I researched all of the whale tours in PV and liked that the whale and dolphin tour could be combined and that they seemed like a small operation. We booked ahead of time for the whale/dolphin tour at 7:30 am. A week after paying we received notice from the company that they would be pushing back the start time by an hour to accommodate cruise ship passengers. We weren't thrilled by this because we had an activity planned in town right after and didn't want to have to change our plans. I sent a message inquiring and the solution they came up with was rushing the tour to make our activity on time...I messaged back right away and said that was unacceptable, we didn't want a rushed tour, we wanted the full 4 and a half hours so we'd just alter our afternoon plans....we didn't hear back.
We arrived the morning of the tour at 8:30 am, but didn't start heading to the boats until almost 10 after all the cruise passengers had straggled in, paid, and watched a slideshow. There were 2 boats, but for some reason they filled one boat halfway and then jammed ours to over capacity. I felt like we were on a mini cattle boat tour....I didn't even have a seat in our little 16 person zodiac. I felt bad for the five girls squished like sardines on a four person bench at the back, my row was built for three but the tour guide kept trying to sandwich four adults into it. The tour guide joked that I was trying to take over the tour standing up at the front....nope I said just wondering why there are more people than seats.
Thank goodness for the whales....the only thing saving the tour from terrible. We managed to see 5 pretty close for extended periods. We started heading for shore and I was excited at the prospect of seeing dolphins as we still had an hour left on the tour....but they steered the boat right into harbour ending things so the cruise passengers could make their departing boat. So much for the dolphin/whale tour we were promised.
Bottom line is all the company seemed concerned about was packing in and accommodating as many cruise ship passengers as possible. Our 4 and a half hour "whale and dolphin" tour turned into a dolphin free, 2 and a half hour tour, in a boat packed to over capacity. What a letdown....such a well reviewed tour, I didn't expect to be writing the opposite!!!
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
2 April 2012
Dear friend: I attended your reservation and answer your emails personally. I’m confused and surprised of what I’m reading and I have the feeling that your bad impressions come from the detail of changing your tour schedule what made you uncomfortable and from that your appreciations of the tour changed and made you feel and see everything wrong even if it wasn’t. I’m going to answer all your observations so other readers can see that the way you describe us is not the way we really work and more of 200 comments here at trip advisor and a bigger number of comments sent to us directly can support that. Here is our version
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CHANGING TOUR SCHEDULE.- As many tour operators in Vallarta when there are cruises on port we get some cruise pax on our tours. The time that each cruise line docks varies, and they come from another port with different time zone. For these reasons and from previous experience with cruise pax, as mostly of them get confuse on local time and arrive late, we prefer to schedule the tour with later departure (around an hour from normal departure) in the way we don’t have normal pax waiting long time for cruise pax, or cruise pax loosing the tour. We notify of this change at the moment of reservation or with anticipation if tour was booked before we decide the change. On March 14th in which you were with us, we needed to do that as suddenly we got one request from cruise pax, and as soon as we made the change of itinerary we communicated you the new schedule. When you emailed your concern about the change on schedule because you had many activities that day I never said we’ll rush the tour my exact words were “The time you come back is around 1 pm no more than 1.30. I will let your guide know that you have more activities to do that day so she/he doesn’t take long.” We make this remark to our guide when we know pax have other activities on afternoon or if their flight back home is after the tour, in the way that for no reason they get back later than scheduled.
MEETING TIME AND TOUR DEPARTURE .- As for any flight, bus, or tour, passengers are required to be certain time before activity or departure. In our tours the appointment in OPEQUIMAR for customers staying in Vallarta is 10 min previous we begin the tour, and for people staying at Nuevo Vallarta the appointment is 30 min prior we begin because we have to pick up them at Nuevo Vallarta and it takes 20 min ride from Nuevo Vallarta’s Public Pier to our pier in Vallarta. You can check on our site that normal morning whale tour begins at 8:00 am but on March 14th the tour was scheduled to begin at 9:00 am so as you were staying at Nuevo Vallarta your appointment was at 8:30 in the way you were on time for the beginning of the tour. We began at 9:00 and as described on our tour schedule from 9:00 to 9:25 (aprox) we gave the educational explanation, also as always we give a little time to visit toilet before we go to the boats. After our educational explanation and everybody was ready, you got on the boats at 9:40. The time getting on board varies every day as it depends on how long the explanation goes because sometimes we get lot’s of questions and answers, and also depends on how long it takes to everybody visit the bathroom.
OUR BOATS AND CAPACITY- We have 3 boats. One is 26 ft long for 12 pax, the other is 27 ft for 14 pax and the bigger one is 33ft long for 20 pax.. We use these size of boats in the way to have small groups on board, and to provide a personal and better attention to all our customers. On the day of your tour we used the 14 pax and the 20 pax boats, as in total we had 25 pax: 15 regular pax including your group of 8, a family of 4, a family of 3; and 10 cruise pax including 2 families of 4 and 2 different persons by their own. The 10 cruise pax were accommodated on the 14 pax boat and the rest 15 pax including you 8 were accommodated on the 20 pax boat, so non boat was over capacity and probably you had the impression that the other boat half way as there were several kids but the number of pax on each boat was proportional to the capacity of each one. I really don’t understand why you state that there were no enough seats, that you were like sardines and that your boat was a little zodiac if it is a 33ft long zodiac with capacity for 20 pax + 3 crew and on board you were 15 + 2 crew (captain and guide). Your guide says that 1/4 of the boat was completely empty as all of you wanted to be on the front seats and all the back seat area was empty. As additional info the capacity of the boats is calculated by the Harbor Master based on seats on board and dimensions of the boat, we can’t exceed that quota if not Harbor Master stops our boat and give us a ticket.
CRUISE PAX.- As for any tour request we can’t say no when we have cruise pax requests. Most of the times we can’t set up a only special itinerary and boat for cruise pax as we never know how many we will have, as we they reserve personally by family or group, and it’s not worth to have one cruise boat with only 2 pax for example, so that’s why when we have cruise request we integrate all our reservations for that tour to a same itinerary. We never have last minute requests the same day, everyone always reserves in advance. I really can’t understand why you mention that we where trying to accommodate as many cruise pax as possible, if we only had 10 cruise pax that day, and there where 2 cruises in port that means around 4500 cruise pax in town, so the 10 cruise pax we got represents only 0.22% of all the cruise pax in Vallarta that day. Also I can’t understand why you mention that we were ending things early so cruise pax could make it to their boat, not true as there where no cruise pax on board your boat and there was no rush for anything.
DOLPHINS – Heading close to shore is the way to search for dolphins as the dolphins we see are bottlenose dolphins and these dolphins are coastal dolphins. As they have passed many days, your guide doesn’t remember if you saw dolphins that day, and he didn’t write a report of no dolphins on log book. Any way in this case I understand and agree that you can feel bad of not seeing dolphins, and I really feel sorry if you didn’t see any (normally we always see whales & dolphins), any other time that you come back to Vallarta we can take you on our Dolphins in the Wild tour for free so you can see them.
Thanks for your comments, all comments and/or suggestions are always welcome but again I feel that in your case a little thing that made you uncomfortable (even days before the tour) predisposed you and changed your appreciation of the whole tour and made you feel and see that everything was wrong even if it wasn’t, because if it really was the way you describe it we would already have 7 more complains of the rest of the people (not from your group) that was on the same tour and boat with you and that were not cruise pax either. Hope to see you again to take you as I mentioned to the Dolphins in the wild tour for free.
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC