I can’t say I’m the most experienced liveaboarder, but in the last 3 years I have been on 5 – and definitely can identify some seemingly small things, and less obvious things that can really make or break your diving holiday.
#1: Quality Rooms
Basically, a liveaboard is a hotel, and thus the room is an important part of the equation. In most places, the most critical thing is the air conditioning. If you are on a liveaboard in the Maldives and don’t have A/C you will find it rather unpleasant to sleep at night. Besides the A/C – the common things like room tidiness, quality of the furniture, arrangement, TV etc are very important.
#2: Sound Isolation
A common issue is the extremely thin walls. To a lot of people this can be a serious problem since a liveaboard can be a rather noisy place, with people walking around, talking, drinking. This can cause irritation and possibly lack of sleep.
Everyone takes the ‘disconnected is better’ road, but there are times when you really need to check your mail, especially if you are self-employed. Liveaboards that invested in good internet functionality onboard, which can be rather tricky – definitely make the overall experience a touch better.
#4: Food Quality
Unlike with a hotel, you can’t ‘go to town’ to eat – you are forced to eat the food served by the liveaboard kitchen. The food therefore is super important, it can really make or break a trip. If you are constantly experiencing heartburn you are unlikely to enjoy the diving itself.
#5: Facilities for Socializing
A greatly enjoyable part of liveaboarding is the socializing that goes on at the end of day, usually over some drinks. There must be a convenient location that can facilitate all or a large chunk of the guests onboard for a comfortable place to gather.
#6: Charismatic Dive Guides & Instructors
Unlike with static dive shops, on a liveaboard you are spending a lot of time with your dive guide/instructor, under and above the water. The staff must therefore have some personality that will carry through this experience.
#7: Hot Water
From experience, a hot shower is not something always delivered on liveaboards, often the water is lukewarm at best, which takes away from the much needed hot shower at the end of the day.
#8: Spacious Dive Boat
The Dive Boat is a key component of the whole picture since all the diving itself happens of the dive boat – a spacious boat is a must. If you are doing 4 dives a day on a crowded little boat, overcrowded with other divers – it is unlikely that you will have a good time.
#9: Camera Table
This point only applies to photographers, but it really does apply to them. When you have a camera, with strobes and different lenses that you need to arrange before each dive, doing it in some improvized place is not the best idea. A camera table really helps.
#10: Massage on Board
Ofcourse this is over the top, just a little bit – but a massage at the end of a long day of diving is a great experience. Some boats, like Orion and WAOW both facilitate massages onboard. A great little touch.
Whenever you read reviews of boats, or ask your friends about their experiences, ask about some of the less obvious factors that end up playing a massive role in your overall experience.