In Cozumel we did our diving through a company called Deep Blue and to be honest I have mixed feelings for the professionalism of the brand.
I should mention before I continue that after leaving our comments on Trip Advisor we were informed by the owner that the negative experience occurred through use of a freelance dive master. I’m assuming we were told this to take some of the blame from the company itself and direct it towards the freelancer. While this personally doesn’t make me feel any better, I believe it is fair to mention this and emphasise the fact that the only problems we had with the company were only with this ‘freelancer’, all other staff were friendly, knowledgeable and competent.
We dived for 2 days, with each day consisting of 2 dives.
We talked to three dive shops the day before diving and settled on Deep Blue as the receptionist Gary was very helpful, and a pleasure to speak to.
The first of the two other companies told us we could do whatever we wanted dive wise and was more expensive didn’t – we didn’t like this shop as it sounded a tad dangerous, perhaps as we were new divers we weren’t up for that level of adventure. The price was also a little out of our range, I should also mention that diving in Cozumel is expensive being a major American tourist attraction.
The second of the other companies was cheaper but we chose not to go with them as we had some communication problems. I am very aware that the language of Mexico is Spanish and I am not complaining about that but as we could not speak Spanish conversationally at the point, we decided it would be a bad idea to go with the company as we wouldn’t understand their directions.
Day One: A Great Diving Experience
A positive mention to our dive master Allen on the first day, and the owner when she was helping us to find our sizing for the wet suits. They were all a pleasure to speak to, and very helpful. We loved diving in Cozumel and felt very safe with our dive master.
Now the first problem I had was with my second stage respirator (the mouth piece which provides air), the plastic seal inside to keep water out of the respirator was split. Because it was split this allows a small amount of water into your mouth when breathing, this can be dangerous.
I was already in the water and about to submerge when I realized. These things can happen, and I admit the problem could have been avoided if I had checked my equipment more thoroughly so we’re not complaining about this per se. Though these problems shouldn’t occur as dive shops should be checking equipment regularly. This wasn’t that much of an issue as I’m sure it could happen anywhere, and I would be willing to overlook it completely if it wasn’t for what happened on the second day of diving with another dive master.
Our Dive Master was helpful and efficient in solving the problem so appreciation is given there. Being novice divers we also felt he had the right about of patience with us, which made us feel safe and confident about our dives for the day. In fact we had such a good experience on this dive that we booked for a second day with the same company.
Day Two: The Grumpy Dive Master
The dive master Fernando on the second day was rude, abrupt, angry, and making jokes at our expense. This completely ruined the day. This isn’t just me being too precious, he was genuinely being an arse. Due to the problems with the equipment the previous day, I was taking an extra precaution in checking that all my equipment was set up properly.
The problem with Fernando stems from when he was preparing our weight belts as we were renting the equipment. In order to stop the weights from slipping or moving around, he twisted the belt and tied a knot in it. Since the weights were situated too much at the back, I needed to reposition the weight, which is a common occurrence and therefore not something I believed anyone would have a problem with me repositioning.
Repositioning is important as if the weights are wrongly positioned it throws off your centre of balance, and it becomes more difficult to maintain buoyancy, plus for general comfort as well.
However due to the knots he had tied in the weight belt it made it rather difficult to untie and reposition, so it was taking a bit of time to sort out, as it included the extra time of checking the equipment to make sure no issues from the day before arose again.
Fernando didn’t say we were running on a strict time schedule, but you could tell by his body language that he wanted us in the water as quickly as possible. So he began sighing very loudly, he became very fidgety, and asked us to hurry up in a very rude and abrupt tone.
I explained the reason for the wait was due to the knots in the weight belt, but he continued to press that we should hurry. He then continued to make jokes by saying, “Maybe I should go get a coffee?”, and “Should I have a nap and go to sleep?”.
The jokes themselves are not that disparaging, and would be something that you would more than likely say to a friend. But we were not his friend, he kept to himself up until this point, he made no effort in getting to know anybody, even after I tried talking to him when we first entered the boat.
There was no rapport built in order to say these jokes, and for them to be taken in a joking manner. Instead they were just used as a means to gain a laugh from the other tourists on the boat, and humiliate us into hurrying up.
If the dive master from the previous day had said the exact same thing, it may have been taken very differently due to him being a much more engaging person.
When I couldn’t untie the knots he had created in accordance with his unexplained time limit, he demanded the weight belt, “Give it here, you obviously don’t know what you’re doing!” – I was ready to snap, to be honest due to his smug nature I was more thinking about punching him more than anything.
But I knew if I were to raise my voice I would explode.
The fact that there were four other tourists on the boat didn’t help the situation as it seemed he was wording what he said for effect, and in order to gain a laugh from the others. So when you’re struggling to correct his mistake, and he makes jokes at your expense with a group of others laughing in the background, it begins to test your patience.
So I took a breath, and tried to say very calmly without breaking into a burst of anger, “The reason it’s taking so long is because YOU tied knots in the belt. Just fix it, and let’s get into the water”.
At this point I wanted the problem to be fixed, and to just dive. I wanted to put it behind me. He fixed the belt and we dived. Once Lexi and I had barrelled rolled off the boat, he started demanding for us to dive down while the other divers was still on the boat, including himself.
I should mention that Lexi also had her legs grabbed and her flippers shoved on by the other man on the boat (who seemed to be in charge of the snorkelling) when she couldn’t put them on in the ten seconds he deemed “enough time” – perhaps this man was a freelancer as well?
It must be said that in the water Fernando was professional, and nothing happened to further escalate the situation, it was just his normal personality above water was terrible.
Case in point after the dive once the boat was docked. The older American man for cultural reasons gave a tip (We’re australians so we haven’t been brought up in this automatic tipping culture in our country) and Fernando was looking at his phone the entire time, and didn’t make any eye contact. He reached out his hand to accept the cash while having his eyes being firmly planted on his phone and said, “Thanks…”, in a very dull voice almost expecting more, it was $20 US.
Apart from these two issues, Deep Blue were quite nice to deal with. As we mentioned earlier the receptionist Gary was amazing and very helpful, same with the owner when recommending which equipment would be best for sizes.
While Allen the dive master from the first day of diving was great, and I would definitely dive again if he was the dive master.
If you do choose to dive with Deep Blue I would strongly recommend to specifically ask not to have Fernando as your dive master, or to ask about the feedback of previous customers about their freelance dive masters.
If we are indeed to place the blame entirely on the freelancer and not share it with the company who chose to hire him I will comment that there are more than likely numerous dive shops hiring freelancers. With this in mind I will insist that when you dive, wherever in the world you may be, that you ask a couple of questions and the competence and customer feedback for your dive master to be on the safe side. Asking your dive company may not be the best option however.
Because of this I highly recommend checking Trip Advisor or diving forums before booking your dives.
If there are negative reviews read a handful of them to gauge the severity of the incidents. Not all companies are perfect and not all customers have positive experiences, and of course a negative review does not mean you have to avoid a company. A few negative reviews here and there are normal.
The severity of the incidents mentioned in the reviews are what you should pay attention to – and your perceptions of what determines a red flag depends on you as a diver. We had indeed checked Trip Advisor but skimmed over the negative reviews as there were so many positive ones.
While some may believe a grumpy dive master not allowing you the time to properly check your equipment isn’t dangerous, we obviously did.
It was a red flag for us as we were novice divers at that point thus very aware of our safety, had had past experience with broken equipment and wanted to ensure our gear was safe and because of our newer status were not as efficient in getting ready as someone who as dived 50+ times.
In saying all of this I will re iterate that we did have one amazing dive with the company on the first day and perhaps you can’t predict the level of service you will receive no matter what you do. If we had finished up on the first day we would be writing an entirely positive review.
This post is just a reminder to be safe, and inform companies of your bad experiences so at the very least they can take the feedback on board to eliminate the problem for future customers.