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STRAIGHT-AHEAD ANSWERS to CLIENTS' F.A.Qs.
( We field these inquiries hundreds of times each season,
so we decided to provide a clearinghouse for the most challenging
FAQs. This text will be of special benefit to our first-time clients. )
When tackling the issue of malaria prevention, it's tempting to adopt a Gung-Ho Mode: "Damn the Mosquitos, Full Speed Ahead!" Some folks go diving in malaria-prone countries & say to nuts to the risks. Others choose to tinker with medicines that are marginally safe, or cause disturbing sysmptoms, or are not yet FDA-approved. We recommend a more prudent course of action.
Some malaria drugs may sometimes trigger serious side effects that are unacceptable for safe scuba diving. But you now have some excellent choices before you. Just study the issue & have your personal physician guide your decisions in a carefully planned manner, to ensure your health is protected. Your goal is simple: shield yourself completely against malaria infection, but in a way that avoids negative chemical interactions with scuba-tank nitrogen dissolved in your sensitive body tissues, especially the nervous system.
Big news in the war on malaria. There are a couple promising new medicines in the works. But first some essential background. Malaria prophylaxis (prevention) is an issue that has vexed scuba divers for decades. Nobody wants to get malaria, but sometimes the effects of these ham-fisted medicines can seem worse than the disease. So what's a smart diver to do? Most experienced international scuba divers are rightly concerned about malaria when vacationing in the Solomon Islands, or Papua New Guinea, or East Africa. Like taxes & Bill Clinton's libido, malaria lasts forever, creating a chronic condition that weakens some victims for a lifetime, even when supposedly cured. To date most of the serious medicines have offered good protection against this bug, but some disturbing side effects, too. A couple meds are A-OK most of the time.
In most of Central America & South America, we have been using a simple medicine called "Chloroquin" for many years, as have our guides. We have found that Chloroquin in most cases, with most people in good health, causes virtually no ill effects while scuba diving. We try to limit our use of Chloroquin to less than 3 weeks at a time. And we always get a physician's Rx for this medicine first. The recommended dose is normally one tablet per week for 1 week before going overseas, then one tab a week while you are away, then one tab a week for 6-7 weeks after you return, just to be safe.
Strains of malaria that reside in the Americas are still fairly low-key compared to Indo-Pacific & African strains. However, Chloroquin works about as well in Indonesia or Papua New Guinea as a slingshot replling a bullet train. You need serious meds to keep safe from malaria in these more exotic island locales. The medicines most commonly prescribed by doctors, many of whom know little about scuba diving, are "Mefloquin" & "Doxycycline." Mefloquin is awful, folks, very risky for scuba divers & we do not recommend it ever. Doxycycline is OK if taken properly, under your doctor's formal Rx.
Mefloquin in some people can produce bizarre psychological sysmptoms from unpleasant dreams to perceptual problems & even semi-psychotic episodes. Mefloquin sometimes mimics decompression sickness symptoms in scuba divers who are saturated with nitrogen. In short, Mefloquin + soft-tissue nitrogen absorption = bad news for many scuba divers. We never touch the stuff any more, nor do any of our guides. We recommend you steer clear of Mefloquin, unless your personal physician has approved your use & you have tested it carefully under controlled settings for interaction with compressed air in your system.
Sustained repeated doses of Doxycycline -- though they commonly cause high sun sensitivity -- are the preferred means of malaria prevention in those Pacific & Indian Ocean sectors where Chloroquin is ineffective.
Now onward to the New Chemical Kid in Town. "Malarone" is a promising new drug made by GlaxoWellcome Company. GlaxoWellcome can be reached at 1-800-334-0089. Malarone was recently FDA approved. This means that Malarone is now officially available in the USA, sources in the medical field confirm. This is not a pharmaceutical company commercial, but an attempt to help divers with a tough choice. We are excited to hear anectdotally that Malarone may be a safer replacement for scuba divers than that ol' malaria marauder (generically) called Mefloquin.
More good news is that Malarone also is available in some other countries in the South Pacific & Indo-Pacific, such as Australia. Call the 1-800 phone number to find which country has this medicine. Make sure you do so with approval of your personal physician, in case there may be some rare allergies or drug interaction problems associated with your own unique biochemical response to this medicine. Make sure your doctor checks these medicines out very carefully for possible interactions & side effects.
Malarone is a blend of two drugs: Atovaquone 250mg & Proguanil Hydrochloride 100mg. Malarone is approved in Australia for the treatment (not prevention) of malaria. The treatment involves 4 tablets daily for 4 days. Some early research suggests that 1 (one) tablet daily taken 2 days prior to possible exposure, continued daily during possible exposure, & continued 7 seven full days afterward will prevent contraction of malaria. This supposedly will prevent malarial infection. But that's a big "if."
No long-term research has proven this yet. Nor are all the data in yet as to what possible side effects might occur from use of Malarone. Therefore be sure to always act wisely, under the care & consultation of a reputable & informed physician with experience using this medicine. We want to emphasize that this article is informational only & not an endorsement of Malarone. Always use common sense when mixing potent medicines with the normal soft-tissue-nitrogen saturation that occurs after multi-day, multi-level scuba diving. Scuba vacations are no fun when you're wallowing in a recompression chamber, eh?!
Currently, the Navy Medical Research Unit-2 in Irian Jaya headed by Capt Jim Burans is doing research on Malarone for prophylactics, one of our clients has reported to us. He is a veterinarian with a strong scientific background, who researched this issue for us & reported back in writing.
How to get Malarone: first call GlaxoWellcome to find what countries have it. Next call DAN, or Diver's Alert Network. If you have annoying sensitivity to high doses of Doxycycline & do not wish to dive with the possibly quasi-psycho side effects of Larium or Mefloquine in your system, tell them so. DAN can sometimes call ahead for you & make an appointment with an MD in some countries such as Australia.
Now the fun part, Malarone is only approved for treatment not prophylactic use. You may have to convince the overseas doctor to prescribe the drug for "off-label use". The cost will be about $9 - $12 a pill.
Other anti malarial drugs: Some travelers feel that the real chemo-cats pajamas these days are the "Artemisine" compounds made in China. Most US drug companies stopped working on Artemisine because they saw neurological deficits in lab rats. That did not bother the Chinese, however, who proceeded to develop this chemical, which is now on its second or third-generation formula. Artemisine reportedly can sweep away malaria both as a prophylactic & as a curative drug, we have been told. Again, such new drugs are risky & be sure your personal physician is overseeing anything you take. No dive trips are worth harming your health. No scuba vacations are worth injury or worse. Fun & safety are the bottom lines here, not "dive dive at any cost, baby!"
Artemisine now is widely throughout Asia because it is very cheap &
most effective, but many worry that it is being abused in a way that will
lead to microbial resistance in short order, just as happened with chloroquin
in Africa & the Indo-Pacific. Artemisine is available in Papua
New Guinea, by the way; & PNG is one hotbed of malaria, up in the hills
WHAT ABOUT SPECIAL PACKAGES for SNORKELERS?
Yes we do offer them, with pleasure. In fact, about a third of
all our clients worldwide are non-divers. The best snorkeling
packages are found on one special dedicated webpage on our newly revised
BEST SNORKELING VACATIONS WORLDWIDE:
BEST SNORKELING VACATIONS WORLDWIDE:
MAY a NON-DIVER ACCOMPANY a SCUBA DIVER on any of the DIVE
PACKAGES YOU OFFER; either a LIVE-ABOARD or a DIVE RESORT?
WE HAVE HEARD ABOUT YOUR POLICY of CAUTIOUS T.L.C.
WHEN IT COMES to DIVER SAFETY & TRAVEL PLANNING.
SO WHAT IS YOUR BEST ADVICE for TRAVELERS
in this BUSY NEW MILLENNIUM YEAR ?
U.S. DIVE TRAVEL: Top Ten Tips for Diver Safety & Travel Security --
1. Please make sure all travelers, including all children, have current passports with at least 6 months validity still left on them, depending on the country you wish to visit. No worries about local entry visas, since in most countries they are automatic for 30 days for incoming US tourists. But check the visa rules to be sure.
2. Be aware for any kids under age 21, if BOTH of their biological parents are not present as their trip escorts, then federal law requires the guardians to have notarized permission letters from BOTH biological parents before the kids will be allowed to board the international flight. The FAA has forced airport security & airline officials to be strict about this proviso in recent years. This is because of the disturbing trend of some angry parents "kid-napping" their own children during hotly contested divorces. So please make sure that all traveling kids carry a notarized permission slip from EACH of their biological & adoptive parents for this trip. This is super important!
3. Please make sure your team members each consult a travel medicine doctor before taking off. We recommend that you folks ask your MDs about anti-malarial med's ie' chloroquin, which is normally ideal for Belize, Honduras or Costa Rica, for example. Doxycycline works well for most people in riskier areas such as Indonesia, Papua New Guinea or Africa. This is a pretty mellow medicine for most people, but a doctor should clear everybody before you take this. Nobody should ever ride on another person's Rx. A few people have sensitivity to chloroquin or doxycycline when diving, but check with your doctor; it's normally pretty benign. Doxy will cause sun sensitivity with most people, so be aware of that. We recommend you stay away from mefloquin (Larium) because it can produce very eerie & disturbing side effects for some scuba divers, & it mimics decompression sickness symptoms sometimes. It's also good to have all travelers immunized against tetanus & Hepatitis A, two very common problems in lesser-developed maritime countries.
4. Please make sure that those divers, who have not been on scuba for six months prior to their vacation, take a safety refresher course from a local divemaster, so they will have their skills for mask clearing + buoyancy control + buddy breathing + emergency safe ascent + hand signals + underwater navigation well practiced before they travel. This is quite important, we feel.
5. If any scuba divers or snorkelers have a serious food allergy, or a medical problem that might affect their safety on scuba, please alert us right away, so we can mail you the traditional PADI safety checklist forms, to take to their doctor, for a diving wellness checkup. The following problems are serious medical conditions that might preclude a diver from recreational scuba diving or strenuous snorkeling on this vacation:
7. Please ensure that all clients carry adequate health insurance that covers overseas medical problems. Also, it's good to get PADI Diver Accident Insurance, which protects you against whopping bills generated by a recompression chamber treatment (God forbid) + costly air evacuations, in the unlikely event of a serious case of the Bends.
8. This probably goes without saying, but make sure folks know that it is dreadfully unwise to monkey around with marijuana or narcotics while on these overseas trips. Some countries like Belize & Singapore deal VERY harshly with drug-user suspects, & the "Midnight Express" nightmare can result (if you saw that gripping movie). If anybody needs to bring along a prescription medication that might be considered a narcotic, it's really wise to keep two signed copies of a formal Rx from your doctor on hand -- one with the meds & another with your personal papers.
9. Please make sure everybody xeroxes their passport pages & keeps a spare copy in their luggage, somewhere safely. Lost passports create utter nightmares of bureaucracy with both foreign & US customs immigration officials.
10. Especially with all the variables in modern foreign travel, please make sure all dive travelers purchase travel cancellation insurance, on their own, to protect their vacation investment from losses such as these following emergencies:
YOU STRONGLY RECOMMEND that EVERY CLIENT GET TRAVEL
CANCELLATION INSURANCE. DO YOU OFFER any SPECIAL DEALS for this INSURANCE?
Sorry amigos. This may seem like an anomaly. Here we're urging you to buy travel insurance yet we will not sell it to you. U.S. Dive Travel recommends unequivocally that ALL clients ALL seasons should secure travel cancellation insurance as soon as you pay your first deposit. We want to emphasize that we never sell this insurance. Never have in our company's history. For ethical reasons we avoid selling travel insurance, because we feel it's a clear conflict of interest for travel professionals to instill anxiety in clients about the very product we are promoting, then make extra commission shilling some side product to assuage that very anxiety. Seems a little too close to snake-oil marketing, for our comfort. However, since scores of clients are asking about this kind of insurance protection each month, we think it's best to emphasize this point. Please DO get travel insurance that adequately covers your gear & luggage for loss or theft, your air tickets, your lodging & side tours, & your dive vessel costs. We receive zero commissions for sharing this information, but feel free to browse a special webpage we have established just to help our clients shop in a relaxed no-pressure manner for their own insurance:
WHAT ABOUT RENTING MY SCUBA DIVING GEAR OVERSEAS?
IT SEEMS LIKE a HASSLE to TOTE all my GEAR on a VACATION.
Some of the best rewards in life involve a little extra effort now & then: raising kids, keeping a marriage electric, staying safe on a wilderness trip. And staying safe while scuba diving in a foreign country. In short, we never advise that you cut corners on a dive trip for expediency only. It's never a wise idea to puff on another person's regulator. Hey, you never know where it's been! All kidding aside, our regulator & BC are major lifelines, the most life-intensive pieces of gear we are likely ever to use.
Why would you want to rent some piece of scuba diving gear that dozens of other divers have been chewing already, that may not have been refurbished properly before your rental, that may carry hidden defects, that may be less than sanitary? It's your choice, amigo, But renting BCs & regulators, in a worst-case scenario, can be like playing Russian roulette with a gattling gun. You'll probably get away with it most of the time, but there's that one rogue slug lurking back in there just waiting to cause trouble.
Simple fact: in more than 70% of the resorts we have examined overseas, the moderate quality regulators & BCs available for rental are barely worth the garbage truck gas to haul them away. They are poorly maintained, often unstable or worn out; & frequently unfit for public use. Furthermore, rental dive gear overseas is often much more expensive than simply renting it in your home town, from a trusted dive shop pro you can talk to, in person.
That technician will bench test your reg & BC right there before
you walk out of the dive shop. Why entrust your life to chance & circumstance,
just to spare yourself a little shoulder fatigue on the B-Concourse?
We at USDT will never facilitate your rental of dive gear, however.
You are on your own for that. But if you want to buy something at
your local dive shop, & need a second opinion, feel free to call us
any time. We'd love to help you out; & you can have all the time
you need. Your safety on all dive trips IS the bottom line around here. Nothing
is more important to the dive vacation pros here at USDT. Nothing.
CAN YOU ACCEPT a BOOKING for FEWER than 5 NIGHTS ?
In short, no (with a few exceptions). During most
peak seasons we are too busy with our repeat clients &
new groups to handle bookings of fewer than 5 nights. We are a wholesaler
of dive vacations, not a retail travel agency, so we specialize in full
air + land packages for 5 or more nights. If you are a group, we
can make exceptions, of course, to this 5-night rule. Or if you choose
a special property, the logistics of which will work out OK for us all. Thank
you anyway for your interest, friends. We truly wish you well, but because
our dive package business has grown so dramatically in recent years, we no longer have
the staffing capacity to handle wholesale-priced bookings of fewer than
5 nights. At the wholesale prices as low as our packages are, &
with the recent airline slashing of ticket commissions, that means bookings
less than 5 nights create a dive package that basically is no longer cost-efficient
for us. Thank you for asking. Our main hope is always to help & to make you happy.
MAY I JUST BOOK a COUPLE DAYS of DIVING with YOU,
SINCE I ALREADY HAVE MY OWN TIME-SHARE CONDO
& FREQUENT FLIER AIR TICKETS?
No, we are sorry to say. Please forgive the frisky
metaphor here. Let's say you drop into your neighborhood diner &
you want the Blue Plate Special. That means you get meat & potatoes plus veggies
with dessert, & you pay for it right there. You are not likely
to wander in & ask the manager to sell you just one plastic spoon to
handle the salad you brown-bagged in from the corner deli. See what we mean?
Metaphors aside, it's tough to pay the help by selling
one sliver of a dive package, when that takes nearly the same labor time for us
as it would to create the full package for you -- air tickets + lodging + diving. We sell scuba vacation
packages & snorkeling packages -- the best combos in the industry, we feel. That's what we
do; we sell dive packages, not dive ribbons. Go for the full boat, folks, you'll be delighted that
you did ! Again thank you for your understanding. Blessings to you all.
OK, so WHAT ABOUT THAT 5% CREDIT CARD FEE?
Ah yes, the fee. These 5% fees are only for folks who decide to pay with a credit
card, Visa or Mastercard, instead of the preferred method -- cashier's check or wire transfer.
That's because the pushiest people in America, sadly, are the big national
bankers, whose combined surcharges on simple travel bookings can reach
high levels, including the side fees & administrative costs we incur.
In Minnesota, where our new partnership headquarters is located, not only
is there an interchange rate charged by the plastic companies, but the
bank's (misnomer) discount fee as well + an additional surcharge levied by the third-party
brokers who regulate all credit-card transactions, by authority of the
banks here. These stiff fees have to be made up somewhere.
Thus the service charge has become essential in the dive tour industry. Uncle Sam gets his
fair share each quarter, that's fine, but we cannot let Uncle Visa take the rest.
I AM A SCUBA NEWBIE, CAN I GET CERTIFIED on your DIVE TRIPS?
This is an important topic that we try to be careful about, for the sake of our client's safety & comfort. In general, we recommend that you never get your primary dive certification overseas while on a vacation; rather that you get your first diver card here in the States or Canada, with a full-fledged course. This is because a couple of things might get messed up at over-crowded, overly stressed-out Third World dive shops, our years of experience have shown:
1. Sometimes the dive operation looks good on paper, but when you get to a Third World country, their actual gear quality & safety standards may be sub-par. In some countries with a greater high-tech standard such as the Caymans, the Bahamas, the ABCs, you still can find excellent first-time instruction.
2. Many Caribbean, Latin American & Indo-Pacific dive shops we've seen do not match the kind of impeccable PADI or NAUI safety & cleanliness standards of the hometown dive shops here in the US, Canada & Europe. These overseas shops generally are geared to serve already experienced divers, not fresh novices. They may do a decent job with experienced divers in fact. But they are not set up to favor the raw novice, the totally uncertified diver.
3. It's best to take your time, do the PADI or NAUI course slowly & carefully, do it right, so the lessons really stick to the ribs -- for a full career of safe, fun scuba diving. Best not to shoot yourselves out of a circus cannon & cram the whole 3-week course into 3 or 4 days at a resort, because you may incur these hassles:
a. Pay more than the price you would have paid stateside.
b. Get divemasters & instructors who may be half-exhausted from their normal daily rounds of client dive tours, & therefore you may not get them at the top of their game. That means they may not be able to give you the most satisfactory lessons. Please remember these are lessons you need to keep under your hat for a lifetime of safe diving. Scuba diving is a serious endeavor, with some health risks. These risks are easily managed & kept minimal if you get your "data baseline down" correctly the first time you go underwater. First impressions REALLY count in scuba diving.
c. You will feel stressed & pushed a bit, because you'll be wanting to relax on the beach, or go shopping, or maybe even go DIVING off a boat, but you'll have to sink down into 3-4 good solid days of instruction to get the job done right. Meanwhile the tropical sun is blazing away while you're inside cramming over diving textbooks. Yahoo. How much fun can you have & still keep your heels on the ground?
OK, that's our little soapbox spiel, conveyed with the utmost concern for your safety & happiness as a client overseas. Thank you for your patience & goodwill here. That said, the best place to get certified is your own home town. Barring that, try the Hawaiian Islands of Oahu, Kauai, Maui or the Big Island, where we know firsthand that the scuba diving instructors adhere to an extremely high standards of safety & thoroughness. The best dive instructors we know in Hawaii, after more than 23 island visits since 1990, are working at these companies :
1. ECO-ADVENTURES DIVING in Kailua-Kona, the Big Island.
2. BUBBLES BELOW of Kauai island (Kenny & Linda Bail).
3. LAHAINA DIVERS of Lahaina Village, Maui.
4. WINDWARD DIVE CENTER in Kailua Village, Oahu (Sean & Heather McGill).
Call us & we can set you up with one of these shops, if you need to get a C card on the first of your scuba vacations.
WHAT if I JUST CALL YOU for ADVICE then I LATER BOOK with
the DIVE RESORT DIRECTLY? ISN'T THAT A BETTER DEAL for ME?
No, you will not get a better deal, because we charge the same price as the resorts & vessels do to random walk-in clients. But we also provide the extra service to you as consultants who are here 12+ hours a day when you need us. Sometimes just 20 minutes on the phone with a seasoned travel pro can save you hundreds of dollars, & untold stress, by sidestepping cut-rate packages sold by non-diver agencies with no knowledge of the host country. The more you know about your destination before you go, the safer & more serene the trip will be. That's axiomatic. And that's what we do for you -- for a living. We connect you first with the facts, straight-up & no chasers. Then we connect you with the lowest prices for air & lodging & diving. Then we connect you with the most reliable overseas operations. We are consultants, veterans in overseas adventure travel, professionals & our time matters, just as yours does. Generally speaking in the travel business this is standard etiquette -- when you contact a vacation property directly, before you contact that property's own contract representative here in the U.S. -- you cut your agent out of the booking loop. This usually means the property may not wish to pay commission to the travel agent. That property then in some cases may be less than pleased if we try to book the trip for you, by asserting our belief that commissions are due. The property managers, be they live-aboard or dive resort, in fairness to them we add -- would naturally be less than excited about paying commission if they believe they have secured your booking with THEIR hard work -- not ours.   Here's the rub. We value our warm & friendly relationships with property owners, whether dive resorts or dive vessels; & as wholesalers those friendships are our life's work. These friendships are cultivated by year after year of building trust in increments with good actions, with good faith, with keeping one's word.
There's an old West Texas saying, crude but candid, based on a spring prom metaphor: "Ya dance with the one what brung ya." In a sense, it is best that you make a decision then live with it, instead of fervently fussing over how to save a few extra dollars. We feel it is best you stick with your dive travel agent from the get-go, or else buckle down & do the work yourself. It is your own decision & we bless your freedom to do as you please. But please do not mix & match. There's too much room for possible misunderstandings. If you are working with any other travel professionals now, or have established a relationship with any dive resorts, please be frank & let us know right away. We will respectfully bow out immediately. We are far too busy to joust with our fellow travel pros. What's more, we value our good friendships with the property managers of these dive resorts. We do not want to be party to a discussion that causes anybody to feel blue here -- not the managers, not you, not us. The business of dive tours is supposed to be fun, not like pulling teeth.
I AM A TRAVEL PRO, but I WORK PART-TIME as an OUTSIDE AGENT for a LARGER FIRM. I LEASE THEIR IATA NUMBER. MAY I BOOK TRIPS with YOU & STILL GET COMMISSIONS?
By all means yes. We are blessed to received groups & couples from scores of outside agents around the world, season after season. We welcome your bookings, always. But we have some rules established, to keep order in an industry peppered by people pretending to be travel pros. Here are the rules we have established, which are uniformly applied to all clients, all seasons, without fear or favor.
PLEASE COMPLETE THIS TRAVEL AGENCY INFO FORM & MAIL
the HARDCOPY REPLY to U.S. DIVE TRAVEL as SOON as
POSSIBLE for OUR PROFESSIONAL REFERRAL DATABASE.
Thank you very much for your goodwill & cooperation.
Before U.S. Dive Travel can authorize a commission to any travel agency, we respectfully request that the following documentation be mailed to us by air mail, please:
* Fill in client's complete bio-data sheet. (We will e-mail this to you.)
* Fill in agency data sheet, here below.
Your commissions flow once the paperwork is finished, & verified. If you are an IATA- certified travel pro, whether outside agent or full-time staffer, you receive standard industry commissions. If you are bona fide travel organizer, through a dive shop, you receive the same (or close to the same) commissions after a track record has been established. If you are not a bona fide travel professional, sorry amigos, there will be no commissions forthcoming, only tour leader comps.
IMPORTANT NOTE to ALL TRAVEL PROS:
Be advised that we can approve commissions to you only after you have hardcopy mailed to us – air-mailed original documents please -- a copy of your company's brochure, fact sheet, photocopies of current newspaper or magazine advertising & business cards of the owner & agents. Do not fax these materials please.
The reason for this is simple, amigos. While we have every reason to hope you are legitimate travel center, in this age of faxes & computer graphics, some people find it cute to pretend they are travel professionals, while working in a mid-town apartment with a contrived logo atop their personal stationary. In this way they attempt to manipulate careless travel wholesalers to pay them a commission & thereby subsidize their personal travel with unearned discounts. We run into this mini-scam frequently here in the United States, & among young European clients, in the era when everybody & their uncle has a fast personal computer. It's a sad thing to have to worry about such nonsense, but that's the world we live in. We need to be fair to the legitimate travel pros who work hard for us, as our sub-contractors, month after month.
TRAVEL PROS: HERE IS WHAT WE ASK that YOU MAIL US PLEASE
THIS INFORMATION WILL BE HELD in STRICTEST CONFIDENCE,
WE ASSURE YOU. ONLY the SENIOR PARTNERS HAVE ACCESS
& WE HAVE A FIRM POLICY of NEVER RELEASING ANY PRIVATE
DATA on any AGENCIES, FOR ANY REASON.
WHAT ABOUT those STANDARD SERVICE FEES
CHARGED by U.S. DIVE TRAVEL of ALL TRAVELERS?
At U.S. DIVE TRAVEL our senior partners have collectively more than 150 real-time years of overseas expedition & travel experience. We are not a retail travel agency; rather we are a dive travel wholesaler, a specialty operator of custom tours, a travel broker & dive vacation consulting company. We differ from a conventional retail travel agency as widely as a board-certified attorney differs from a legal assistant, or a heart surgeon differs from a surgical nurse. We offer a host of services simply not available in one combined service-portfolio from ANY of our competitors in North America:
1. Extremely low airfares to all Central American countries, to Hawaii, to Mexico, to Fiji & Australia, & airfares to Micronesia sometimes $200 - $300 per person below the lowest retail mark.
2. We are among few adventure travel companies left in North America with the actual hands-on expedition experience to hone a custom land tour that melds high-rev adventure sports, ie. alpine climbing, trekking, mountain biking & jungle photo safaris. We have a professional expedition leader -- with 30 years of guiding experience around the world -- available for consulting over the phone, 12 hours a day, 5 days a week.
3. We are considered among North America's leading experts in Hawaii resort diving & shore diving, for all 7 of the main Neighbor Islands. U.S. Dive Travel was recognized with a cover story in Dive Travel magazine a couple years ago. Our founders have made more than 14 trips from the Seattle office to Hawaiian islands since 1990, with more than 23 separate island visits & dive tours.
4. We also are the only wholesaler of dive travel extant that helps clients secure better & safer dive gear, & cheaper travel insurance, yet we accept zero commissions for the side services, which take time. Staffers get paid for their time, they run up overhead. These services cost us to produce & that's where…..
NOW the BOTTOM LINE --
We average about 2-3 hours for each solo client or couple, about 3+ hours for small groups of 4-6 persons, & well north of 12-15 hours per group for the large dive travel vacation teams. Yet in many cases with our groups, we will devote many unpaid hours to helping divers who change plans, or who encounter special problems & need extra help. Time is money in this business, as it is in any professional realm.
Many of our preferred clients, repeat customers who travel 2 or 3 times a year, pay us from $80 to $100 per hour just to plan their customized private trips, before actual lodging, diving & air ticket costs are calculated. These are the high-end special voyages, with a lot of up-front planning time invested. Most clients choose trips that are easier to plan, & that's great. But they still take time. The standard service fee, or USDT tariff, for all clients, all seasons, is a minimum of $35 per person.
This service fee covers the several hours of phone calls, some overseas, required to make your travel connections work. We often phone & fax Third World countries on prime time. This is our only markup on your trip, folks. It's a pretty humble sum, & necessary to cover the steep staff time + phone costs + registered mailing of air tickets & vouchers.
Doctors, lawyers, counselors & consultants all charge by the hour, & so do we after
hour number three. Our fees are fair & equitable & openly displayed in all our communiques
& on our website.
Some retail travel agencies may be a few dollars cheaper, but they have not likely been where you want to go; nor are they professional divers; nor are they adventure travel specialists. We are here for you until the day your trip is over.
You are NOT the client du jour at U.S. dive Travel. You are the preferred client,
the one we enjoy. You will have our loyalty. We hope to earn yours.
DO YOU OFFER ANY SWIM-WITH-DOLPHIN PACKAGES?
NO. We never will. Absolutely never. Here is why.
While we cast no ethical or moral judgments upon any person who disagrees with our position -- we cannot in good faith undertake any swim-with-dolphin bookings. It is a firm tenet of our partnership's ethics policy. Though we are not self-righteous tree-huggers, nor radical enviro's, we do have some pretty strong feelings about many of the dolphin programs we & our agents have learned about throughout the '90s. In short, many of these tourist-luring dolphin programs are set up for one thing only: to draw in tourist bodies & mint money. They claim to perform humanitarian dolphin research. Yet some cetacean experts say swim-with-dolphin programs are, in effect, training entire generations of dolphins & their young to submit to human interactions that leave them virtually incapable of carrying on normal hunting & breeding lives in the ocean wilderness. These dolphins become dependent on human feeding, human interactions & their wild senses are dulled in several ways. Some scientists believe they cannot fend for themselves properly when faced with potential hazards in the real world later on, ie shark attacks on their young, or famine from reef damage & storms.
There are no hard-case books written about this, no Nobel Prize research studies, no up-in-arms organizations behind this. Most of this is based on 30-plus years of adventure travel experience & MANY MANY real encounters with wild dolphins in their natural habitats, in very remote & virgin sectors of the Pacific. But we can assure you that in NO case does a healthy natural dolphin allow itself to be petted, prodded & fed cheese puffs, unless it is trained hard from an early age. We do not feel right about exploiting creatures that some scientists feel may have equivalent spiritual depth & intelligence to whales or even juvenile humans.
Dolphin programs, in our view, are a form of semi-benign mammal slavery, geared for profit, & thinly veneered as "research institutes" or "environmental centers" because these buzz words sell packages to innocent tourists. Amigos, we feel there's more to the dive travel profession than raking in cold cash. The feeling of reverence for a beleaguered Mother Earth still runs pretty deep here. Therefore we respectfully decline all dolphin-related bookings. Also we recommend the best way to interact with dolphins is this -- leave them alone. Maybe they will come to you, if the spirit moves them. Then you're in for a REAL treat!
These are just one company's opinions, not given as Gospel, not some blanket condemnation. Like your decisions, & all of our wills, it's free! Let the dolphins be. Let them come to you as they wish, in the wide-open ocean, free of commercial exploitation. Scuba vacations are all about floating freedom. So you make your own decision about dolphins. We have made ours.
Ciao, cheers.   Enjoy your diving years.
Susan Hessburg & John Hessburg
Founding Partners, Managers
The U.S. DIVE TRAVEL Network.
St. Paul, MN / Seattle, WA / Houston, TX / Vancouver, BC.
© Copyright 1995 - 2009 / U.S. Dive Travel Network.
U.S. Dive Travel Network
PMB 307 / Suite # 116
15050 Cedar Ave. S.
St. Paul, MN, USA 55124-7047
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