How to Choose a Top Liveaboard

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For anyone who has ever been on a liveaboard, you’ll know that it is so much more than just a ‘dive boat’. Sure, diving is the primary focus but, as the name suggests, these vessels are boats aboard which you live, often for a week or more, so you’ll want the one you pick to be as pleasant as possible.

For some, a liveaboard is little more than somewhere to sleep, fill up your air tank and have a beer after a full day of diving, but for others it is a home away from home, a sweet retreat to recharge, refuel and get ready for another fantastic day of diving.

Which category do you fall under: are you a traveller looking to dive as much as possible without breaking the bank, or are you willing to splash out in order to get the kind of 5 star experience you’ve become accustomed to?

Either way, our list of top ten tips for top-class liveaboards is sure to help you on your way to having an outstanding liveaboard experience.

Here’s a peek at the factors you should consider before jumping aboard:

Table of Content

1. It’s a Hot Topic: Hot Water

Let’s start with the basics:

After a long day of diving you’ll want the chance to wash off before enjoying an evening of socializing, re-living the day’s dives or simply crawling into bed with a smile on your face, ready to re-live your marine adventures in your dreams. Unfortunately, hot water does not always come as standard on liveaboards so you may be in for a bit of a shock to the system.

Some liveaboards may get you half way there and provide a lukewarm shower, but especially if the water you’re diving in is cold, a hot shower is going to be your number one priority. When looking to book a liveaboard get this one checked off right away… you’ll thank us later!

2. Keeping it Cool: Aircons & Room to Relax

Likewise if you’re diving in a hot destination, being able to keep cool during the night can make the difference between a restful night and a restless night, so air conditioning is likely to become your new best friend.

Liveaboards are essentially floating hotels, and anyone who has ever booked a hotel will know that the hotel room can play a major role in your final decision. Although of course on a liveaboard you are generally out diving for most of the day, you’ll still want a comfortable bed to come back to at the end of each sun-soaked day. Other aspects you might want to consider is the size of the room, if the room has a window or not and the type of furniture provided.

3. Ssh! The Divers Next Door are Sleeping

One of the most common issues with staying aboard a liveaboard is the fact that they often have very thin walls between the rooms and no attempts at soundproofing are made. This means that when you’re trying to rest up to enjoy a full day of diving the following day, you’ll likely be able to hear even the quietest of mice squeak on the other side of the wall. Needless to say if you’re a loud snorer you might not be Mr or Mrs Popular if your liveaboard has seriously thin walls.

Try to suss out the situation beforehand, especially if you are a light sleeper, as there are some liveaboards with great soundproofing. Opting for one of these means you’ll be able to say goodbye to noisy nights including the thud of late-night footsteps or the roar of the vessel’s engine.

4. Nom nom nom… Food

It’s important to refuel in between dives, and it’s equally important to make sure that the liveaboard you choose is going to serve up dishes you’ll enjoy. Whilst a liveaboard is indeed a floating hotel in some ways, you won’t have the luxury of popping into town for a bite to eat as you would with a regular hotel – so best be sure you’ll like what the kitchen serves up as a week without an enjoyable meal can be a very long week indeed.

If you have specific food intolerances or requirements, it’s always best to contact the liveaboard beforehand, especially since many of the boats will not have extensive information on their websites regarding the type of food served.

5. Connection to the Interwebs

Of course in this day and age spending a week without technology can be a welcomed treat (or totally terrifying depending on the type of person you are), but sometimes it’s just not practical to be without the Internet for that length of time. Most liveaboards go down the road of having a local SIM card connected to a router, making a shared hotspot for anyone who needs it. Don’t expect lightning-fast speeds of course, as a 3G connection is probably the most you’ll get out there in the big old blue.

An even better option would be to create your own connection by buying a SIM card at the airport and combining this with a data plan. In most places 1 gig of data shouldn’t cost more than $25, and it’s well worth it to have a secure, reliable connection, especially if you’re unlucky enough to have to do work whilst travelling.

6. Let’s Get Social

There’s nothing better than sharing a wonderful experience with like-minded people, and liveaboards can be the perfect place for divers to kick back, relax and enjoy the social aspect of diving with new friends. A top tip when picking a liveaboard is to check whether they have an adequate space for all the divers on board to socialize. These common areas usually include comfortable seating, a well-stocked bar and some good music. Of course, a friendly, charismatic bartender can also help to add something to the vibe.

A good idea is to check the pictures a liveaboard uses to advertise their trips – if there are no pictures of divers socializing in a common space, the likelihood is that you’ll be disappointed when looking for a space to meet with others.

7. It’s all About the Guides

When you’re on a liveaboard you end up spending a great deal of time with your diving guide both above and below the surface of the water. Having a friendly, charming dive guide who seems genuinely interested in spending time with their clients can go a long way to adding to your liveaboard experience.

Imagine being led by a quiet, reclusive guide who retreats to their room at the first available opportunity – such a guide is unlikely to add anything much to your holiday and would be quite forgettable at the end of the day. Check online reviews that focus on the liveaboard staff to try and get a feel for what others have experienced. There’s no two ways about it: even the best liveaboard located in the best diving spot in the world can be dampened by having to share the experience with less-than-pleasant people.

8. Wide Open Spaces

Of course, being on board a liveaboard means you’re not going to be left wanting when it comes to large expanses of open water stretching out before you, but having a cramped and crowded living space can certainly put a dampener on an otherwise fantastic experience. A crowded dive boat often means that accidents are more likely to happen and gear is more likely to get damaged or lost in these situations. Having plenty of room to kit up is always best, so check out the liveaboard’s online gallery before signing yourself up for major mayhem.

9. Dedicated Digital Photographer’s Area

Underwater cameras are expensive pieces of equipment that need to be cared for before, after and in between dives. Especially for avid photographers travelling with different sized lenses, cases and lights, having a non-slip surface where you can spread out all your gadgets, clean them and leave them to dry can be of paramount importance.

10. The Ultimate Reward after a Day of Diving: a Body Massage

If you’ve never had a body massage after a full day of diving, it’s definitely something worth experiencing. Having a dedicated masseuse on board is certainly not the norm, nor should it be a top priority, but if the liveaboard you choose happens to offer massages too, it’s likely to be a good one.

Happy diving!

Take it from those of us with a great deal of experience, sometimes it’s the things you don’t even think twice about that end up majorly contributing or detracting from your overall liveaboard experience.

We hope this article has helped you consider some of the less obvious factors that come into play when choosing a liveaboard and that the liveaboard you eventually choose is top-class.

What has your experience been with various liveaboards, and what do you think makes a good liveaboard into a great liveaboard?

We’d love to hear all about it in the comments section below.

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