CUBA SCUBA: Meet Jim Ikerd, Owner of SODA Dive Shop, Ohio
My customers had been asking me to find a way not only to dive Cuba but also experience the culture in a profound way. I met Amy Warren, owner of Cuba Scuba, at the World Underwater show in Chicago and was immediately impressed with her knowledge and love of Cuba. Her itinerary was the best value in Cuba I had seen. I was particularly drawn to the all-inclusive, hand-picked cultural excursions in Havana and local contacts in the itinerary. When I saw that each of her groups are escorted by a Cuba Scuba team member, I immediately booked.
Our trip sold out in about 24 hours. From the beginning, the Cuba Scuba team went above and beyond. Amy attended our Cuba Night and brought samples from Cuba, trip packets and answered all our questions. We were very well prepared. I enjoyed working directly with Amy because I quickly learned she was honest, straight forward and I could count on her.
I would describe the diving in Maria la Gorda as good, but not great. I was most interested in Havana in the CUBA WEST itinerary. We found this trip to be a world-class, cultural trip with good diving included. Our group had an absolute ball everywhere we went. The personal connections my clients felt were very heart-felt. When it came time to go home, most of my customers were a bit melancholy and teary-eyed because they weren’t ready to leave. Several customers kept saying, “These are my people.”
Our dive shop runs trips all over the world many times a year. I’ve personally trained more than 5,000 divers. As a group leader, I work at it. But Cuba Scuba did all the work for me. I relaxed like it was a vacation rather than a job. In 41 years in the dive & travel industry, this trip was the most well-organized trip I have EVER been on.
I immediately booked our next group trip while I was literally still in Havana. Our first group has declared they’re ready to go back and see more as soon as the Cuba East itinerary is ready. Our 2nd group for Cuba West sold out in a few days—this time with all new clients some of whom I had not traveled with in a while. It was particularly interesting to me, because our 2nd trip sold after some of the less flattering news articles had come out about Cuba – related to political ebb & flow. It didn’t deter our clientele one bit. In fact, I still have a waiting list! I think experienced travelers know how to take these things with a grain of salt.
I can’t wait to get back down there to Cuba with our next group. It’s unlike any other dive destination in the world. I am the regional manager of a leading training organization in the dive industry and I tell all the dive shop owners I consult that traveling with Cuba Scuba Tours is a dream. They are great to work with directly. It’s profitable, it delights your customers and it’s a much-needed vacation for YOU!
Meet Jim Ikerd in person at DEMA at the Cuba Scuba Booth #2316 on Friday, Nov 3 from 4-5pm where you can talk about his time in Cuba, enjoy Havana Club Rum tastings & sample a Cohiba cigar.