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DiveCouple

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About DiveCouple

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  1. No Need to Beware of Kararu Cheng Ho Recent posts across the web have been strongly negative about Kararu’s liveaboard, the Cheng Ho. While not perfect, there is NO need to BEWARE! As with all web reviews it is best to ignore both the excessively good and aggressively bad posts. Often the bad are from an individual with an axe to grind, often starting with “one†disappointment or perceived injustice. My wife and I just returned from Indonesia from a 12 day charter (Nov 18-30, 2007) on the Cheng Ho, Ambon to Sorong in the Banda Sea and Raja Ampat. This was possibly the trip following CritterHunter. Most of her comments seemed as though she was on a different boat all together! We had 20 divers (total guests) all with rooms of either single or double occupancy with no one in the crew quarters. We heard not one complaint from any guest. One mention was made that the guitar playing crew could be heard just behind their room and he enjoyed them. We had two cruise directors and were fortunate to have two of the best dive masters working Indonesia. Gusti with nearly 20 years of experience and Nyoman, who had worked with several operators diving the Nusa Penida area, which is known for extremely strong currents. Nyoman also made some skilled repairs on my regulator. Note – the crew did NOT break it. Currents were checked by a dive master before we entered the water prior to each briefing. Divers were advised of the conditions and were told about possible current changes by the time divers actually entered the water. Three tenders were used, so 3 dive briefings were given for each dive, because divers were dropped at different spots on the reef a few minutes apart. Therefore all divers didn’t hit the water at once in the same spot. At no time was any dive dangerous due to omissions of information. Remember this is not beginner territory! Guests on a trip diving in regions of this caliber understand the challenges and skill set required and should need no hand holding. The boat does indeed leak in heavy rains. We had a room on the bridge deck and had only a few minor wet spots. Comments were made from others as to leaks, NO serious griping. The charging area in the salon had a new custom fitted cover first used on our trip, which I believe replaced the plastic mentioned by CritterHunter. We only had rain a few times (heavy at times) so perhaps we missed some leaking. Cheng Ho was our first wooden boat, so we have no clue if wooden boats typically leak. Voyager was originally the boat we booked as well. The change to Cheng Ho was announced to us a few months before the departure. We had been on Voyager last year on a Komodo itinerary and were looking forward to being aboard her again. Sascha, Hergen, Kerri, Gusti and Nyoman were onboard then. Skepticism was our initial reaction about the boat change. Voyager had some mechanical problems and the Cheng Ho is the replacement. We confirmed cabin assignments and looked forward to a cruise on a pinisi style boat. Looking back we were more than satisfied. She is large, stable, SLOW (ouch), and comfortably spacious. Most operators use converted hulls that did not start life as a dive vessel (Wayne has used converted oil rig crew runners for years in a number of Aggressor fleet locations). The refit was done well. There are a few issues with the exhaust, wafting up on deck when there little wind, and when boarding the dive tenders. I’m told the boat is to be dry docked in January to reroute the exhaust and address several upgrades. One can not find fault with an operation that is constantly trying to improve. The dive tenders were more than adequate for the task and the driver/boatmen are exceptional (try sitting on a boat watching bubbles for an hour over and over), always there within moments of surfacing ready to hoist gear and (yes they took very reasonable care with gear). Very few operations have tenders with gear racks, especially inflatables. These are roomy and easy to climb upon. Of the 15 liveaboards we’ve chartered, only 3 had tenders with tank racks and some with no ladders. Details of this nature should be thoroughly researched before booking if this is a dealbreaker! Hergen and Kerri were our cruise directors. They’ve “grown†and become more experienced in the past year. Hergen has a sense of humor not accepted by everyone. We got a kick out of him. While young, he has a college degree, a Captain’s license, as well as diving credentials, one sharp dude. Kerri is a sweetheart. Hergen and Kerri work hard and do a lot behind the scenes. They have a tremendous amount of responsibility. We feel they are doing a great job. They are dive instructors also, not only tour directors, so they’re very capable to lead dives. This gives all dive masters a break. Four dive masters for 20 people works for us. That reminds me: kudos must be given to the land based part of the operation. They whisked us thru airport check ins with porters standing by, handling all airport arrangements for flights from Bali to Ujang Padang, Ujang Padang to Ambon, Sorong to Ambon, and Ambon to Bali. We never lifted a bag. And Kararu paid all overweight fees for 3 of these flights. (The 3rd flight was late, so nothing was weighed on the 4th flight. Luggage was taken directly from one plane to another on the runway). They made it all seem effortless and always with smiles. But we know what a nightmare these domestic flights can be. Cheng Ho allowed us to stay onboard the boat until 2:30 PM on our last day. They provided pre-ordered breakfast (as was the norm everyday), lunch and drinks. This was a first. On other boats, normally guests are booted off by 8 AM to deal with luggage, flights, etc. Very well done Kararu! The most important part of any trip is “THE DIVING!†CritterHunter must not have spotted any critters, she did not mention diving. The diving in Indonesia is exceptional and this region is some of the best! Cheng Ho got us there, put us on great sites, shared our excitement and enthusiasm, fed us quite well, with pre-ordered breakfast each day from a menu, theme dinners (Japanese, Thai, Greek, Italian, Asian, etc), snacks and gave us a well appointed cabin. My wife said they were the highest thread count sheets of any boat we’ve been on, and with no stains. We love the fresh drinking water Cheng Ho provided – many, many 5 gallon bottles of fresh water. We have never been fond of drinking desalinated water, so fresh water was a big plus for us. NO we’re not affiliated with Kararu in any way, only satisfied guests. Sadly happy guests don’t often take the time to write reviews and this is our FIRST. We felt compelled! While it is true we’ve been world wide on 15 live aboard cruises and also on too many to mention land based sites - we keep reasonable expectations. NO NEED TO BEWARE – you will not make a mistake going with Kararu. DrBob aka “Paco†and JoAnn Kobus
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