Tui Tai TripAdvisor Review

Tui Tai Trip Advisor Review

The following is Tui Tai’s management response to a forum thread on TripAdvisor from 2013.

Unfortunately, TripAdvisor has blocked our attempts to respond on the forum thread itself. While we believe this is unfair, we nevertheless would like to provide our response to the unfavorable review.

For the full, original review, please visit Trip Advisor and search for “Tui Tai” in the forums.

Tui Tai Management Response

Bula,
Thank you for the opportunity to respond. My name is Tige Young, and I am one of Tui Tai’s owners (the owner referred to in the forum post). Before I address this post point-by-point, a few things about me, what I care about, and how I measure our service.

What do I care about?

My answer is basically what the Tui Tai is all about: creating amazing, inspiring experiences. That’s all I care about. The happiness of our guests is what makes me happy. I realize this goal is a constant evolution, and we can always find ways to do things better.

My personal style is to listen to our guests. I crave their feedback (good and bad) as the most valuable way to learn and improve. Nearly every service, activity, renovation that we’ve done has been inspired by feedback from our guests.

I love our guests. I really do, even this reviewer.

How I measure our service

I have my own list of things I like to see; covering everything from room cleanliness, staff interactions, activities, food, scheduling. But really we measure ourselves by feedback from our guests. Despite some disappointment, the reviewer highlighted several areas as very positive including the food, cleanliness, service from onboard staff and world-class dive sites.

Aside from feedback forms and conversations with guests, I will highlight 2 other ways to measure the happiness of our guests

Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence
Tui Tai has won this recognition the past 3 years (2011, 2012, 2013) based on feedback and ratings provided on TripAdvisor. Unfortunately, TripAdvisor has changed its listing requirements and will not allow us to maintain a listing (multi-day, cruise-based tours are not allowed).

Our Rate of Returning Guests is the Best its Ever Been
In 2013 we had 6 full-boat private charters booked by returning guests! From other guests, who travelled with us for the first time in 2013, 12 have enquired about chartering the entire ship in 2014. As I said, we’re always improving and not perfect, but the rate at which our guests are returning and booking charters tells me we’re doing some things right. It also tells me that some of the issues raised by this reviewer are likely exaggerated or false (but always worth an investigation into each, and maybe they will lead to improvements).

The week this reviewer was onboard, there was another guest who especially enjoyed the trip. It was so inspiring to her, that she returned 8-days later and booked another trip! (really, she was on Oct 7-14 AND Oct 21-28). AND she has booked another trip for herself in December this year AND she’s holding space for a private charter for her extended family in 2014. She hasn’t posted anything on TripAdvisor, but her actions tell me she’s happy.

I’m very proud of our guests who are inspired by Tui Tai and return again. Happy, inspired, tears flowing at the end of the trip, sending care packages to the crew, telling friends about their trip…that’s what I care about and how I measure our service.

The Unfavorable Review — Point by Point

Taxi to Boat

We board our trips in remote locations. The advantage of this is our guests arrive to a destination early in the trip. On the first day, guests enjoy beautiful, remote island scenery along with diving, snorkeling, kayaking and cultural entertainment in a village.

Rather than board at a wharf and spend the bulk of the first day cruising to remote locations; I’ve tried to get our guests active as early as possible on the first day. The overlying theme of our trips is “adventure” and the remote boarding location fits well for this purpose.

On the website, all that’s said is “Take a stunning coastal drive from Savusavu to Natewa Bay, where you’ll board the Tui Tai, drop your gear off in your room and nibble on locally-sourced snacks while receiving a foot massage. Jump in for a quick swim, snorkel or scuba dive and, after lunch, kayak along the protected, completely undeveloped coastline of Natewa Bay, the second largest bay in the southern hemisphere. Back aboard, we raise sail with the sunset at our backs.”

Tender Boats

We have 2 zodiac style, Rigid-Inflatable Boats, which we use for dive/snorkel trips, ship to shore, boarding, and other trips. They are very sea-worthy and ideal for our use. Generally, dive and snorkel trips take 10-15 minutes from the main ship to reach the site.

Fiji is a warm, tropical environment and we’re at sea, so it’s a harsh environment for outboard engines. We have 4 engineers onboard and 3 outboard engines. They have a constant program to rotate and service engines.  Each boat has lifevests, first aid kit and vhf radio.

Safety is our top priority.

Tui Tai

Happy to note your room was clean with comfortable linens and conducive to a good night’s sleep. Pleased to report we have a plumbing enhancement which will be completed in December 2013 (done). This will boost water pressure to the upstairs Stateroom (where the reviewer stayed).

The ship is inspected twice a year my maritime surveyors. Hull and underwater gears are inspected once a year on a dry dock. Despite her age, she’s a safe, sea-worthy and well-maintained.

Liability Waiver

We have a standard liability waiver for all of our guests. This is a requirement by our insurance company. The reviewer was upset that his dive gear was damaged during the trip. I investigated the incident, and found that one of the other guests onboard accidentally knocked over his tank and gear, which damaged the regulator. When he threatened me with legal action (reviewer is a lawyer), I reminded him of the liability waiver.

I explained that we can assist him with a travel insurance claim (even if he didn’t have insurance, most credit card issuers provide insurance for damaged gear), by providing documentation. I also instructed Captain John to call around locally (in Taveuni and Nadi) to help find a technician that can repair the damaged gear.

Sailing

During this trip, Captain John was onboard as Captain. Captain John is very capable and an excellent master (as noted by the reviewer), however, he’s not experienced at Sailing. Under good conditions, we occasionally use the main sail and a jib. It’s not a true “sailing” experience, as the ship is too large and heavy to be powered 100% by sail. Our goal is to get from one island to the next, and maximize our time at each destination. I love it when we can utilize the sails; they’re beautiful, fun and save money

Rats

We self treat the ship to prevent and eliminate pests. We’re also inspected twice a year by local health inspectors. Treatment is an ongoing process but it works well and there’s rarely an issue (actually a lot easier to manage on a ship at sea. Hotels and resorts have a much more difficult time with this). I was disappointed to see a rat onboard, because I know where it came from. Earlier that day, we went alongside a wharf in Taveuni to fuel up and take on water. A local fishing boat requested permission to tie up alongside us (meaning they literally tied up to our ship). Although I tried to convince them not to; it’s part of local marine code to assist others. I’m certain the little stowaway came aboard Tui Tai from this local fishing vessel. I made no off-hand comments about this, just went directly to our hospitality manager to inform him. This has been handled (visual confirmation) and there are no other stowaways.

Sexual Harassment

Personally, I did not show pictures of gooey ducks to any of our guests. I note that one of our guests, who is a personal friend and relative of mine, did this. I take this issue very seriously. If I thought there was any circumstance that this could be considered harassment or vulgar, I would have kicked him off the ship.

The only sexual harassment worth mentioning here is directed at me (forum post about an American playboy and his girlfriend). I’ve chosen not to respond to this.

Diving

Previous reviewers (and other guests who were onboard this same week) have noted our dive staff, equipment, and dive experience is safe and fun. Getting in/out of the boats is safe, and you always have a big strong crew ready if you need and extra hand. The reviewer showed me a photo from one of the dives on Tui Tai. He explained (and I agree) it was the best dive he’s ever been on and the best dive photo he’s ever taken (crystal clear blue water, our divemaster surrounded by a school of 300 trevally). It was amazing.

# of dives

The reviewer was on the trip with his wife (who doesn’t dive). On several days, our dive team asked if he wanted to do an afternoon dive (which would be the 3rd dive of the day), and he chose not to dive, so he could spend time with his wife.

Every day is slightly different, based on our location. However, we follow a pretty standard game plan with our dives. We have a 7am dive, then another dive at 10.30am, then a dive at 2.30pm. We also have 1-2 night dives per week.

Dive Sites

Glad to see he noted “the most spectacular dive site I have ever seen” and “the most beautiful lush coral.”

Dive Time

Haven’t heard any complaints about this from any other divers. We fill tanks to 200bar–3000psi. We have no financial incentive to cut dives short (all of our costs are fuel, staff, gear. Unrelated to length of the dive). Dive time is set by the divemaster or instructor who leads the dive.

I was onboard for 5-days with the reviewer. I spoke with him directly every day. I asked him how each dive was. Every time the response was that the dives were great and accompanied by a lengthy detail of remarkable sightings and good underwater photography.

We did have an issue with our dive compressor during this trip, but were able to get tanks filled at a local dive shop. We were able to offer and operate all scheduled dives. As of now, we have 2 working dive compressors (one is brand new in 2013).

Dive Gear Area

Dive gear is stored on the main deck, located aft of the cabins. There is ample room for rinsing gear, with 2 taps and 2 shower heads. Just 2 weeks after the reviewer’s trip, we had a group of 22 divers. They had a great trip with no complaints about our dive gear area. The dive gear area is generally limited to tanks, BCDs and wetsuits. For masks, fins, computers, we have mesh bags and you can keep these items in your room or right outside.

Divemaster

I’m happy and agree with the reviewer that “Our dive master was knowledgeable, capable, impressionable and fun to dive with.”

Regarding dive photos, this is a popular request from our guests. Although I don’t think there was any safety issues, I have now required the dive team to always have at least one divemaster who is not taking photos on all dives.

Dive Safety

Safety is our number 1 priority, always. Our divemasters are safety conscious and great with divers of all skill levels.

The dive boats do not leave the dive group. Most of our dives are drift dives, which means sometimes the divers will come up in a different area from where the dive boat is (usually less than 100m away). For safety all of our divers, guides have safety sausages (inflatable from the BCD, stands up 6ft high, bright orange) and horns (loud, powered by the BCD).

Dive boats have lifevests, first aid kits, oxygen, and vhf radio. Boat operators call in to the ship every time a diver or snorkeler goes in the water and every time they return. These calls are entered in the ship’s log book.

Schedule

During the reviewer’s trip, we ran all of our activities listed on the website. None were rushed nor cancelled.
We run an aggressive schedule of activities each day. There is no other operator in Fiji that comes anywhere near the level of activities we do each day on Tui Tai. That’s our style and I love it.

We don’t measure success by being on time (we’re not an airline). Our schedule is fluid and dynamic. The goal is to maximize each day.

A great example, during the reviewer’s trip, on Tuesday in Rabi Island; there is a beautiful dive/snorkel site where we regularly see Manta Rays and can swim with them. The Manta Rays don’t set their schedule by our clocks, instead they follow a varying schedule that depends on tides and other factors. If we just went out “on time” we would miss them most of the time. Instead, we follow their schedule, so that we get the opportunity to swim up close with these amazing creatures. On this particular trip, there were a lot of Manta Rays swimming around and conditions were excellent. We stayed out there for a while…I can’t imagine telling everyone “excuse me, time’s up, we have to leave now to get back in time for lunch.” We stayed as long as guests wanted to and lunch was pushed back a bit. We made up time later in the afternoon and did all of our planned activities.

It was an amazing day! (just as we planned it).

Crew

I agree with the reviewer’s comments about Captain John and the friendliness of the crew. This is an important part of the Tui Tai experience, and I’ll quote the reviewer here:

“The Fijian people are some of the nicest I have ever met. The crew on the boat are incredible. Quick to greet you by name and willing to do anything to make your visit better. There is a large crew on boat and they are almost like family. Friendly, happy, and eager to please is how the staff can best be described. Captain John was incredible. A quiet and measured leader, he was quick with smile and set a great example for his crew. Like the chief of a village his crew responded with respect.”

My favorite review of the Tui Tai crew is from travel writer Tim Neville (Outside Magazine) who wrote:“Tui Tai has only one purpose: to make sure you go to sleep each night swearing you just spent the best day of your life.”

Well done and “vinaka vakalevu” to the Tui Tai crew!

WiFi

More good news, Wi-Fi on Tui Tai is FREE! Another option, if you want to have internet access in your room, enable international roaming on your phone or tablet. This can be expensive, depending on how much you use (most smartphones have data controls to help manage this). We can’t control the position of Vodafone’s (local ISP) towers. I refuse to change the itinerary just to accommodate more internet access.

I’m happy to answer any questions related to this review or our service in general.

Vinaka vakalevu,
-Tige

Tige Young
Owner, Managing Director
Tui Tai Expeditions