When one is ultra passionate about diving, we want to do the best sites and very often they are only accessible in diving cruise, ie by a boat called liveaboards. It is not always easy to choose your liveaboard, especially thousands of kilometers away and in rather "exotic" destinations! I was director of a liveaboard for 1 year and I’ve done a lot of them personally, so as usual, I’ll give you my 10 tips for choosing your liveaboard.
Context: I was a cruise director for 1 year on a luxury liveaboard in Indonesia ( Dune Aurora) and did several cruises on a personal basis (Raja Ampat, Komodo, Tubbataha, Similan island, Apo reef…).
BEST ADVICE FOR CHOOSING YOUR LIVEABOARDS
- Leave at the right time / season!
- Calculate the total price carefully!
- Number of people / size of boat?
- Cabin comfort?
- Equipment of the boat?
- How is the food?
- Reputation of the crew?
- Number of divemasters / diver?
- Nitrox on board?
- Follow the promos!
Trick : generally speaking, I advise you to look at the comments and notes on liveaboard.comthey are the Trip Advisor for liveaboards!
1. CHECKING THE SEASON TO GO ON A LIVEABOARD?
- On all diving destinations, there is always better times than others (season of species like hammerhead sharks, whale sharks ..., navigation conditions, visibility ...).
- Sometimes liveaboards do part of the year somewhere and the other somewhere trying to keep up with the best seasons (like Raja Ampat / Komodo in Indonesia for example).
- But sometimes liveaboards operate all year, so knowing whatpart of the year will be worse than the other times, is essential (ex: If you want to see lots of hammerhead sharks in Coco Islands, go there June to September not the rest of the year!).
In each of my articles, there is always a paragraph "best time to dive", because that is one of the most important things to know!
2. VERIFY THE TOTAL PRICE OF THE LIVEABOARD
Normally, a cruise ship (liveaboard) has established a price / day for its service (example: 300 € / day, which gives 2100 € for 7 days).
But the price displayed on their site or on liveaboard.com, is never the final price, it will often be necessary to add:
- Marine park fees : almost all liveaboards will go to protected marine parks and the entry fees of the diver are not included in the price of the liveaboards. Ex: 66 € for 1 year for Raja Ampat, at 20$ / day in Komodo or 90 € for Tubbataha.
- Fuel surcharge : on some trips, the liveaboards decide to charge you more because they feel they are traveling more than normal ...
- Crew tip : depending on the destinations, your culture, your satisfaction and the range of the boat (e.g. on average 20$ / day for Indonesia). Of course it is not compulsory, but it is still customary.
- Equipment : of course if you do not have all of your diving equipment, this will be in addition (on average between 20 and 25$ / day for the full), otherwise each element will be rented independently (ex: dive computer, lamp, wetsuit…)
- Nitrox : some very high-end liveaboards include nitrox, but it's very rare (count 10$ on average per day).
So what does it look like with a classic example:
- Price displayed: 2000 $ for 7 days
- Park fees: + 100 $ for 7 days = 2100 $
- Tip: + 20 $ x 7 days: 140 $ = 2240 $
- Nitrox: + 10 $ x 7 days: 70 $ = 2310
- Total price = displayed price + 15%
Warning : when you book, ask for all additional costs (park fees + fuel surcharge + tip + equipment ...)
3. NUMBER OF PEOPLE / SIZE OF THE BOAT
- Even if you are very sociable, honestly the less people, the better your trip can be (unless you are a good group of friends of course!).
- Compare the maximum capacity of people / to the size of the boat.
- Less people =
- Fewer problems to make homogeneous groups (as cruise director, I assure you that it is not always easy to make groups that suit everyone!).
- Less waste of time
- More flexibility.
advice : a boat of 8-12 divers is great, more than 25-30 you will probably be crowded!
4 COMFORT OF CABINS
- For some, this point is crucial and rightly so!
- You will spend 8, 10, 12 days on a boat to dive every day, it is better that you sleep well!
- On some destinations, the comfort of the cabins will be more or less similar (Coco island, Socorro ...), on others not at all (eg Red Sea, Maldives, Komodo, Raja ampat ...)
- As the air conditioning is almost basic, look carefully at the descriptions and photos: size of the rooms, interior equipment, TV…
Tips: in any case, take the room furthest from the front to avoid being woken up every morning by the ascent of the anchor!
5. FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS
If you are a photographer, know that all cruise ships are not equivalent, even the high end.
- Rinsing tank :
- All boats have fresh water tanks for rinsing sensitive elements (photo gear, computer, lamp ...), but they are more or less big depending on the boats ... (it goes from the small basin to the large tank).
- If you are a photographer and the boat or you plan to go to a large capacity of divers (more than 16), check that the bin is large, otherwise it will be a pain for you and the other photographers !!
- Camera room on cruise ships
- This is the most important for you!
- Some boats have a dedicated room for photographers (camera room in English).
- You can there leave your photo gear without having to put everything in your room, charge your batteries, dry your equipment with compressed air, sometimes even make your photo editing on your computer…
- It is still much more practical to do all this in a dedicated room than in your bedroom!
- Equipment and size are not always the same : space for each, number of sockets to charge, light, chair to sit on…
- I saw rooms where you could easily put 10-15 large devices and others 3 or 4 max.
Warning : even if it says "room for camera" (camera room in English), you do not know the size, the best is to ask for a photo!
6. FOOD ON BOARD THE CRUISE BOAT
- You will spend 8, 10, 12 days on a boat to dive every day, you better eat well, otherwise you're just going to talk about it!
- As soon as you are on certain ranges of liveaboards, normally there is no problem, but on the cheaper ones, be careful…
- If you have a particular diet, check before the liveaboards can apply it.
Advice : look at the comments on liveaboard.com (the Trip Advisor of diving cruise ships), the quality of the food is often cited.
7. REPUTATION OF THE CREW ON THE BOAT
- You can have a great boat, if the crew is crappy you will be disappointed.
- Again, from a certain range, you are almost sure that the quality of the crew will be good, but the cheapest one, you can never be sure…
Tip: I advise you to see the comments on liveaboard.com (the Trip Advisor for liveaboards), the quality of the crew is often cited.
8. NUMBER OF DIVEMASTERS PER DIVER
- This is the kind of thing that is not really mentioned in their description of liveaboards (or if it is, that's pretty good news).
- Pay attention to the number of divemasters / divers (even in prestigious destinations), we sometimes have unpleasant surprises…
- Even if you are an experienced diver and you know how to manage yourself on your own, there are plenty of places where knowledge of the divemaster is essential to fully appreciate the dive sites (I'm not even talking about the macro sites!).
- On the entry-level cruises, you will often 1 divemaster / 8 people, see 10.
- In countries such as Egypt, their cases are a bit different. There you may go without a divemaster after explaining the site. However, in most countries I have been to, you are never allowed to go without a divemaster.
Advice : a good quality cruise should offer a divemaster for 4 divers, 6 max.
9. CRUISE SHIP EQUIPMENT
- General : number of relaxation areas (bar, sundeck, lounge, etc.), wifi, flat screen TV, etc.
- Diving equipment : equipment area, equipment storage, shower, etc.
- Most cruise ships are fitted with nitrox compressors, but not all…
- Then depending on the range of the boat, the nitrox will be paid or not.
- Electrical outlet : depending on the country of the cruise, the catches may not be the same as you. Normally they always have adapters, but we can have surprises on some entry-level boats…
- Additional equipment : kayak, canoe, paddle…
10. FOLLOW PROMOS, THERE ARE SOME ALL THE TIME!
- Generally you will book well in advance for certain destinations (Galapagos, Socorro, Raja Ampat…).
- But sometimes, 3, 4 even 6 months before the date, there are crazy promotions! -30, 50% on Galapagos, Coco or Raja Ampat, it is possible !
Tip: look carefully my cruise tips page, where I gather the best offers from liveaboard.com (it's good to be ambassador for them ahahah).
WHAT IS A LIVEABOARD?
- When you go to the cruise sites and they are in English, you will see the term " liveaboards »Appear everywhere.
- The French translation for liveaboard would be " diving cruise ship".
- For the English it is a concept, most often it is used to translate a " on liveaboards "And sometimes we redo the" liveaboard "Himself.
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