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Quality liveaboard operations will be well prepared for scuba dive equipment snafus. You need not bring extra scuba dive gear, for the vessel will have most components on hand. The ships are also usually well supplied with rental underwater camera equipment. Stowing of large suitcases can be a problem, so as much as possible stick with soft-sided dive bags that can be stowed more easily.
Clothing requirements on a liveaboard cruise are minimal. Unless you put on your wetsuit for a night dive, you won't be wearing a black tie to dinner. When not in the water, scuba divers usually just wear t-shirts and shorts or lightweight long trousers. However, note that most live-aboards are very proud of their air-conditioning capacity. Cabins, dining areas, and lounges tend to be kept very cold. Thus I suggest you pack a warm-up suit, some long sleeved t-shirts, and even a lightweight sweatshirt and a hat that you can wear to keep warm between dives. Those items, and some enjoyable reading, will keep you cozy and entertained. Other than these clothing items, toiletries, and your dive and photo gear, pack lightly, for most everything else will be on board waiting for you.
Getting seasick would certainly ruin a liveaboard dive cruise for you, and probably everyone around you. If you know you are prone to seasickness, there are precautions you can take to make it a non-issue. Over the counter drugs such as Bonine work very well for most people, but the important thing is to read the directions and take that first pill hours before you step aboard the vessel. The transdermal Scoplamine patch also works well for some. If you've never used one of these drugs, my recommendation is that you try a dose in advance, at home, to be sure you are not one of the small percentage of people who experience unfortunate side-effects.
The best live-aboard dive boat is probably not the biggest, nor the vessel that carries the most passengers. Look for a company and a vessel with a proven track record. A scuba dive liveaboard boat that takes only 12 divers will probably offer better scuba diving experiences than one attempting to take 20 or 24 scuba divers. You want creature comforts while onboard, but no crowding when you hit the water. Good examples of quality liveaboards may be found with Aggressor Fleet, Peter Hughes Diving, M/V Nimrod Explorer in Australia, M/V Nai'a in Fiji, and many others.
When not scuba diving, there are actually plenty of things to do on most live aboard dive boats. Snorkeling or kayaking is fun and great exercise. Onboard, there will most always be a library, a music system, and a TV/VCR/DVD combo with a collection of films. Between reading, watching fun movies, and keeping your dive log book up to date, and telling dive lies with the other guests, there won't be time for much more than the "Eat, Sleep, and Dive" that is Aggressor Fleet's humorous motto.
Assuming you have had an enjoyable liveaboard cruise, it is customary to offer a tip at the conclusion of a dive trip. On a live-aboard cruise, something in the range of 10% of the cruise cost (excluding airfare and any land arrangements) would be well received. Remember that there are many people serving you, not just the divemasters that you see every day. The cook, the person who cleans your room, and the guy pumping tanks all night, are just as important to your happiness as the Captain. Most boats have developed a means of collecting the tip so that all crewmembers may receive their fair share. In addition to a monetary tip, it's also fun to bring along some gift t-shirts from you dive club, or perhaps a new music CD or movie DVD to add to the boat's collection. Your thoughtfulness will be appreciated.
A common reluctance to a live aboard cruise is the fear that there will be no way to get away from the other guests. In reality, these are relatively large liveaboard dive boats with multiple decks and lounge areas. On a well-designed live aboard charter, it is possible to enjoy the scuba diving, meals, and group activities, while still having the ability to find a quiet space when one wishes.
The best live aboard cruises will be those that take you places otherwise inaccessible. If a liveaboard boat is hitting dive sites that others are swimming off the beach, there is no point to living on that boat. A liveaboard cruise proves its value when it gives you scuba diving experiences that could not be attained from any one land-based resort. Places where I feel liveaboards definitely add extra value include Belize, Honduras, Turks & Caicos, Cocos, Galapagos, Fiji, and Komodo, Indonesia.
A scuba diving live aboard is a vessel designed specifically to house scuba divers at sea and to provide scuba diving services while traveling to remote scuba diving destinations. The typical live-aboard dive boat is in the 100 to 120-foot range, and equipped to handle 14-18 divers in double occupancy cabins. The main advantage of a liveaboard cruise is to provide easier access and more scuba diving at remote locations difficult to reach by day boats.
Due to the great number of dives that can be accomplished on a live aboard cruise, it is a particularly good place to go Nitrox diving rather than use plain air. Breathing Nitrox will give you an added margin of safety against decompression sickness, while increasing your safe bottom time limits. If you are not already Nitrox certified, a live aboard cruise is a great place to take your scuba diving Nitrox course. The training can be done while the boat is underway, and you'll be able to try Nitrox immediately.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|