When we arrived to the island, we were met by David and he showed us around and took us to Captain Morgan's to discuss the diving. It sounded good but the rooms were all full so he organised some alternative accommodation for a couple of nights for us. When we arrived on the Sunday morning with our bags, ready to check-in and begin our courses, we were told all the rooms were full and after waiting around for a few hours, there was finally a room available. No big deal but we couldn't understand why we weren't booked in.
So onto the diving. My boyfriend was new to it and signed up for his Open Water course, while I booked in for the Advanced course.
I hadn't dived in about 7 years so signed up for a refresher to go over the basics. Dive Master Imka was brilliant - I was nervous but she instantly put me at ease and I felt relaxed and ready to get back into the water.
My boyfriend got the diving bug and signed up for his advanced too. The instructors were really nice and everything seemed fine.
One criticism that we and friends of ours diving with Captain Morgan's noticed was that they never seemed to mention one of the key safety aspects of diving - dive buddies. It was only mentioned to me once out of 6 dives which seemed worrying as this, in my experience, is something that is always stressed despite the level of experience. My boyfriend said he had been told once on his first dive, but it had never been mentioned again in the following 12 dives he did - even worse as he was a complete beginner and the buddy system is so important in terms of safety.
The thing we found very frustrating was trying to get any information out of the instructors once the dives were over. We wanted info about the dive site, bottom-time etc for our own records and they didn't volunteer any of this information, we had to ask them constantly and it got to the point where my boyfriend got fed up and felt like he was pestering his instructor trying to find out about paperwork he needed to complete for his Open Water course. This should have been something they were proactive with, not something people learning should have to ask about. He completed his knowledge review for the Open course but his instructor (Frank) never asked to see it and there were things he wasn't sure about, but it didn't seem to matter to them, despite it being part of the course. He also completed the final exam, handed it in but no one ever went through his answers with him as they were supposed to according to the exam paper, and he knew some answers were wrong and others he couldn't actually answer.
The equipment was pretty ropey too. My boyfriend had to replace various pieces of equipment in preparation for 4 out of his 13 dives - the regulators, the o-rings on the tank and the BCD's caused him problems numerous times. The BCD's he used seemed to always have air slowly seeping into them while he was diving, messing with his buoyancy. I had an issue with a regulator and my tank almost fell off just before I got in the water on one dive, despite me securing it properly - I think the velcro had seen better days.
On the plus side, Pirate's Bay was a great place with a good vibe, the ladies working in the kitchen were always friendly and accommodating when we needed to get in the kitchen. The room although basic and bare was a good size and cleaned daily.
The big problem came after we had left Utila and wanted to dive in Belize. We had asked Brian the day before we left when we would receive our temporary cards on email to allow us to dive on the rest of our trip. We were told it would be done that night or the next day. We stressed to Brian that it was important as we wanted to dive in Belize in about a week's time. He said it would be sorted out and told us not to worry.
We hadn't received any emails a week later, so went to a dive school in Belize to ask them to check the online PADI database - there was no record of our courses completed at Captain Morgan's. My boyfriend and I each sent emails to Captain Morgan's saying we needed them to register our qualifications with PADI urgently as we wanted to dive. They told my boyfriend (they ignored my emails) to 'chill' and that it would be sorted by the next day. Still nothing was emailed so I felt I had to contact PADI to get them to get on Captain Morgan's case on our behalf. This was getting ridiculous now, we had our qualifications and wanted to book some diving, but we were depending on Captain Morgan's to sort it out and powerless to get them to do it.
To cut a long story short, after 4 days of emails back and forth with PADI (who were extremely helpful) and 2 weeks after completing our courses, we finally had our temporary cards sent directly by PADI. They had trouble getting the info out of CM too, why the hell it was such hard work is anyone's guess, the dive shop in Belize told me it's the most straightforward thing to do...
Captain Morgan's tried to put the blame on us for the delay as they didn't have a photo of my boyfriend for his card - again, something that wasn't mentioned to us, we only found out when we overheard one of the other instructor's talking about it to his students the day before we were leaving. I managed to get a picture taken at the last minute but my boyfriend missed out as the guy with the phone that the pics were taken on had left for the day - we were leaving early the next morning. He never got any correspondence from Captain Morgan's asking him to send them a picture until PADI chased them about our cards.
We had a limited time in Belize but had to extend our time there to do the dives we wanted, which meant cutting short our time in Mexico.
Below is the email I sent to the group email address at Pirate's Bay to my instructor Brian on 10th April. This was a response to his previous email to me, saying here were our temporary cards (the cards weren't attached) it was just the writing which would be on the card, so not valid to use as proof of our qualifications. He had signed off the email with 'hope you're having a good trip!'
Yes I received an email from you with typed info (pretty pointless) but no temporary card as I requested. I have now received this from PADI.
We enjoyed our time at Pirates Bay but this whole process to get our qualifications registered with PADI has been truly painful. We've been told by a dive school here that it's a very simple thing to do, but for you at Captain Morgan's it seems to be very complicated for some reason...
If it wasn't for PADI intervening, I'm pretty sure we'd still not be registered right now meaning we would not have been able to do anymore diving on this trip.
What a shame that after enjoying our time at Pirates Bay that you couldn't be bothered to sort this out. We were told by the blonde instructor (I can't recall his name but he was the only person who gave us any proper information about what would happen next) that we should have been registered with PADI approximately 2 days after qualifying, but after 2 weeks, you still had not done this, despite us informing you before we left that we intended to dive here in Belize very soon.
Are we having a good trip? Well considering we've been emailing you guys and PADI for 4 days trying to sort this out, not really. Time and stress that we could have done without to be honest. We have had to extend our time here so we can do the dives we came here for, costing us more money and cutting down our time in Mexico.
We are very frustrated and unimpressed that it's taken us both emailing you numerous times to get this sorted out.
Natasha at PADI has been brilliant and we are so glad she's been able to help us, it's just a shame we had to involve them really"
I haven't received a reply, maybe writing it on here might prompt a response from anyone at Captain Morgan's who cares about the experiences of their customers...it seems the only way to get them to address a complaint is to write it on Trip Advisor, looking at previous bad reviews they've received on here.
Such a shame as we did really enjoy ourselves here, the instructors were pretty good at most of the practical stuff, but useless with the paperwork.
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