By guest blogger Adam Straub
You’ve finally decided to dedicate a vacation solely to diving by staying on a liveaboard, one giant stride away from each day’s dive sites — or you’re already hooked and you’ve just booked your next liveaboard trip. Here are a few tips to keep in mind before you board.
Many liveaboards sail far from home, multiple time zones away. Arrive at least a day early to allow your body to acclimatize to the extreme time change and sleep off some of the jet lag, and, if you can, do the same when you return home. Many divers land, board the ship and spend the first few days in a haze, sleeping or inattentive during briefings, or missing vital information about the ship or diving practices. Arriving a day early also means you won’t be stressed out about missing the boat should you face flight delays.
Here’s what you need: flip flops, quick drying shorts or skirts, loose T-shirts, maybe a sarong or a few sundresses, at least two swimsuits or trunks and a fleece or hoodie to warm up a waterlogged body. Here’s what you don’t need: everything else. Leave the makeup, the nice dresses and slacks, the multiple pairs of shoes, heck, even a full change of clothes for each day home. You won’t need them, we promise. If you’ve got your own dive gear, use the room in your luggage allowance for that.
Test your equipment before you go
How many times have you uttered or overheard someone say, “I just hd this thing serviced!” While it’s a great idea to have your gear serviced before departing on an extended dive trip, it’s an even better idea to do it well in advance so you can test your freshly serviced gear before you go and make sure it’s in functioning order.
Make any special requests early
Want to eat vegetarian on the boat? Maybe you’ve got a food allergy or you would like to use a smaller tank. Make sure you make any special requests of the liveaboard company when you book your trip, not when you arrive and board the boat. Most, if not all, liveaboards are happy to comply to guest requests if given enough time to do so.
Leave your marine-life expectations at home
For months before your trip you pore over captain’s reports and read tales about whales, whale sharks, sea monsters and mermaids, and then at the end of your trip you are upset because you didn’t see any of those things, right? Just because something was spotted last week on a charter unfortunately doesn’t mean it will happen on your charter. These are wild animals, and behave accordingly. There are no guaranteed sightings, but your crew will do everything it can to maximize your chances. In the meantime, appreciate the life you do see.
Bring tip money
Your cultural customs and geographic location are no excuse not to tip. The crews of liveaboards survive on tips. Your crew will put in countless hours to ensure that you not only have the trip of a lifetime, but also that you stay safe during the voyage. If they are not rewarded for this effort they’ll leave and find other work because the base pay rate in the dive industry is not good. Budget 20 percent of the cost of your trip — in cash — and set it aside in an envelope. Note: companies often do not pay out credit card tips to the crew.
Don’t be afraid to talk to the crew
Even if they don’t speak your language, the crewmembers on your charter want to interact with you and get to know you, so chat with them and try to get to know them inasmuch as the language barrier will allow. Also don’t be afraid to let your crew know if something isn’t right; they can’t help if they don’t know there’s a problem. From questions and concerns about a dive, help with your gear, or if you just need a good laugh, even the quietest of crewmembers is happy to chat.
Make sure you have it. Weather, lost dive gear or illness can ruin a trip. Although any of these scenarios is unfortunate, they needn’t be as much of an issue you’ve got trip insurance. Illness can ruin a charter for everyone onboard, so don’t be that person. If you decide to go and dive, despite being sick, you can end up injured, with blown ear drums or ruined sinuses, or you may infect the crew or other passengers. Sit it out and try again later when you know you’re at 100 percent.
All said, the most important thing to remember is to relax and have fun. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Is your camera malfunctioning? Leave it behind and enjoy a dive without watching it through a viewfinder. Is your dive buddy irritating you? Switch it up or go with a dive guide and meet some new people. Liveaboard trips can be costly, remote and unpredictable. Don’t let these things get to you. You signed up for an adventure; you might as well enjoy it.