This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Tubbataha

Almost Tubbataha with Expedition Fleet

So finally March 5 arrived.

24 people who came from as far as Davao, Shanghai, Vancouver, and Los Angeles fixed their lives the last 9 months to fit this 8 days diving expedition to amazing Tubbataha, converged in Anilao Pier to finally begin our adventure.

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Everyone were ecstatic and nothing could wipe out the perpetual grin off our faces, not even the coaster breaking down on the way, or a week ago Beth’s underwater camera got flooded.

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This is it! we screamed as the Pacific Explorer 2 sailed into the sunset.

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Merry making to the highest level as we sang to Bon Jovi’s Always while we set up camera and prepared our scuba gears.

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We retired at midnight, earlier than our insomiac tendencies, knowing we will wake up in Apo Reef for our first of a series of great dives. I was promised that my “shark repellant” is non-existent once we hit the water.

At 6am we awoke to find that we still have cellular signals. The view doesn’t look anything like Apo Reef, according to those who have been there. We were then informed that we’re actually in Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro. Confused we waited for explanation.

Boat manager Gordz reported that last night at 2am, they discovered a bearing grinding into something-something and that the boat couldn’t proceed. He already communicated with the operator, Cruise and Island Adventure (CIA), a Scuba World company and that they are sending Borneo Explorer over and we will transfer to this boat.

It was curious and suspicious that the boat broke 6 hours into sailing! Didn’t they do test sail? If it was a bearing, shouldn’t they have spare parts on board?  Obviously we were not happy but we were also looking into the positive side of the situation.  They said they were sending a new boat, albeit it’s a smaller boat and that 24 people have to fit into a boat for 18.  We accept 3 people bunking into a room, no problem. We will lose a day of diving. No problem. Let’s skip Cuyo. We just wanted to go! Go! GO!

12 hours later, we saw Borneo Explorer coming. The group cheered after a whole day of bumming in the boat.

We were raged again to be told that the management imposed that Borneo Explorer tow Pacific Explorer II back to Anilao. Gordz said that there’s nothing he could do “at the moment” – a phrase repeated a million of times, but he will do his best to negotiate with management on our behalf — of our wants.

As none of us could operate a boat and hi-jack it, there is really nothing we could do but to be towed back. For the nth time we reevaluated our options. Ask for refund? partial-refund for the non-diving days? extend the trip? cut short the trip? Because we decided that it’s priceless that we were already there, we agreed to just do it. We agreed to 4 days of dive (1 Apo Reef + 3 Tubbataha). We agreed to no refund. We bended our back all the way!

Another 12 hours later, we were back in Outrigger Resort (another Scuba World company) in Anilao. We woke up to the news that Scuba World owner, Mr. John Wee made the immovable decision that none of his boat is sailing today. Trip Cancelled. Go Home. Full Refund of the amount paid to Scuba World at the CIA office the next day, Monday.

WHAAAAT?????

What about the 9 months spent rearranging our schedule to fit this 8 days?
What about the coaster we rented to come to Anilao?
What about the interest incurred from our payments made months ago?
What about the airfare from people who came from Davao, Shanghai, Vancouver, and Los Angeles?
What about the airfare from Puerto Princesa back to Manila?
What about the leave people filed that were wasted?
What about the diving insurance purchased?
What about the rarity of having us friends have the same vacation? We booked this whole boat if you read my previous entry. And all the time and effort spent in preparation for this trip????? Who will refund us for that?

I just felt really cheated every step of their decision making… from promising to change boat to tow boat back.

Here is a summary of one of my friend (boat mate) Suzette Cuerpo of what happened next…

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As of yesterday, the Management agreed to refund in full the cost of the cancelled trip or rebooking and nothing else, allowed us to stay at Outrigger for the night and provided us a van back to Manila.

Today as we all went to the CIA office, they released the money for those who refunded and accepted the rebooking of those who did, and finally agreed to also refund the Puerto Princesa-Manila tickets which will not be used anymore.

..this is after giving him our two cents worth…

My point is:

1) The Cruise Island Adventure/Expeditio n Fleet/Scuba World Management almost risked our lives by deploying a ship that is not fit to sail. Our unverified but reliable source informed us that one of its Engineers texted that it was not seaworthy.

Despite an unverified report, the fact that we had trouble 6 hours into sailing, means there is indeed something wrong with the ship. They initially told us it was some “bearing”, but we found out it was the whole engine.

2) Why was it allowed to sail if indeed there was a problem with the engine? Who gave them the permit to sail?

Of course Management will not admit it. They claimed they even did a “test sail”.

3) This raises the question on how sea worthy are the boats of CIA. Will I go back to Tubbataha? YES I will…but definitely not with CIA or any of Mr. Wee’s boats again!

This is a classic lousy crisis management handling. We booked the whole boat in June 2009, fully paid by Jan 2010. Everyone, including those who flew in from other countries literally re-arranged our lives to go on this trip. Getting a 7-day leave is no joke to some. The least we could have expected was a much better and quicker response from Management.
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I also asked Mr. John Wee why they didn’t let us use the Borneo Explorer instead? He said it has its own scheduled transition trip on March 12, 2010 and that the boat will not make it back in time.

My question was why not rebook the people who have one week to plan and rebook their leave and lives while we were all there already in the sea? He’ll be canceling the remaining trips of Pacific Explorer 2 anyway.

He only shrugged.

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