Just back from a 3 week trip to SL which included an overnight catamaran trip on Jade 52 followed by a morning's whale and dolphin watching. We had booked and paid for six adults to make this trip for a family birthday celebration three months ago.
The way Jade 52 was described created a high expectation for a luxury trip: “launched in December 2015 …. 52 foot sailboat …. four comfortable cabins …. sunbeds available everywhere on the boat … on the second deck the view is stunning – the best place to observe the whales and dolphins and admire the sunset …"
We were told that, as it was an 8 berth and there were six of us, it was probable we would have the boat to ourselves.
Imagine the looks on our faces when we arrived at the harbour and realised that the boat we were going to be on was not the one on the right in the attached photo – but the small, old and cramped vessel on the left: Water Sprite 2 (aka Ruby)!
On arrival I asked where Jade 52 was and was told it was ‘in repair’ - we didn’t believe this at the time and still don’t.
I then asked why we were not booked on one of the two sister ships of Jade 52 (Opal and Crystal) which were in port. I was told these were already booked.
By this time it was past our sailing time of 16.00 and although I had 5 other disappointed people in the party I decided we should go ahead and make the best of it and then sort out compensation afterwards.
The evening was fine but there were no sunbeds, no top deck and very cramped cabins.
The crew on Water Sprite 2 were great (Akalanka, Maduranga, Ramjith and Nimesh) – it certainly wasn’t their fault and they tried their best to look after us in the less than luxurious surroundings.
To make matters worse, overnight we were moored next to one of Jade 52 sister ships so we could see what we should have been enjoying just a short distance way!
Nevertheless, we had the expectation of a morning’s whale and dolphin watching to look forward to so we pressed on.
However, just when we thought things couldn’t get worse, they did!
We were due to sail at 07.30 in the morning but at 07.15 the skipper of the boat told me they had received a call from Sail Lanka, the boat charter company, saying they wanted other people to come on board for the morning’s watching. I explained we were not happy with this and would refuse to accept any more people on an already cramped boat. After some time I spoke with the Sail Lanka manager and explained why we were upset and would refuse to go with any other passengers being forced on us. We thought that was resolved but over the next hour they tried on several occasions to force us to accept others.
They even sent out a ferry boat with four passengers on it – a nice couple and their two young children who had been staying at the Shangri La Hotel and had booked a morning’s whale watching on a private boat. They were very angry on seeing what they were being ferried to as they could see there was barely room for our party of 6, let alone the four of them. They also refused to go along with it and were ferried back.
So eventually we set sail at 08.25, nearly an hour late.
In that wasted hour I spent most of it on the phone to various people at Sail Lanka.
It spoiled the morning and set all our party on edge as the situation had gone from bad to worse.
Predictably, we missed out on an hour of watching and saw no whales – we did see dolphins but because we were an hour behind the other boats who had set off much earlier we lost the opportunity to see whales.
Our gripe is entirely with the charter company, Sail Lanka.
We found them to be deceitful, unhelpful, coercive and totally disinterested in trying to make amends for their unprofessionalism.
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