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Raja Ampat: Arenui vs. Damai II vs. Mermaid I

Discussion in 'Indonesia' started by SharksAreFriends, Jan 24, 2016.

  1. SharksAreFriends

    SharksAreFriends Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: New York, NY
    31
    12
    8
    After combing through dozens of reviews on Undercurrent, Scubaboard, and the far reaches of the interwebs, I've narrowed down my Raja Ampat liveaboard choices to these 3 fantastic vessels — Arenui, Damai II, and Mermaid I — all well loved by members of this board. According to the rave reviews, any of these boats will provide a great experience. The big question is, how well do each of them do on the little things?

    If you only had one chance to dive in Raja Ampat, which of these liveaboards would you choose? Is the extra $2K on Arenui/Damai II truly "worth it"? (Highly subjective of course, but I wanna know!)
    Prices include full board, diving, all fees, and Nitrox:
    • Arenui: ~$635/night
    • Damai II: ~$620/night
    • Mermaid I: ~$440/night
    1. Which boat has the best setup for gearing up, diving in, and getting back on the main boat?
    2. Which has the "best" bathrooms in its regular cabins (i.e. not the master cabin)? Arenui, Damai II, or Mermaid I?
      Which liveaboard has the most comfortable shower heads, sinks, and well thought out bathroom layout/design? This is as much a question about form as it is about function! Do the bathrooms smell clean? Does water spill into the room when you shower? Does the flush work properly? Is it easy to wash your face at the sink? Does the bathroom have hooks to hang stuff? How's the ventilation? Do the drains work well? How's the water pressure? :wink:
    3. Which liveaboard has the better sheets and towels? Arenui, Damai II, or Mermaid I?

    4. Which operation runs most seamlessly, efficiently, and at the highest level of hospitality? Where does Arenui, Damai II, and Mermaid I fall on this spectrum?
      1 = What hospitality?
      3 = "Island time" hospitality, where service is offered with a smile, but not necessarily through the most efficient way. Things may break and take awhile to get fixed. But it gets fixed with a smile.
      5 = Luxury hospitality offered at top-end properties like the Six Senses, Aman Resorts, Four Seasons, and Ritz Carlton. Guests' needs are anticipated, and problems are fixed before guests ever take notice.

    5. Which liveaboard feels the least crowded underwater?
    6. Which feels the least crowded on the sun deck?
    Thanks in advance for chiming in!

    Another great liveaboard to consider: Blue Manta, which offers a slightly shorter itinerary than the Arenui, Damai II, and Mermaid I, but received equally high marks from my unscientific and highly biased research.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2016
    wildbill9 likes this.
  2. billt4sf

    billt4sf Loggerhead Turtle

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Fayetteville GA, Wash DC, NY, Toronto, SF
    2,547
    1,121
    113
    I cannot compare since I've been on only one liveaboard trip in Indo -- the Mermaid 1. I can attest that it was well-run, with very comfortable cabins -- except for the budget cabin - and the staff treated us VERY well. I am thinking of going again with them and taking my wife this time.

    For my money you are right to ask about the gearing up and entering the tender and the water. For Mermaid 1 it was GREAT: Dive deck with all the gear always ready (I had some special requests and they did it well). Most people geared up on the deck, waled a few steps down, and onto the tender being helped by two staff.

    I geared up on the tender every time. I saw down on the edge (gunwale?) off te rigid inflatable, they brought my gear down, and I geared up with the Hogarthian rig on the RIB. Every time. Worked great.

    Dive briefings were excellent. Plenty of good food (4 meals/day).

    If you have further questions, please ask.

    - Bill
     
    hogge, SharksAreFriends and Moray like this.
  3. Wingy

    Wingy Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Perth West Aust.
    2,508
    1,762
    113
    I have done a few liveaboards, none on the boats you have mentioned but the questions you asked have me curious. Have you ever done a LOB before? - your question regarding how easy is it to wash your face at the bathroom sink would at times depend on the sea...a bit of rock and roll on any boat means you have to find a way to steady yourself. You cant hold a LOB operator responsible for some things. On any boat from the cheapest LOB to Dewi Nusatara Damaii price range and then the boutique ops who have prices that make those boats look like weekly specials you may at times get water sloshing around the bathroom floor. It is not a foreseeable problem in many cases if the toilet backs up..its a boat. A boat toilet works differently than a hotel toilet. If it backs up once during your trip it may be the fault of guests in other cabins who put things that shouldn't go into the heads in there and flush expecting the system to handle it.
    Your Question 4 - it is the aim of all LOBs to function on extremely tight schedules right down to the minutes between your last dive and the meal service. Perhaps if you do the same LOB a couple of times they may anticipate what you want and fix it for you ahead of time - but they are a boat not a luxury hotel.
    Island time really isnt possible when you have to get in the advertised number of dives plus get your passengers back to meet flights. Fixing things on island time with a smile isnt possible either to keep a charter running on schedule. No operator is going to say relax, we will fix your air conditioning some time and smile and get around to it in their own sweet time. Most urgent maintenance jobs done on LOBs are done there and then or while you are diving - if your towel hanger hook breaks it will be fixed while you are at lunch or diving IF it is possible to fix. Some things even minor take a little more time and a boat cannot be expected to head to sea with a replacement everything in case of anything.
    Trying to compare boat hospitality levels with hotels has me scratching my head sorry. Yes they are upper market boats that you are trying to choose from but I find it difficult to reconcile the ''hospitality/service'' at hotels with boats. The St Regis Bora Bora took 6 hours to fix a drain in my ensuite...I appreciate that day was 'unusually busy' due to cruise shippers overnighting and a cultural event where many staff were required to attend. Will that put me off staying at a St Regis property again...no.
    I guess what i'm trying to get at is you have picked three awesome boats - some have their loyal followers who will state that their has never been a problem with X boat - not while they were on there or not that they have seen or heard about - which is great, but that does not mean those boats have never experienced a backed up toilet or towel hook coming off the bathroom door. Enjoy whichever one you choose - they have all been in business long enough to get great reviews but not every trip will go perfectly smoothly for every boat for ever.
    If something does go a little off schedule or off your expectations, rest assured your crew will be doing everything they can to fix it within their power...but...you are on a boat!.
     
    SharksAreFriends likes this.
  4. weeksd

    weeksd Barracuda

    274
    33
    28
    I have done 7 trips on mermaid liveaboards and will do more. Excellent vessels. Sundeck never crowded. They dive as 3 or 4 groups for the 15 customers on mermaid 1. Its not the ritz carlton but it is very nice. I would rate the upper deck rooms 4 star out of 5. I have done the white manta in thailand and the blue manta is even more luxurious than the white manta and the white manta is also 4 out of 5 stars. Food on mermaid and white manta is good but not gourmet style. Both mermaid and white manta the schedule for diving is run on time.
     
    SharksAreFriends, Zippsy and billt4sf like this.
  5. SharksAreFriends

    SharksAreFriends Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: New York, NY
    31
    12
    8
    Great points, Wingy! To answer some of your questions...

    Never! Hence this annoying post :)

    Totally understand that boats rock! :) What I was trying to get at is: how much thought did the boat owners dedicate to designing the boat bathroom? Some of the most luxurious hotels have the worst sinks that have faucets at an odd angle that makes face washing impossible and you can barely fit both your hands under the faucet; they may look pretty, but they're not practical. Is the bathroom just pretty in the marketing brochures? Or is it actually functional? Did the designer install a grab bar that makes steadying yourself easy on a moving boat?

    This is precisely why I wrote this post. I'm trying to figure out what are the differentiating features that make the Damai/Arenui charge more than the Mermaid. Do the luxury boats charge more for their carefully crafted "boutique" brand image and marketing dollars spent advertising in glossy magazines? Or do their high prices truly reflect a higher quality product? If the latter, what are the little things that make the Damai/Arenui worth $200 more per night? Is it the higher quality sheets, towels, and silverware? The food? The charm? Something else? I'm seduced by the luxury boats' charm (they're just so pretty!), but not sure if the splurge is truly warranted, or just the interior design talking.

    I'm in marketing, so please bear with my over-analysis of this. There are "luxury" products that don't cost much to make, yet charge highly inflated prices to subsidize the luxury image created through marketing campaigns, or to subsidize other higher operating costs. Then there are high-quality products that charge the same price as that "luxury" product, but truly warrant that high price because they're made with superior materials and craftsmanship.

    My goal as a traveler is to weed out those faux-luxury products that charge inflated prices simply for the branding (or high operating costs). I don't mind paying for the branding if the quality is there. But the quality better be amazing.

    Usually, I'm pretty good at deciding this for myself when choosing hotel rooms (by reading hundreds of Tripadvisor reviews and looking through real traveler photos). But liveaboard research is hard because there's no Tripadvisor for liveaboards, and Undercurrent doesn't have nearly enough reviews to paint a full picture. I've looked at every single YouTube video and real traveler photo I can find so far, and am still undecided...
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2016
    frontiernurse and Wingy like this.
  6. SharksAreFriends

    SharksAreFriends Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: New York, NY
    31
    12
    8
    If anyone has real pictures of the bathrooms of any of these liveaboards, please post them here. (Not ones that can be found on Google!) IMHO, that usually is the best indicator of how lux an operation truly is, for land-based hotels anyway... maybe that doesn't work for liveaboards... or maybe it does. Enlighten me!
     
  7. Cali_diver

    Cali_diver ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: California
    968
    510
    93
    Well I can't tell you about the Mermaid, but I can tell you about the Damai II, I and the Arenui. The Damai boats have better dive decks (with private stations and rinse tanks), camera rooms (Arenui does not have a dedicated camera room so they are in the salon where you eat lunch and breakfast) and food (I prefer a la carte).

    The Bathrooms on the boats are fantastic in comparison to most boats. I think Damai boats probably have a bit bigger showers and bathrooms (they have 360 views of bathrooms on website). I think sinks are very comparable. Water pressure is great on the Damai boats. Both have real flush toilets not marine toilets. Just checked the Mermaid website and they have a picture of the bathroom too.

    The Arenui rooms are maybe a bit nicer (but not bigger) since they have more on main deck. Food on the Damai is a la carte, the Arenui is a'la carte for breakfast and dinner but buffet for lunch. Both boats are on the ball when it comes to hospitality, "5".

    Neither feel crowded underwater (groups 4-1 ratio) Although we had a small group on the Arenui so not sure I can compare properly. The difference may be that the Damai switches Guides every day where the Arenui gives the the same guide for the whole trip. You never have to carry your gear on either boat and they help you with your BC on the tender.

    The sun deck or (shade deck) on the Arenui is fantastic but can get crowded. The Damai boats never feel crowded on the sun/shade deck.
     
  8. Wingy

    Wingy Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Perth West Aust.
    2,508
    1,762
    113
    Sorry I should have clarified, no matter what the toilet looks like in your cabin - and every LOB ive been on has flush toilets..its still a marine toilet with holding tanks etc...otherwise er you would be leaving a lot of ''particle pollutants'' in the water which is not the done thing. SAF now i get your mindset :wink: good research also have a look at divetheworld for some other LOB reviews. There is one other thing that does set some LOBs apart - Prestige Factor. Thats a big issue for some people. http://liveaboards.dive-the-world.com/liveaboards-indonesia.php - some more research for you :)
     
  9. Mike_Kiev

    Mike_Kiev Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Kyiv, Ukraine
    82
    6
    8
    I made trips on Mermaid I and Mermaid II. They have great service, dive stuff is excellent. If your dive guide will be Dolphin - you will see "everything + more" underwater, and all dive guides are good.
    About bathroom - there is shower space and toilet. But it is o.k. space to do everything you need here))). Choose Deluxe Cabin, not Budget!
    Just not forget to ask about amount of Raja fees on Mermaid and add them to the cost of the trip)
    I think they are good for their money.
     
    Cali_diver likes this.
  10. scorpiofish

    scorpiofish Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Dallas
    400
    68
    28
    If you only had one chance to dive in Raja Ampat, which of these liveaboards would you choose? Is the extra $2K on Arenui/Damai II truly "worth it"? (Highly subjective of course, but I wanna know!)
    • Arenui: ~$635/night
    • Damai II: ~$620/night
    • Mermaid I: ~$440/night
    Damai II. The extra is worth it, but that's just me. My answers don't include Mermaid because I've never been on it.
    1. Which boat has the best setup for gearing up, diving in, and getting back on the main boat?
    Damai II. The Arenui is a little quirky. There are four groups, but you don't all go at once. One tender has to come back for the last group. I had no problem with it. It bothered some people. You have to walk through the salon to get to the gangway to get on the tender. This was a design flaw, but again, it didn't bother me. Some poor crew member has to keep drying the salon floor.
    1. Which has the "best" bathrooms in its regular cabins (i.e. not the master cabin)? Arenui, Damai II, or Mermaid I?
      Which liveaboard has the most comfortable shower heads, sinks, and well thought out bathroom layout/design? This is as much a question about form as it is about function! Do the bathrooms smell clean? Does water spill into the room when you shower? Does the flush work properly? Is it easy to wash your face at the sink? Does the bathroom have hooks to hang stuff? How's the ventilation? Do the drains work well? How's the water pressure? :wink:
    All will be fine. Arenui does not allow toilet paper down the drain. If you spend much time in Mexico, you are used to it.

    Which liveaboard has the better sheets and towels? Arenui, Damai II, or Mermaid I

    I doubt you would ever notice a difference.

    Which operation runs most seamlessly, efficiently, and at the highest level of hospitality? Where does Arenui, Damai II, and Mermaid I fall on this spectrum?

    1. 1 = What hospitality?
      3 = "Island time" hospitality, where service is offered with a smile, but not necessarily through the most efficient way. Things may break and take awhile to get fixed. But it gets fixed with a smile.
      5 = Luxury hospitality offered at top-end properties like the Six Senses, Aman Resorts, Four Seasons, and Ritz Carlton. Guests' needs are anticipated, and problems are fixed before guests ever take notice.
    Regardless of the luxury level of any of the LOB we have been on in Indonesia, the hospitality of the crew has always been stellar. If the boat has good reviews, they have them for a reason.
    1. Which liveaboard feels the least crowded underwater?
    Damai will carry fewer divers, but not by much. I doubt you feel crowded on any of them. Mermaid has a max of 15, Damai converted rooms and could take as many as 14 if the trip leader room is taken. Arenui has room for 16. The Dewi is 18 and the Blue Manta is 22.
    1. Which feels the least crowded on the sun deck?
    Both the Damai and Arenui have plenty of deck space, slight edge to Arenui.

    Thanks in advance for chiming in!

    Another great liveaboard to consider: Blue Manta, which offers a slightly shorter itinerary than the Arenui, Damai II, and Mermaid I, but received equally high marks from my unscientific and highly biased research.
     
    frontiernurse and Cali_diver like this.

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