How Well-Covered Is Your Liveaboard Trip?
Diver|November 2017

So you thought the Mystery Diver had retired? Never, not while there are services such as liveaboard-booking/ price-comparison websites to delve into!

WANT TO BOOK A HOTEL ROOM? Easy, just type “hotel rooms” into Google, and you’ll be introduced to a list of paid ads for Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Hotels.com, Trivago, Kayak, Laterooms and others.

There’s never been so much choice for the consumer, while for the hotel-owners, as one told me recently: “I couldn’t survive in this business without them.”

Want to book a flight and hotel? Then you need go no further than the likes of Expedia which, like many other similar search-engine sites has, since 2012, had to offer ATOL protection.

This means that if any part of your trip is cancelled, or your hotel or airline goes bust, you will be entitled to a full refund or, if you are already abroad, repatriation.

The problem with booking a hotel room on its own is that if anything goes wrong, your contractual agreement is not with the website but with the provider of the service.

As Trivago points out: “Trivago is a hotel search with an extensive price comparison. The prices shown come from numerous hotels and booking websites.

“This means that while users decide on Trivago which hotel best suits their needs, the booking process itself is completed through the booking sites (which are linked to our website).”

I have nothing against such sites. Indeed, for my travels I often use them to get really good deals on hotel rooms, better often than going direct.

What is interesting from a diving perspective is how this business model is now creeping into the diving market. To explore this development further, I typed “liveaboard diving holiday” into Google.

What it brought up as Google Ads, listed in the order presented, was: Liveaboard.com; Diviac.com and Regaldive.

The rest of the search results (not Ads) were all established ATOL-authorised operators. Both Liveaboard.com and Diviac.com are booking websites and are not ATOL-authorised operators, whereas Regaldive is a tour operator that does provide ATOL protection.

I decided to explore the offer of the non-ATOL-covered sites, to see just how reliable they might be in circumstances in which the operator went bankrupt.

MY FIRST VISIT was to Liveaboard. com, which has a very professional looking website boasting that it enables you to “Compare & Book 203 Liveaboards with 11251 Cruises easily online”.

While this appears to make it clear that this is a liveaboard comparison and booking site, as the small print reinforces, the “About Us” page states: “Our travel agents are passionate divers who have been to the destinations that we are selling. We provide you availability and prices on our website.”

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