and of course, I told her about ALOHA DIVE and my experience.  No more expensive (as a matter of fact their all-inclusive package is less money) and she will get individual, flexible training with a dive professional who has been diving for over 43 years.  He knows what he is doing and gives the very best in training.  All agencies have basically the same standards.  You must pass all of your skills and have a minimum number of dives.  I guess my question is, do you get the same level of training when you are in a class of 8 with one instructor as when you are in a class of 2 or 3 with an instructor?  My answer is no.  Yes, the same skills but not the same level of training.  I have taught and I know that in a classroom of 15 – 30 students someone is always behind or slower than the rest of the group.  Can they do the minimum to get by, sure.  But, how does that same student do in an individual or small training class?  With more personal attention the student does do better.

My opinion is that with the personalized training and the attention I was given, I know I am a much better and safer diver than the person who was taught in a class of 8 with only 1 instructor.  As a better and safer diver my chances of injury are greatly reduced.

 

My recommendation is, buyer beware and be educated.  Find out what your training will cost and how personalized it will be.  Never, NEVER forgo your safety & life to save a dollar.  Buy from the best and be sure you know who you are buying from!