FAQ: Life on board

Dive-eat-sleep-repeat

Life aboard a liveaboard revolves around diving and you will see that they organize everything around it. Depending on the country and location, we make 3-5 dives a day on these boats, yes you read that right. Dive, dive and more dive. The number of dives depends on local laws, regulations and customs, but it is certain that there are many.

The first guide or ‘cruise director’ organizes the times when all activities take place. You have to take these times flexibly, after all, sailing can take longer, the weather can be a bit unfavorable or they want to delay the dive slightly due to currents. Whatever it is, the first guide can tell you everything. Now, of course, it’s not convenient that this guide has to follow everyone to give updates, so they have a system on board for that. Often during the meal people are told where the boat is going now and what time the next briefing is. In addition, some ships have a whipe-board where they write that down. And to get everyone together in time, they use a ship’s bell when they serve food or the next dive briefing starts. So you don’t have to set your alarm, but you can just relax until the next bell rings.

As a rule, these ships use the following scheme:
– ‘Wake-up at crazy time’ is usually a knock on your door somewhere between 5 and 6 in the morning. Some boats offer a self-service breakfast, but not all. If you need something to eat before diving, ask for it in advance.
– Briefing & Dive 1
– Breakfast
– Relax time

– Briefing & Dive 2
– Lunch
– Relax time

– Briefing & Dive 3
– Snacks
– Relax time

-Briefing & Dive 4
– Supper

Food and drinks 

Good food is part of a great diving holiday and is a must, as you can use the energy. That is why liveaboards usually have 2-3 chefs who prepare all the food and preferably use fresh ingredients. If you now have special wishes or allergies that they have to take into account, do not feel burdened but report it. If the food is not to your liking, just say so and the chefs will make it for you. If you are vegan and would like to have special products that non-vegans generally do not consume, please report this well before you travel. Some products may not or hardly be available locally, so it is useful if the boat has the time to buy it for you. If they can’t get it, you can always consider bringing something with you, although this is generally not necessary.

There is always something to drink. From water to tea and coffee, soft drinks, beer, wine and spirits. The first three are almost always free, the others you sometimes have to pay, depending on the organization. Often there is a list where you have to keep track of what you use and sometimes there is a bartender. But whatever you take and what you have to pay for, the bill is only presented at the end of the trip. So you don’t have to walk around with your wallet all the time. But don’t be surprised either and check with the travel organization what they have on board and what you have to pay for.

General rules on a liveaboard

To keep the boat as pleasant as possible, clean, safe and comfortable, there are general rules that everyone must adhere to. You can think of:

• Not charging in your room: One of the major dangers on board is fire and of course everyone wants to prevent that. Therefore they will ask you not to charge anything in your room. Chargers get hot and batteries can ignite spontaneously. And so they offer a public place to charge. It is smart to mark your cables and plugs so that everyone sees that they are yours. It’s also more convenient to remove them when you’re not using them. This way no one else can take them by mistake and you make room for someone else to load.

• A dry and wet area: Every boat has a specific part where you can get wet after a dive, some swimming or snorkeling. But water, believe it or not, can be dangerous on a deck because you can slip. And so they’d like you to only enter the arid areas after you’ve been dried off. In addition, it is not cool to participate in lunch with wet swimming trunks, because as soon as you sit down, the moisture absorbs into the upholstery and that starts to smell.

• No paper in the toilet: Anything that has organically ended up in the sea or ocean, including the toilet drain. Ceptic tanks are present on these large ships, but they will sooner or later dump into the sea and that’s fine as long as it’s organic. That is why you are not allowed to throw paper in the toilet and only in the trash can, which they clean daily. In addition, the piping on board is small and paper clogs the pipes. The result is a big mess, because in the event of a blockage the toilet will return your message.

• No shoes or slippers: As soon as you come on board you will be asked to take off your shoes and you can walk around barefoot for the entire trip. Not only is it delicious, but it also prevents dirt from getting in. Do you have a medical reason to wear footwear? Don’t worry, you can, but then it is useful that you use slippers outside and inside to prevent dirt from walking in.

• Don’t jump off the boat: Who wouldn’t want that? Jump off one of the higher decks into clear blue water? Well, unfortunately the answer is the insurance company and therefore you will be asked not to. The insurance will not cover you if you break something or injure something else during that jump and that is not worth it. In addition, jumping from heights is not useful if you have been diving and do not want to have decompression sickness. And so most submarines simply forbid it
.
• Hold on and back off the stairs: That the boat is moving is quite obvious, but often people forget how difficult it can be to walk on a boat. Especially going up and down the stairs is sometimes a nice challenge that is underestimated. To prevent a fall, it is best to walk as calmly as possible and especially hold on to yourself, especially when going up and down the stairs. If you go off, the advice is to do it backwards or sideways, so that you can put your feet down better. Do not forget to always keep one hand on the railing for extra stability.

• If you want to swim or snorkel, ask first:Whether the ship is anchoring or docking at a reef, the captain always has the right to move the ship without informing all guests in advance. It is possible that the anchor is dragging or that a line has snapped. That is why you should always ask if you are allowed to swim or snorkel. It is also useful to realize that diving water is not necessarily suitable for swimming or snorkeling, even if it looks fantastically clear. In fact, swimming or snorkeling above deep water can be very dangerous because you attract the attention of certain marine life or the current can take you away. So ask if you can and can swim before you slide into the water.

• Open door policy: Traveling by boat is fantastic, but unfortunately not without danger. Not that anything often happens, not at all actually. But if something happens, it is immediately bad. And so the entire boat has an open door policy and you can’t lock your room door. Ships often have a CCTV system and offer a locker to keep your belongings safe. Do they not have that and do you want your things under lock and key? Then ask for an envelope, close it and put your signature on the closure. They can then store it for you in the ship’s safe.

• Don’t drink water from the tap: the water on board can be bunkered in the harbor or self-made with a desalination system. Whatever it is, it’s limited and stored in tanks. This water is not suitable for drinking or brushing your teeth, use only the mineral water provided by the boat. Be conservative with your water use, rinse off after a dive, but save the extensive shower until after your last dive. This way you save the environment and the water supply.

All in all, a lot of rules on board that try to prevent the risk of an accident or inconvenience or the accumulation of dirt. And that’s more in your interest than you may realize. The thing is that many fantastic diving areas are far from civilization. And that in an emergency a helicopter has to fly out for you or the boat has to bring you back. That heli is a wonderful solution, but unfortunately that service is not offered worldwide. And so in most cases in most locations the boat will have to take you back. So be careful, prevention is certainly better than cure and especially a lot more pleasant during your diving holiday.

your cabin

For most boats you have your own air conditioning and a private bathroom. You can book rooms with single, double and sometimes even bunk beds. As a rule, women are sharing with women and men with men, unless you book a man-woman combination yourself.

In the cabin you have some cupboard and/or storage space, but this is limited. If you come on board for the first time, you will see that space is used extremely efficiently, which means that the space in the cabin is not what you are used to at home. Of course there are luxury variants that are very spacious, but that also comes with a price. As a rule you share a room, but for an additional cost of 40 to 60% you can have a room alone. With a bit of luck you’ll get a room only, but don’t expect that when the ship is half full, everyone will get a single cabin. After all, that doesn’t happen in a hotel either.

Internet & WiFi

It is almost unthinkable for us, but the internet is limited at many super beautiful diving locations. Especially when you consider that many ships sail far from land and therefore simply do not have an internet connection available. Some ships do offer Wifi, but that does not mean that you always have an internet connection and to be honest, that is so nice. Get away from the world for a while, really socialize with other divers, go on an adventure without Facebook. Still, it is useful to be able to send a message home to let those who stay at home know that you are doing well. Therefore, when you arrive on board, ask for a WiFi connection, possibly a hotspot, so that you can send that one message before the boat sets out.

If the ship now has WiFi, their options are often limited. So turn off all roaming, don’t upload anything to the cloud and don’t try to stream anything to limit your data usage. If you have an action camera that puts everything on your phone or tablet with an app, don’t worry, WiFi also works without internet, but then you must already have the app on your phone. So download all your things before you travel, or take an adapter with you so that you can have your SD card read directly by your tablet or phone.

Health and hygiene

Traveling with a liveaboard is really fantastic. The water, the adventure, being outside, absolutely wonderful. Yet there is also a downside. During your stay on board you live with the other travelers and the crew in a very small area. You share toilets, rooms and everything you use. And every traveler passes through an airport or has someone at home who has a cold or flu. In addition, they have local bacteria that your body has to get used to and all that makes hygiene very important. At least if you want to minimize the chance of a cold or special movements in your intestines. But how can you best do that?

Only use the bathroom in your room, this way if something is transferable it won’t be transferred to everyone. Wash your hands as often as you can and use disinfectant gels if necessary. Only drink from your own water tank and do not use tap water for drinking or brushing your teeth. Take it easy with the food for the first few days and be careful with anything that is not cooked. Do not lie down excessively in the sun and especially apply factor 50. Do not rinse your mask or regulator in a rinsing tank but use the sprays.

Do you feel a small headache coming on, your stool is not what you are used to, a rash on your skin, it doesn’t matter what, but everything you normally don’t have you should now take seriously. Report it to the guides and they can help or advise you. But please don’t think it’s over. You are in a tropical country on vacation where you do a lot of diving. Health problems are lurking and can spoil your holiday fun. So be on time and follow the advice of your dive guides or ask for a doctor if you wish. Keep in mind that professional medical help is not always close by, so be careful.

Drink 3L of water a day

As a diver, traveler to tropical areas and not used to such warm temperatures, you can easily dry out. And dehydration not only causes headaches, but also increases the risk of decompression sickness. And so the advice is to drink at least 3 liters of water per day and by that we mean real water. Coffee, tea, soft drinks and alcohol dehydrate you, so you continuously replenish your shortages. Do you really drink 3 liters a day but do you have a slight headache? Then it might be wise to take some rehydration salts. Ultimately, you need water and minerals to retain fluids in your body. However, be careful not to drink water with these salts all day long, this will make you over-hydrated and that in combination with diving can cause edema. But a bag of salt a day is fine and prevents many problems,

Alcohol and diving

As cozy as a drink can be, alcohol and diving are not the best combination. It is therefore a general rule that as soon as you have a drink you will not dive for the rest of that day. If you want to enjoy a drink, just do it, but be sensible. Stop drinking alcohol 8-10 hours before the next dive and drink only in moderation.

First aid

Every liveaboard has a first aid box or box containing the necessary means. They often also have additional medication, but that depends on the country as not everything is easily available everywhere. The guides and crew are trained to provide first aid and can also administer oxygen where necessary. This also means that oxygen must be part of the required first aid equipment and that it is immediately ready for use at all times. If you use medication from the boat, remember that the guides are not doctors. They will advise you to the best of their ability, but be sensible and always read the pamphlet.

Eco-conscious travels

Unfortunately but true, we humans leave a lot of junk behind in this world and we see the consequences of that all too much. It has probably not escaped your notice that the seas and oceans are severely affected by this. So every little bit helps, no matter how small and luckily more and more liveaboards are joining in. They no longer give you water bottles, but offer a water dispenser. This means that you can either use the cups on board or bring your own water tank. The choice is entirely yours.

Do you want to go the extra mile? How about a travel coffee cup or a net to put any litter in during your dives. Also don’t forget to check your sunscreen. Did you know that sunscreen damages coral? Now it is not smart to travel in these often tropical areas without sunscreen, but there are creams available that protect you and do not damage the reef. Yes they are slightly more expensive, but which is more important, your wallet or the environment? The choice is entirely yours.

Handy to have with you

All in all, you need a lot of things to make your diving holiday enjoyable, especially if you bring your own equipment. However, there are still a few small things that can make your comfort on board a bit more pleasant.

For example, consider a small bag to use on deck or in case of a land excursion. Preferably a waterproof bag so that you can safely store a camera in it. It is also useful to bring some earplugs. Sometimes you have a roommate who doesn’t sleep so quietly, or you are bothered by the noises from an engine room. And don’t forget to bring something warm. A lot of people think it’s always hot and it just isn’t. A nice hoody, a scarf or a hat can quickly get rid of the cold.

Captain, crew and guides

Often there is a lot more staff around than you initially realize. Ultimately it is a boat, a hotel with a restaurant and a diving organization. And to manage all this in the right direction, quite a few staff members are needed.

For example, there is the captain and sometimes there is a second. He is responsible for safety on board, sailing movements and he is in charge of all crew. Then we’ll have the necessary sailors and an enineer. They work directly with the captain, help sail and park, drop us at a dive site by zodiac, help with your equipment and fill your tanks.

Then there are usually two or three chefs who together make all meals and all desserts, bake bread and cakes and often do the dishes by hand. A really big job, although you usually don’t see these people. Serving the food and keeping the inside of the boat clean including your room is done by two people. These are named differently in different countries, such as salon managers or housekeeping and a host.

In addition to the boat and hotel staff, they have guides and possibly a cruise director, sometimes also called first guide. They are there to brief you, guide you, but they also help to manage the hotel area and to deal with and resolve any complaints.

In most countries the crew lives on board almost continuously and they spend their holidays with the family. People often ask if they can do something for the crew and of course that is possible. For example, bring some chocolate or sweets with you, which is greatly appreciated and is often difficult to obtain on location. Of course you can also express your appreciation in the form of a tip, a custom on all safari boats worldwide.

Money and the billing

At the end of your trip, often before you get back to the port, the bill is drawn up. Everything you have taken on board has yet to be paid for, although there are trips where almost everything is included in the price. Additional costs can come from drinks, a shirt you bought, excursions, using nitrox, a bigger tank, renting diving equipment, taking a course or having a private guide. Don’t be surprised and ask for the costs of these things before booking. Some tour operators offer you a discount if you book it in advance, but pay on board.

When the bill has been prepared, it will be checked with you and you can pay it. As a rule, they accept cash in dollars and/or euros and the local currency. Payment by credit card is also often possible, but don’t be surprised if they charge for this. It is wise to inquire about the payment options in advance.

Tipping is customary

Not all of us are used to it, but tipping is common when you take a liveaboard trip. The guides and crew are of course paid, but a significant part of their income comes from tips. We may find that strange, but practice shows that everyone takes that extra step to give you a super holiday and that should of course be appreciated. You can end up on a beautiful ship in the best diving area in the world, but it is the crew and guides who give your holiday an extra dimension.

Tipping is usually organized. That is, they have a tip jar or an envelope at the end of the week. That way, not only the guide gets a good tip, but also the assistant chef who does the dishes in the kitchen. Traditionally, the tips are divided equally, although some ships have a separate tip for the crew and guides. In that case you can ask how many guides there are and how many crew and the self divide equally. Ultimately, everyone is needed to give you a fantastic holiday and sharing is fair.

But how much tip should you leave now? You don’t want to appear cheap, but you don’t want to spend too much either. The general rule is 10% of the sum you paid for the boat trip. It sounds like a lot, but when you consider that there are 15 to 18 staff members who are ready for you day and night, it is not that bad in the end.

You have to pay the tips in cash and in a currency that they can actually exchange. So if you have some money left over from your trip to Korea, unfortunately you can’t give them that money because it is often worth nothing locally. They also often cannot exchange coins, so stick to paper money in a common currency. Calculate the 10% of your boat fare before you leave and take that money with you in cash in euros or dollars, so that you always have enough money and you can always use it for something else later if you don’t spend it on a tip.