Many people who have never dealt with us before may have worries or concerns about the whole procedure, including whether or not we are trustworthy. There are also people who are prepared to trust us but not sure about the booking procedure or any cancellation or boat-changing policies. This page should explain a few things and we hope allay any concerns.
Firstly, trusting us is the same as with any other booking agent, including the likes of Booking.com and TripAdvisor. Payments are made securely online, normally with credit cards and/or PayPal. In all situations, the customer is protected by their bank or card, and we as agents understand fully that our reputation is everything. Our quality service means nothing if we are accused of any wrongdoing. Customers’ deposits are kept securely in PayPal or transferred to the dive centre, depending on the dive centre’s policies. In most cases, it remains within PayPal until after the customers have boarded the boat.
The first step is to choose a boat, dive centre or trip and ask us to make a reservation for you. This is financially & commitment free. Some reservations can be held for a month or more, while others need to be confirmed sooner. The period of time between the requested reservation and the trip usually determine how long spaces can be held for. Also, peak-season trips are more popular and can be held for shorter periods. Reservation a space is a good idea before booking your flights. If you can’t make it work out, just let us know and we will cancel the reservation.
In most cases, a 20-30% deposit is required to make a reservation for a liveaboard trip. One or two ask for 50%. Courses and fun diving from land-based dive centres sometimes only need 10-20%. This deposit is most commonly paid through PayPal, and that can be done using almost any card or a PayPal account. If you have a card but not a PayPal account, PayPal may try to encourage you to open one, but you don’t need to. If you don’t have a credit or debit card, a friend’s or family member’s can be used. There is no fee to the customer at all. PayPal charges are absorbed by us. Customers who prefer to pay via direct bank transfer within Thailand or Indonesia can do so. Any fee for this is usually about $1US.
The policy & procedure for a balance payment for a diving trip depends on each dove centre’s or boat’s policy. Some don’t require the balance to be paid until the customer arrives for the pick up or boards the boat. Others like the balance paid one or two months in advance. The reasons and benefits of each are explained in the sections below. Balance payments can be made direct to us or to the boat’s owner or dive centre. There is often a small fee which the banks or PayPal charge and this is most commonly passed on to the customer. Balance payments made through us attract fees of no more than 2.5%.
It sometimes happens that customers (and even the companies who run the trips) need to cancel. This is an unfortunate reality, and something we try our best to deal with to keep everyone happy. No Troubles, Just Bubbles never profit from cancellations. If there is a refund due, the customer gets all of it.
When customers have already booked and confirmed a diving trip through us, the cancellation policy of the dive centre / boat owner needs to be followed. Each has their own policy and some offer partial or full refunds, while others don’t. Firstly, we recommend all our customers to buy travel insurance to cover cancellation fees. Generally, the dive centres who are most professional have cancellation fees. This is because that they like to ensure that when a trip is booked, it is confirmed. Late cancellations without balance payments can cause all kinds of problems for the success of the trip. There are dive centres which we deal with who are very kind and/or flexible regarding customer cancellations. While this is very convenient, there are drawbacks. If a trip that is confirmed can all of a sudden lose customers and still sail, will there be less food, staff, fuel or good service for those who do join the trip? How much profit is that dive company making if they can accept late cancellations without a fee? Finally, the dive centres who accept late & free cancellations are the ones most likely to cancel or change a trip themselves.
Dive centres cancel
It is very uncommon, but sometimes the dive centre or boat company need to cancel a trip at the last minute. During high season this is extremely rare. At the beginning and end of the diving season it is a little more common. Why do they have to cancel a trip that guests have confirmed to join and paid a deposit for? The reason is often financial, but not always. Each trip needs a certain number of paying guests to be able to be financially viable/worthwhile. The dive centre will wait for new bookings until the last moment before deciding to cancel. Some offer discounts in the final 48-72 hours in an attempt to encourage more guests to join. There are a few boats, such as Oktavia at The Similan Islands, which guarantee trips will sail, even if just one guest has booked. Other reasons for trips being cancelled by the companies include extreme weather or sea conditions, mechanical failure, and local political situations out of their control.
In the event that a dive centre or boat company needs to cancel a trip, the customers will receive a full and unconditional refund of all the money they have paid to us.
Customers who have to cancel a trip after booking are sometimes able to get some or all of their deposit and/or balance payment back. This is decided by the dive centre and we at No Troubles, Just Bubbles have very little influence. However, we gain nothing at all from customer cancellations, or any fees which are forfeited. The total amount that is due back to the customer will be returned.
Changing from one boat or dive centre to another happens from time to time. This is sometimes done at the request of the customer, and at other times done by the boat owners or dive centres. It is not common or ideal, and nearly always out of our control. When customers want to change their diving trip from one boat to another, we need to request a cancellation from the first in order to move them to the second.
Boat owners and dive centres very rarely change booked customers from one boat to another, but the reasons they do so are as follows. The most common reason customers are moved without choosing to be are that the boat doesn’t have enough booked guests to enable the cruise to be financially viable. This is unfair on the guests who paid to join the trip, and there is nothing we (as agents) can do about it. Concessions are nearly always made to compensate or appease customers in this situation. Another reason they may be moved from one boat to another is if the first boat has a mechanical problem. This is very rare indeed because all of the boats we offer trips on are regularly maintained and inspected.
Generally, dive centres and boats which ask for balance payments to be made a month or more in advance of departure are the most professional and well organised. They require full payment in advance to ensure that everything is taken care of and pre-planned. This includes staff, fuel and food for the whole trip. It is extremely rare indeed that a trip which has fully-paid guests a month in advance will not sail and the guests need to be moved. These same dive centres generally have stricter ‘cancellation policies’ in order to protect each trip from a situation where it can’t sail. Therefore, guests who want absolute peace of mind that the trip they choose will sail as promised and on time without problems are recommended to choose a boat which has a strict cancellation policy and asks for balance payments to be made in advance.
Dive centres and boat owners which are much more easy going regarding balance payments and late cancellations are ideal for customers who want to keep their money in the bank for as long as possible and those who may need to change from one boat trip to another at their own request. Generally, dive centres who are more flexible about customers cancelling offer trips offer services and cruises in the budget price range. However, these same dive centres are the ones who are more likely to move their customers from one boat to another, often at the last minute.
In summary, budget diving trips are often easier to cancel without charge, enabling us to move customers to another trip, but these same dive centres may move customers. More expensive trips require payment in advance, but are much more likely to go ahead without any glitches or last-minute changes of plan. However, there are some budget trips with strict cancellation policies and one or two mid-range and luxury trips which are more flexible.