About 12 years ago my wife, Kathleen, and I signed up for our first live-aboard dive trip. It turned out to be one of our best experiences ever, but we'd had some reservations beforehand. Were we getting locked into an expensive boat trip that wouldn't please either of us? We were instant converts from the first day, but some of the same misconceptions we had about live-aboards seem to have become myths that keep too many divers from taking the plunge. Here's the truth about live-aboard diving:
Myth No. 1
You have to be an expert diver.
Nonsense. You're likely to find the full range of experience among divers on most live-aboards, from neophyte on up. In fact, I've been on many live-aboards where new divers took the open-water course and received their initial certification. If your skills are a bit rusty, don't worry help will be provided without any embarrassment to you. One note of caution: Some live-aboards specialize in destinations whose diving conditions are rigorous and only suitable for experienced divers. Check before you book.
Myth No. 2
You have to dive five times a day.
More nonsense. Dive once a day if you feel like it or not at all. Nobody will care. Kathleen always heads up what she calls the "country club divers," who rarely dive before 10 a.m. and usually max out at two dives a day. It's always a good-sized group. Or if you're like me, you can dive your buns off. If you fall into this category, a dive computer is worth its weight in gold. If you don't own one, be sure you can rent one aboard.
Myth No. 3 You'll be seasick all the time.
Unlikely. After a day or two, most of us adapt to the motion quite easily. Even if you're prone to mal de mer, some live-aboards are exceptionally stable and the problem is minimized. Many boats also seek sheltered anchorages each evening so everyone can sleep peacefully. If seasickness is a problem for you, shop around for the right live-aboard and motion medication.
Myth No. 4
You won't like the other passengers.
Even more unlikely. Everyone on the boat shares your interest in diving, and chances are you'll have many other things in common. I've met many lifelong friends on live-aboards, people I'm looking forward to seeing again on other trips.
Myth No. 5
Live-aboards are very expensive.
Do the math before you decide. I've spent as much or more on a week's worth of rental car, hotel, restaurants and diving as I have on a live-aboard trip. And like hotels, live-aboards have a range of prices, from rock-bottom budget to superluxury.
Regardless of price, live-aboards are all-inclusive, except for the crew tip, which you're sure to find well-deserved. Alcoholic beverages are a variable some include all drinks, some only wine with dinner and others include all alcohol. A few live-aboards even provide free nitrox to properly certified divers. And if you're not nitrox certified, you'll be able to get certified on the boat, most likely at a rate very similar to that of your local dive shop. All in all, once you've looked at the reality of the cost, you'll find that live-aboards are quite a prudent decision for even the most frugal of divers.
Myth No. 6
Diving is the only thing to do, and you'll be bored after two days.
Bored? Not a chance! Live-aboard vacations are much more than eat-sleep-dive. For instance, many offer sailing, kayaking, water skiing, shore excursions and hiking. Then there are also movies, hammock time, books, diving or photography courses, and just plain relaxing in the sun. After two days you'll probably find yourself ready for bed at some absurdly early hour because you're worn out from all the cool things you've been doing. When you turn in, I'll probably already be asleep.
Myth No. 7
You won't like the food.
Only if you're Morris the Cat. Most live-aboards are waistline-expanding experiences, with outstanding food and lots of it. And there is always a help-yourself counter for anyone who didn't get enough at breakfast, lunch, dinner or the après-dive snacks. I've found that I'm lucky if the extra time I spend in the water offsets the sins I commit at the dining table. If you have special dietary requirements, live-aboards are happy to supply them.
Myth No. 8 The cabins are stuffy and cramped.
This may not have been a myth 10 or 15 years ago, but it's definitely a myth now. Cabins with individually controlled heating and air conditioning are common on modern live-aboards. Other comfort amenities often include queen-size beds, en suite bathrooms and frequent fresh towels and linens. I've been on live-aboards with showers bigger than the one I have at home.
Myth No. 9
There won't be enough fresh water to shower and wash my hair.
Sure, they'll ask you not to run the taps unnecessarily, but most live-aboards make their own fresh water in large quantities. Common sense says don't waste it, but you'll have all you need and more. I especially like that warm shower right on the dive deck.
Myth No. 10
Try one and you'll be hooked.
Not a myth. Live-aboards pamper you in every way while they take you far from the crowds to places you'd never see otherwise. On many live-aboards, they do everything but make the dives for you you never have to handle your tank, drag your gear back to your room, or endure long, uncomfortable trips in small boats through heavy seas to and from dive sites. And how else will you ever see the hammerheads at Darwin's Arch, blacktips in the Tuamotus, pinnacles in the Coral Sea, far-flung reefs in the Bahamas, or mantas in the Socorros?