I returned yesterday as a diver who was injured on the boat, so I'll start by saying that I have rather mixed feelings about the trip. I'm posting here as fellow Divers should know how Blue-O-Two actually handled an accident and dealing with getting an injured diver home. Overall I think there is a massive difference between the quality of the boats & crew and the competence of their admin staff.
Let's start at the beginning, I'd talked my warm water dive buddy into this trip some time ago. This was my third liveaboard and her first, so I wanted to make sure that the trip went smoothly and chose to book with Blue-O-Two, who I've heard great things about.
On booking the agent I spoke to seemed to have very little knowledge about the itinerary, and kept referring me to the website. The answers to my questions weren't there. Anyway, we booked, and money was taken. I was called back the next day, the agent had got her sums wrong and could she take some more money from my card? She couldn't really explain the numbers, just that she'd got it wrong first time and needed to take some more money. When the credit card bill turned up the figures taken did not match any figures she'd given me over the phone. More phone calls to sort that out, which we eventually did when the balance was due. Rather unimpressed by all that.
Details came through. We were flying out with Thomas Cook and back with Thomson. Two slightly different luggage and hand luggage policies to contend with. I groaned inwardly, that's not very convenient. As the trip approached my buddy, who is significantly taller than me, asked for extra leg room on the flights. I phoned Blue-O-Two, extra leg room - no problem, they quoted a price way higher than that given on the airline's websites. I asked for our airline booking reference to make the booking direct (their flight booking details letter said we could do this), but was told we couldn't have it. So we agreed to pay the extra leg room surcharge. They called back the next day to say they couldn't get the seats. Could she have an aisle seat instead? OK, they'd sort that, we'd get confirmation later. They'd call me back (they didn't).
Our tickets arrived, but no mention of the aisle seat. I called them, three or four times in the end, each time I was told everything was OK, our booking was in the system. We still had no confirmation the day before we flew, so I called again. The agent I spoke to said he would chase it. He did call back. Her aisle seat booking was confirmed for the return flight, but they'd forgotten to process it for the flight out. It was too late to book now, we'd have to ask at check in.
The flight was cramped. We arrived at Hurghada tired, to find the usual Egyptian airport queues. It took ~2 hours to get through mmigration. Then we began the hunt for the Blue-O-Two rep on the other side of the the barriers; we eventually found them lurking in shadows in the car park and found our coach.
Exhausted we got onto the boat, did the paperwork and got to our rooms. We were on Blue Fin, which had just come out of dry dock. Inside our cabin the smell of varnish was overpowering; we opened a porthole and fumes spewed in for the engine of the boat moored next to us, then our engines started up. We were next to them. My buddy blew her top, and asked to be moved. The boat was not full, but her request was refused.
The first few dives we did were all shallow reefs. We shared the trip with two club groups. One group was from a University and included relatively recently qualified BSAC ODs and PADI Open Water divers. Members from the other club started to worry that we would miss the Thistlegorm, Dunraven, etc. and I have to admit I shared their concerns. It was clear that some of the participants did not meet the minimum experience and qualifications set for this trip.
The sea was choppy at the start of the week, so we had problems finding safe dive sites. We did Shark and Yolanda which turned into an unexpected drift. Swimming into the current towards the Yolanda another group of divers was on it. I could not find a hand hold and was blown off the wreck, exhausted. I surfaced without my buddy, who appeared a worrying 10 minutes later having come up with another group.
However, the next dive proved to be my nemesis. A RIB ride out to the drop off. Blue Fin ask you to enter RIBs by moving onto the dive ladders facing the RIB, descending two steps and then stepping in when signalled. As I stepped into the RIB it lurched sideways, pulling my right leg which was bearing my weight sharply to the side. My knee gave way, I collapsed face down into the RIB screaming, my leg twisted in a direction that legs do not go. The other divers helped me dekit, and I hauled myself back up the ladder onto the boat. Two guides - Ahmed and Mustafa - helped me hobble inside. I took control of the first aid (I'm a first aider), telling the guides exactly what we needed to do. Other divers returned, one of whom was by very good luck a nurse. She checked me over, added a few more things, and there was a brief discussion about whether I should be put off the boat - 'wait and see'. I asked the dive guides to contact my insurers, and was told that would be done. Diving was clearly now finished for me.
Time passed. I stayed out of people's way and only moved around the boat when we were moored and stable. People showed me their photos of the Thistlegorm, Abu Nuhas and the Dunraven. I tried to stay cheerful. The crew were very kind, particularly Samir and Ahmed, and looked after me well. I asked intermittently about contacting insurers, and told it would be done. The nurse told them I would need a wheelchair and assistance for then return journey.
On Thursday we turned to Hurghada. Fifii, who was in charge of things there, came aboard. She, I and the nurse went through arrangements. Wheelchairs had been ordered, they would get me an extra leg room seat as some are held back for medical emergencies. The nurse stressed this was very important. On Friday we left the boat, the crew helped me across the gangplank. Setting off for the airport I was told I 'd be met there with a wheelchair.
We arrived at the airport, but there was no wheelchair or Blue-Two rep. We were dropped in the middle of a carriageway with a couple of lanes of traffic between us and the airport. The other passengers walked in with their bags, but my buddy and I were stranded. The driver spoke no English and left us. We were mobbed by Egyptians wanting to 'help' us with our bags. I started to panic as traffic zipped past us and we fended people away from our bags. A rep from another company saw us, took pity and came over to help. He went of in search of a wheelchair and after some delay turned with the Blue-O-Two rep. By this point I was very distressed and trying to hold back rising panic and tears.
We got through to check in. My buddy started to do the formalities, and asked for the medical emergency seat for me as Fifi had instructed us to do. Not possible. I was given a window seat. An argument erupted, the nurse had expressly told Fifi I could not manoeuvre in the space of a normal row, and must not be put in one. Lots of shouting in Arabic, no-one would tell me what was going on.
The Blue-O-Two rep said that medical emergency seats were available, but nothing had been arranged. So I could not have one. I made the rep call Fifi on his mobile. He walked away and left us in the crowd. People pushed round us trying to check in, my injured leg was hit repeatedly by bags and I was yelping in pain and trying not to cry. The Blue-O-Two rep reappeared and there was more shouting between him and the man at check in. Then they started shouting "4C OK" at me, which I realised was an aisle seat. To be precise the aisle seat my buddy had booked. No, it was not OK. I was not sticking my injured leg in the aisle so it could be kicked and battered further.
More arguments. The check in guy walked away and conferred with someone else. He shook his head. I kept pointing at my leg and shouting that we had been promised a medical emergency seat. The only sense I could make of what came back was that the seats were available, but they were not going to give me one. Finally the Blue-o-Two guy said that there was an extra cost. I asked how much -£20. I paid £20 and everyone smiled. I was told that I must have misunderstood Fifi, she had arranged an aisle seat for me only.
I was lifted in a container into the plane as they did not think I could walk up the steps. On the plane I asked whether they could check if a wheelchair had been booked at the other end, as it seemed Fifi had not delivered on her promises so far. They told me it had not, and the cabin crew made arrangements for wheelchairs and a buggy to get me through Gatwick.
We got home yesterday. My buddy took me to Addenbrookes, and after some hours I have emerged with a pair of crutches, a brace on my leg and an appointment for an MRI scan. The ligaments in my knee have been ruptured and I can expect it to take many months for any kind of recovery. When I finally got home I called my insurers. Blue-o-two did not notify them of my accident. I spoke to their medical assistance team, who expressed shock at what Blue-O-Two had done.
So Blue-O-Two have failed miserably in dealing with me. I am furious that their administration put me through hell at the airport, lied about the arrangements they made and clearly couldn't give a sh1t about getting an injured diver home. Presumably the company felt that they could save £20 by bluffing it out rather than provide the seating needed. I contrast that with the care an attention of the dive guides and boat crew who bent over backwards to try and look after me once the accident happened. But I hope you'll understand why it is hard for me to say anything nice at all about Blue-O-Two at this time. At best they are incompetent and at worst malicious.