Nekton boats may come back!!

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cappyjon431

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Sorry, I must not have explained it correctly. The tender only brings people out and back to the main boat and is used to keep the main vessel on the dive sites 7 days a week making money, not spending 2 days a week going in and out of port. You dive from the main boat, and it rotates around on a set of moorings that each offer great diving. Finding a location may be difficult since you want enough possible dive sites that offer good diving with a reasonable distance so you can easily move every day or maybe even twice a day between sites to keep things changing up.

No worries. When I went back and looked at your post you did explain it correctly, I just misinterpreted it. It would certainly cut down on port costs and fuel consumption. I am not sure how well weekly provisioning would go (especially in rough sea conditions), but it could work.

Not sure what it would cost to ferry people/provisions out to the boat, but it would depend on the itinerary. When we used to do the Belize itinerary and we would have guests and/or luggage not make the port departure (due to late flights, etc.) the local boat operators would charge the airline over $600 to ferry out a couple of guests or luggage to Lighthouse Reef. Nekton or its guests never had to pay it, but these boat operators raped the airlines to pay for transport.
 

daniel1948

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Lastly, I wonder whether many of the loyal customers are addicted to low prices and uncrowded cabins. [...] So my advice to the OP is to think carefully that the customers are loyal to the conditions that helped kill the business.
Speaking for myself, while the low price and the nice size cabin were definite advantages, the stability of the boat was the main factor for me.

No argument here, just offering a different spin for a boat that has a maximum speed of 7 knots, and probably due to this low speed is also a fuel hog. And since probably one of the biggest factors that changed is the higher price of fuel, you have to look at all angles of how to remedy that problem.

The ride out in Australia was only a couple hours, not all day. And we did a couple dives on the way out, so it really didn't seem like much of a trip at all. This is why you need to be located within a couple hours boat ride of a port city with airport. The transfer boat there was a decent size catamaran itself, but could do probably 18 to 20 knots, so it could easily cover that distance needed in no time.

Catering mainly to clients that are concerned about being seasick may not be a big enough market, even if some as yourself are willing to pay more. The liveaboard market isn't that big, now say that you want to target those who are concerned about being on a boat that is ultra stable, at the expense of only being able to do 7 knots maximum? Sorry, but even as a person who may at times in really heavy seas not do that well, I'd rather be a bit uncomfortable on part of the trip than to pay for a trip that is hampered by not being able to move to a great locations, or has to spend a lot of time moving around.
I understand what you are saying. And I might be unusual, and represent a very small number of divers. But for me, stability is extremely important, and cost is less of an issue, though of course there are limits.

I would definitely go on a swath boat again. But in the present absence of such boats, I'll probably be doing resort diving for the time being, and limit myself to resorts where the boat ride to the dive sites is short. Being able to retire to my cabin between dives is a great luxury. But being back on land after the day's diving is the best remedy for bumpy seas.

I suppose a two-hour ride out to the dive boat would be acceptable if the seas are not rough. But there's an island off Belize I like, and the crossing takes an hour or so, and it can be so rough that I would not do it if there was not solid land at the end. The crossing can leave me so seasick that even on a fairly stable boat it would take me a day to recover.

Again, this is just me, and there may be too few people like me to justify bringing the dive boat to port. But I get very seasick very easily, so it's worth the cost to me to plan a trip that minimizes the likelihood of it.

Daniel
 

darkstar

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The GBR boat you guys are talking about is the Reef Encounter. I dove from her for 4 days about 5 years ago because I had a very limited amount of time to dive in Australia and the Reef Encounter was the only flexible alternative to day boats. It was OK, but if I had to do it again, I would extend my trip and do one of the regular charters.

Economically, what makes them affordable is that the transfer boat is a scuba/snorkel cattle boat, that goes out to the Reef Encounter every day and meets up with it at Hastings. The trip out and back is basically paid for by the day boaters and the live-aboard divers are just tagging along for a ride.

The Encounter itself is crewed by a combination of regular crew and backpackers that work the boat for free diving. Going to that from diving Aggressor or Dancer would be like riding a Greyhound for 4 hours to dive out of a youth hostel.

It is a workable niche market, but only if what you've moored your floating hotel to is a world class dive location and far from shore based resorts. Otherwise, those shore based resorts are going to be able to provide better service at the same or better price point.
 

dleiss

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My wife and I enjoyed our two trips on the Nekton and wish you luck with your adventure. We chose Nekton because they offered snorkeling and very few live-aboards do. We also did the Aquacat.

We didn’t find the price too high, thought the food was great, liked the gear set-up and the dive platform, and the freedom to enter the water without a big group.

The trip from Fort Lauderdale was full and the Belize trip had 12 guests. Both were great trips with great crew and guests.

On our first trip “Mikey” was the newest crew member and took the snorkelers out. On our second trip he was captain.

We were preparing for our third trip when Nekton went out of business.

I know there are fees involved when using credit cards, but accepting them will offer your customers added security against loss.
 

Dr Dive

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I only made it through page 4, before I had to comment. Sorry if I repeat or miss a point made.
1. The Nektons are the best platform out there. I've seen other boats rolling in a flat calm harbor. These are stable boats.
2. Properly fitted, maintained and crewed, they are the best liveaboard experience going.
3. Southern Bahamas is an essential part of any successful itinerary offering menu. Pristine, off the beaten path and, did I mention pristine?
4. Specialty itineraries are a good idea. Photographers for So. Bahamas would be a winner.
5. Primary berthing is important, but people fly half way around the world to dive, so they'll get there if the experience is good enough. Consider charter flights from a US departure point.
6. Keep it simple and stick to the basics: Eat, sleep, dive.

I was on one of the last Mayaguana trips before the Rorqual pulled up chocks. It was frightening and disappointing. I was on the first fam trip for the Pilot in the So. Bahamas and was a solid fan from the start. Put one of these boats back in service, with the level of service that Nekton started with, with the level of safety and fit she started with, with So. Bahamas in the mix, I will be there as a regular customer. It can work, it's worth paying for and it has to be good. Don't skimp. Make it work. I'm in. =8^) }}
 

Dr Dive

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Gotta agree with you here. This is the best diving area I've seen. Shhh. Don't tell anyone.

Just my personal opinion, but I believe the itinerary that departed Great Exuma and did Rum Cay, San Salvador, Conception Island, and occasionally Long Island was by far the best itinerary they ever offered. It was do-able all year round, offered incredible diversity, great viz, schooling hammerheads (off San Sal), and a great atmosphere.

George Town, Great Exuma has grown up quite a bit since the last time Nekton operated out of there and has easier access and more amenities. Elizabeth Harbor also has a number of excellent "hurricane holes" to hide from approaching tropical storms. The most difficult thing about running in and out of Exuma is that the entrance to Elizabeth Harbor is very shallow and we had to time arrival and departure on the Pilot to correspond with the tides.
 

Dr Dive

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This is one I didn't read before my original comment, but one I can comment on as an active charter captain.
My original trip with Nekton was a pre-DEMA fam trip. It had 6 customers, but went anyway. I run short trips at times, but have to cancel some trips if the numbers just don't work. We try to move the customers to other operators in those instances.
That being said, most of the destination operators I've researched recently state specifically that you get NO REFUND regardless of reason for cancelling. They offer no option for weather cancellations, making me think they go no matter what. Several point out that trips are booked months in advance with no recourse for rebooking. I think for a full time operation, it has to involve cost averaging across the year/season with no last minute operator cancellations. There are always spots needed for media/industry/community berths that benefit the operator in the long run and are cost write offs in the big financial picture. Since there are so many associated costs in travel, that are unrecoverable in the event of a change, the operator must provide some assurances.

One issue that I am interested in (and I must profess I do not know the "right" answer) is what the boat/boats should do if they do not have a fully booked charter.

For all the negative press John Dixon received (no doubt some of it was warranted), he had a longstanding policy of going on charter regardless of how many people were booked for a certain trip. I worked on the boat when we had four, five, six guests at a time. John's policy was that if people reserved the trip, paid a deposit, allocated vacation time, he was going to send the boat out, even if that particular trip was going to lose money. His belief was that if you cancelled a trip due to low occupancy you would have many angry divers who would probably never re-book. If you go out with a very small group these divers would return time and time again.

I have seen a number of threads on SB where customers were angry with different liveaboards because of cancelled trips due to low occupancy. My question is, does it make sense to go out on a charter that is going to definitely lose money? From a financial perspective it sounds like a very bad idea, but from a customer service perspective I certainly understood his reasoning.

Since we are dealing in the realm of the theoretical (boats coming back), what is your opinion?
 

tarponchik

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They offer no option for weather cancellations, making me think they go no matter what.
Unlikely...Don't know about liveaboards, but couple years ago I went out on a dive boat in NC. We checked 2 sites, and the currents were too strong in both. The dives were canceled, everyone on the boat got full refund. But they said this was only their 2nd case in 5 years, so probably not a big loss for them.

My theory is that the user-unfriendly refund policy reflects lack of competition for customers who would care about refund policy.
 

Niffer

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I went on 3 Nekton trips and loved each one of them. I selected Nekton due to the "no seasickness"...and it never failed me. I'd be thrilled if one of the boats started operating again. It was my last vacation in 2009 before deploying to the Middle East for a year. I was pretty disappointed when I returned from my deployment this summer to find out that I couldn't book another trip on my favorite liveaboard.
 

daniel1948

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... most of the destination operators I've researched recently state specifically that you get NO REFUND regardless of reason for cancelling. They offer no option for weather cancellations, making me think they go no matter what...
Some of the places I go regularly are in hurricane zones. They say, as you mention above, that there are no refunds for bad weather. They also say that because of this, you should purchase trip cancellation insurance.

Obviously, nobody is going to go out in a hurricane. By requiring clients to purchase trip insurance they are saving themselves the cost of buying weather insurance. Of course, you can save the cost of insurance and take your chances. But they will not go out if the weather is too severe, and they will not refund any money if that happens.

There's an exact parallel to this at the wilderness hiking lodges I visit in the mountains: Access to the lodge is by helicopter. If the helicopter is unable to fly due to bad weather, there are no refunds for the days lost. They recommend people buy trip insurance for this possibility. (They also do not charge you extra, nor will they be held liable for your expenses, if bad weather prevents the helicopter from taking you back out on your scheduled departure day.)
 
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