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Unbiased help with a possible big mistake ....

Atlanta, Georgia
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9 posts
58 reviews
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Unbiased help with a possible big mistake ....

Forum friends

Answers to my questions on this forum have been very helpful in my choosing an area and place to stay during my upcoming family vacation to GCI. After consiering many factors in a attempt to balance the varied needs of my family I chose to rent a Villa on the East End of GCI which seemed to offer everything we wanted: beachfront, closeness to dive operators, quiet non-touristy location, etc. We are staying the last week in May. However I think I have made a BIG MISTAKE!!

Here is my dilema: One thing I did not consider was the nature of the prevailing winds on GCI and the sea conditions that make boat diving very uncomfortable on the East End. Part of this trip was a graduation gift for my son, the gift being a dive certification which he has wanted for a while. I had chosen Ocean Frontiers due to the overwhelming positive reviews on Trip Advisor. However, I have found equally overwhelming negative reviews on other dive forums that state OF will take divers out on very rough seas ( the East End being notorious for extremely rough seas almost any time of year) and OF being very unsympathetic with divers when seas are rough, refusing refunds and forcing divers to go out despite rough seas.

Given the expense of such a vacation I dont want my families first visit to GCI to be a bad one and certainly do not want my son's dive certification to be a bad expereince.

My questions for you all are:

- Am I worried about nothing with regards to East End weather and sea conditions in May/June?

- Is anyone experienced with Ocean Frontiers diving that can give unbiased reviews? The main reviews seem very biased and I dont want to give someone more than $1200 of my money who really do not care about my comfort or safety.

- Should I be seeking a refund from my Villa owner and move to what appears to be the calmer Western side of GCI and book with any one of the many smaller diver operators there??

Thanks in advance to all who reply.

Frank

Grand Cayman
Destination Expert
for Grand Cayman
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10,071 posts
77 reviews
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21. Re: Unbiased help with a possible big mistake ....

I would say that the new way (almost new) that PADI has set up e-learning has a solid basis. You do only the classwork online unlike the old way of doing the confined dives, poolwork and classwork at home and doing a referral when you get to your destination. The new affords the student and instructor to build a trust level, the instructor gets to see what areas the student might need extra work and this affords them to work on these areas because the poor individual is thrown into the water to do the cert dives with a weak skill set in a given area and then has their confidence blow up when things go a bit wrong. It has proven much more successful than the old "referral" method. To get real insight into your choices go to padi.com (the real experts). Things change, they certainly have from when we did our cert, and this change seems to be based on some solid "ground" to make the student a better and more confident diver.

Syracuse, New York
Destination Expert
for Seven Mile Beach, West Bay, Syracuse, Cayman Islands
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5,159 posts
92 reviews
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22. Re: Unbiased help with a possible big mistake ....

Agree with Retrip - I also did the referral thing (and my Open Water dives were on Grand Cayman, which is where I fell in love with the place. I had some issues being in the water, and was personally glad that I had lot of pool time at home to get comfortable and familiar with the equipment. I think that doing the current eLearning would have felt pressured and rushed for me.

However, that's just me. I have heard of many, many folks that have enjoyed the eLearning aspect and the time in the Caribbean doing the confined dives and poolwork. Most of the major certification agencies, PADI, SSI, and NAUI offer it now, although I don't think that the british BSAC do yet.

Indianapolis...
1 post
1 review
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23. Re: Unbiased help with a possible big mistake ....

I did my PADI referral dives with OF in late April/early May of 2006, as a somewhat apprehensive middle aged woman. :) It was a WONDERFUL experience. There is a shallow, protected reef where they do their introductory and certification dives. My instructor was totally awesome.

After I certified, we stayed the rest of a week and dived several different sites. We've been back twice since and are getting ready to return within a couple of weeks.

I would, without reservation, recommend OF to a new diver.

hudson valley
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2,944 posts
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24. Re: Unbiased help with a possible big mistake ....

"doing the current eLearning would have felt pressured and rushed for me."

In the pre-internet age when I got certified it was already possible to learn on your own by reading, and I knew the material when I walked into the first class, long before it was a common option. I had a background in science and math, but those were areas that were stumbling blocks for a couple of the people in my class. One of the great advantages of online tools is the ability to use animation and video in addition to text and pictures, but sometimes people need a human teacher to figure out the right way to present the material. We all need a different or more thorough explanation at least some of the time, and elearning is no substitute for live and immediate interaction.

At almost $150 for the OW material eLearning is great benefit for training agencies that can collect a bigger share of the cost of the course than they used to. How much it benefits any given student depends on how much the dive shop reduces the cost of the course, how important they consider the flexibility of studying online instead of with a book and in a classroom, and most importantly, how well they learn using that method.

"the poor individual is thrown into the water to do the cert dives with a weak skill set in a given area"

Many people think the agency they choose is important, but all agencies follow the same minimum criteria that's established by the industry's standards organization. A student who gets in the water for their referral dives (or worse, for their first real dive using the brand new c-card) with weak skills is a student who had a poor instructor that is affiliated with a perfectly good agency. A good instructor will work with a student to correct any deficiencies before issuing a referral or certification, or if it becomes necessary, tell them that they aren't ready to dive.

IMHO, one of the big problems with eLearning is that it's possible to sign up without ever setting foot in a dive shop and talking to an instructor. Choosing your first instructor is the start of your entire diving future, and is the first important diving decision you'll make.

long island n.y.
4 posts
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25. Re: Unbiased help with a possible big mistake ....

I have been to Grand Cayman at least 8 times and Little Cayman 2 times along with travels to many other islands for the sole purpose of diving with my son. It can honestly say without hesitation that Ocean Frontiers is the BEST dive operators I have ever had the pleasure of getting on board with. From the moment you arrive they take control of all your gear and concerns. The dive masters are professionals with personality's. I've seen young divers with fear being calmed and comforted by DM and tears of fear turned into smiles and laughs. You will not find a more safe and dedicated operator anywhere IMHO. Their location is perfect cause if it's blowing from one direction they can easily choose either side of the island and within minutes you're on site without the one hour boat ride. I even had a problem with some gear and they fixed mine while loaning me theirs at NO cost. Also the dives with their photographer will result in the best photos you can imagine. I arrive in 2 weeks for 12 days of diving with my son and I am so happy to be diving with this crew as they are the best, period.....

Syracuse, New York
Destination Expert
for Seven Mile Beach, West Bay, Syracuse, Cayman Islands
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5,159 posts
92 reviews
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26. Re: Unbiased help with a possible big mistake ....

gibbie, glad you had a great experience - that is certainly typical of the dive operators I have personally used and have had friends use - the quality of diving on Grand Cayman seems to be very consistent across the board. Each of us has out favourites, for sure, based on our own experiences.

Harker Heights...
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233 posts
13 reviews
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27. Re: Unbiased help with a possible big mistake ....

The concerns you have about the seas is a relative issue measured by boat diving experience, IMO. It will be flatter on the west side almost all of the time and that may be more accommodating to your beginning diver. My 13 yr old Jr. OW diver isnt ready for the east side boat rides, regardless of cert depth limitations, and thats an individual assessment because she just doesnt like bumpy rides of any kind. I really enjoy diving with OF and the east end but i am a pretty low maintenance diver with many years under my weight belt. So, consider this: If you are staying East, try east side diving with OF but discuss your concerns with them. If you find the conditions cause stress or discomfort, start your day earlier and drive to the west side for your diving. I have had weeklong vacations where i stayed on 7mb and took the drive east almost every morning because I kind of prefer EE. If you decide to move your accommodations to 7mb, you are still going to get great diving. in any event, i have seen the OF staff take care of every level of diver and you would be in good hands. You havent made a mistake. You may have to adapt but it will still be ok. No worries!

28. Re: Unbiased help with a possible big mistake ....

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