from 2 reviews
9th October 2012 by Rust7
Comfortable ship, Overall bad experience
Visit Date: September 2012
We (2 couples of divers) originally booked a cruise on the Black Pearl, which unfortunately sank about a week prior to our booking date. Instead, the agency handling our order has booked us Dream Catcher II. With us were 6 other divers (10 divers total) who were also originally booked for the Black Pearl, as well as a guide and a divemaster.
The Dream Catcher II is a comfortable ship, with spacious cabins that could almost belong in a 3 star hotel and nice common areas. As is the standard in the Maldives, the main ship is where you stay between dives and a separate, smaller one carries the diving gear and takes you to the dive sites.
Even though the crew was nice and attentive, our overall experience was disappointing.
First, despite perfect weather, the ship owner refused to go on the route that was originally planned for the Black Pearl. Instead, we remained very close (within 1 hour by speed boat) to Male (the Maldivean capital), and therefore visited only sites that may be reached by day-trips. Out of the 6 nights of the cruise, 2 (the first and the last) were spent docking in Male's harbor.
Second, the gear was old and poorly maintained. We had to deal with leaks, regulators that hardly provide air around 50 atm and reef-hooks that break when you rely on them to hold you in place in strong currents.
Third, the guide and divemaster were inexperienced and unreliable. Several times couples got separated from the group without them knowing where they were or whether they were safe. Once, when we dived as 2 groups, the guide simply disappeared for several minutes, without signalling us anything. Later he told us he wanted to find the other group. Needless to say, we were furious with this behavior. In addition, both the guide and the divemaster repeatedly finned corals they should have easily avoided.
Fourth, due to low quality ingredients and the absence of a professional chef, food quality was low, with the same dishes served day after day.
Fifth, prices on the ship are ridiculously high. For example: a bottle of water consumed outside of meal time costs $5.5. A (malfunctioning!) reef hook is rented for $5 a day.
Last, but not least, the overall attitude of the owner was lacking: he denied responsibility whenever possible, insisted on the extremely short route to conserve fuel and delayed the renewal of the ship's internet connection by 2 days. Flipping through the guest book, past notes showed us this was not a one-time thing.
3rd August 2012 by 2skidivers
First trip to the Maldives
Visit Date: July 2012
We are avid divers with over 2000 dives all over the world. This was our first trip to the Maldives. At the recommendation of some of our (less experienced, European) diver friends, we went to the Maldives to see Mantas and Whale Sharks. Since there are so many places to go we booked a 2 week liveaboard recommended to us by people who had been on it before. But after we made non-refundable flight reservations, the boat was taken out of service and we had to search for other accommodations during the same weeks.
We booked one week at a resort in the northern end of the North Male Atoll and the second week on the Dream Catcher II. We thought we would get to see more of the diving on a liveaboard. The itinerary was never specified but supposedly the boat would go to the North or South Male Atoll the North or South Ari Atoll or the Vaavu Atoll.
Our first impressions were great. They met us at the airport and relatively quickly took us to the boat. It was the most spacious of the (over a dozen) liveaboards we had done. Our room was more than adequate with ensuite bath and good AC. And there were going to be only 13 divers. After everyone arrived, we had a boat briefing, a very unimpressive lunch, and a check out dive just outside the boat basin. We didn't expect much from that dive (and didn't see much) but I did learn my tank was leaking badly because the plug for the DIN tank valve was never properly tightened.
After that they moved the boat to the an island in the North Male Atoll only about 8NM from the airport. After another unimpressive meal, the "cruise director"/divemaster discussed the options available for diving. Basically he told us there are long passages between Atolls and if we want to do some of the more distant ones we would miss dives and we should let him and the captain decide where best to go. Since none of us had been to the Maldives before, we all agreed. We spent a day and a half in the very south end of the N Male Atoll before moving the boat about 25NM South to the S Male Atoll where we spent the rest of the trip. We were never more than 20NM from the Airport. By the 3rd day, we realized they were taking us to the closest dive sites and giving us short dives and realized we had made a mistake booking this boat.
Dive profiles were 30m (100ft) for 50 minutes. Most of the reefs were deep and almost all were at least 25m (80ft). Nitrox was not available. If you go to the Maldives, we strongly recommend that you are Nitrox certified and stay on a boat or resort that has Nitrox. By the 4th day, the less experienced divers were complaining about the strong currents and requesting easier dives. 4 of the last 6 dives were on the outside of the atoll rather than on the corners (for which we were briefed) where marine life is more abundant. I don't know if it was by design or the currents in the channels were really too strong or the boat dropped us in the wrong place. Maldives diving is not for inexperienced divers because of both currents and "negative entry" for many sites where immediately after jumping off the boat, you turn face down and swim down to the reef.
We did see white tip sharks, napoleon Wrasses, some eagle rays, 2 sting rays, a fair number of hawksbill turtles and 1 green turtle, and a good assortment of reef fish. But the fish life was much less than the quantity we saw at Helengeli Resort the week before so we already had a data point for comparison. We suspect the proximity to Male was one of the reasons the marine life was diminished. Also, our boat, and probably most others, went out on the same reefs and harvested fish for our meals. This offended us. But most of the other "customers" thought the diving was better than we did because it was better than places they had been before and it was only a 4-8 hour flight from the UAE or Europe. For us it was a 48 hour trip each way to get there and we have been to better places.
The food was poor. Meals were buffet style and food was usually cold and sometimes insufficient quantity. It was either chicken or fish (20cm red snapper harvested from the reef), prepared basically the same way for every meal except the last lunch which was a beef curry. Meals included rice, pasta or ramen noodles, vegetables and salad. Dessert was watermelon or fresh papaya or Canned fruit. The best we can say about it is we did not get sick. We had good AC and hot water was available ...sometimes. I'm sure the towels were washed but they looked dingy and neither towels nor linen was changed all week.
Between dives there was nothing to do. All the dive gear was on the tender so even if we were close enough to a shallow reef to go snorkeling, we couldn't because it was away from the boat, filling tanks. I refer to it as a tender because it was not the traditional wooden Dhoni design. It had very poor maneuverability and had difficulty picking up divers. There was no fresh water on the boat to rinse even cameras or regulators. It was also a tricky step to get from the boat to the tender.
The only opportunity to get off the boat is a BBQ on the beach. There is an "Island Tax" for use of the island of US$10-20pp. We all had to agree to do the BBQ and only after we did were we told it would be $20. It was NOT worth it. The crew brought the same food cooked on the boat and reheated it on the wood fire. Even dessert was the same canned fruit. We were taken by skiff in 2 trips to the island and there was not even enough time to go snorkeling for the first group. The second group got there after dark, just in time for dinner and didn't even get to walk around the island. All boats offer this excursion. Unless other boats do it a lot better, it is a rip off and we advise you to skip it.
This was prime Manta season and in 16 dives in Helengeli and 17 dive on the DreamCatcher II, we didn't see one. The visibility was poor, about 10-15 m (30-50ft) and filled with plankton which usually brings in the mantas and whale sharks. Are Mantas seen less frequently than the advertising implies? Or are they at more distant reefs? We will never know because we are unlikely to go back to the Maldives. There are many other places we have been with much more to see elsewhere.