I posted this in another area of the forum.
I am now ready to share my experience about my two cancelled live-aboards with Blue O Two/Worldwide Dive and Sail/Masterliveaboards (all one company) – the Siren Fleet, specifically the Philippines Siren and the Palau Siren. There’s been some criticisms in this forum about posters withholding specific dive operator names, but if the outcome was not in my favor, I would still have to deal with them to use credits or vouchers after naming them for their misdeeds.
The Philippines Siren trip was to start on May 16, 2020, to Tubbataha, followed by the Palau Siren from May 25 to June 1, 2020. The total cost of these two trips with Blue O Two (I’ll call them BOT) was $7304. Final payment was March 17, 2020. On March 14th I e-mailed them about the status of the trip. (They’re based in Thailand and I could never speak with a real person, only by e-mail.) BOT informed me that the trips were still going (even though the Philippines borders were closing).
On March 18th, one day after final payment and having my $7304 in hand, they cancelled both trips. I find it highly suspicious they waited till the day after final payment to then cancel the trip when I had just inquired four days before. I then requested a refund per their cancellation policy to which they refused and only offered me a credit voucher for future use, which would be a worthless piece of paper if they go bankrupt. Here’s their cancellation options from their web site: “If we have to make a significant change or cancel, we will tell you as soon as possible and if there is time to do so before departure, we will offer you the choice of:
- (for significant changes) accepting the changed arrangements; or
- cancelling your booking and having a refund of all monies paid; or
- if available and where we offer one, accepting an offer of an alternative holiday (we will refund any price difference if the alternative is of a lower value).”
Tubbataha is a difficult trip to reserve because of the limited amount of boat operators and the small window of time to travel there. I had booked this trip in January 2019. After a couple more e-mails back and forth, I repeated that I wasn’t interested in a credit for future travel and I wanted the refund. They still refused, so I filed a dispute with my Citibank Visa on March 20th, and I was told that the process would be resolved by June 9th. I received word this week that the dispute was resolved in my favor and I received the $7304 back.
There was a lot of moving parts to this trip, multiple airfares and hotels and transfers pre, post, and in between trips. I have now received refunds for all my cancellations. Philippines Airlines is 90 days out from posting their refunds, so I should see that sometime this month. My total investment for this vacation was over $11,000.
For some added factual context, on March 9th, I got an e-mail promotion that they will refund new bookings in full (yet they won’t refund existing bookings that they cancelled). Here’s what the promo said: “If you make a new booking with us, between the 9th March to 30th April you can cancel your live-aboard space and receive a full refund. From the 9th March, any new bookings will be refunded or moved to a later date if you are unable to travel due to COVID-19.”
I also received an e-mail on March 30th stating that they were partially shutting down their operation. The e-mail says in part: “We want to say a massive thank you to all of you for bearing with us through this period. We are still very much active, albeit with a much smaller, core team. As of today, 30th March, we are going into a period of semi-hibernation. The team will be responding to queries and reaching out to you chronologically by sailing date. Please do continue to bear with us as the volume of enquires is large. To help us manage this, our inbound phone lines and LiveChat will not be operational during this period. If you have a query then please email it through. We are doing everything we can to ensure we remain a viable business and can continue to provide inspirational experiences for our customers. The action of refusing to pay an outstanding balance has a huge knock-on effect. Ultimately, we won't be able to pay our suppliers, who then will be unable to provide the service you desire and will themselves be unable to pay their staff and suppliers. The consequences and repercussions are wide-ranging. You could be contributing to the downfall of many companies and many livelihoods. Please work with us on this because your money is safe.”
Those are the facts for my experience.
Here’s my opinion. BOT is actually saying that their customers will contribute to their downfall if we don’t pay them for a service we may never get! They want to blame their customers for their poor business practices such that they don't have the capital reserve to weather some hard times! That is ridiculous!! My money is safe?? Uh, are you a bank? No! BOT has shown an obvious disregard for customers, and I have serious doubts about the viability of this company. They will forever be on my do not travel list.