LIVE-ABOARDS -- PACKING POINTERS
The biggest mistake people make on a dive trip is packing too many clothes, and live-aboards are no exception. A swimsuit, board shorts and T-shirt or polo are likely to be your attire more than 90 percent of the time you're aboard.
You won't need boat shoes because, on most live-aboards, you shed them into a basket the moment you step aboard, and go barefoot your entire time aboard ship. Sturdy shoes or all-terrain sandals are a good idea for shore excursions that involve rough walking. Depending on the season, you might want a fleece for the evenings and/or foul-weather gear. Particularly in areas ruled (or once ruled) by Britain, a collared shirt and walking shorts, or a light dress, might be expected at dinner. And if there's a night out on shore, one nice set of on-the-town clothes might be appropriate ask your charter for advice.
Pack everything you carry in soft-sided luggage. Hard cases quickly become albatrosses in space-efficient live-aboard cabins. To protect your gear, put cameras, housings, flashes, regulators, dive computers and laptops in your carry-on bags.
Plan on using a wetsuit about one thickness heavier than what you would use for the planned water temperatures: When you dive four or five times a day, the effects of cool temperatures add up. Consider using full-foot fins, so you can leave booties at home. And on all your gear, weigh the comfort of using your own stuff against the convenience and space efficiency of renting. You may decide to take, for instance, your own mask, reg and dive computer (most live-aboards now require computer use), and rent everything else on the boat. But if renting, let your live-aboard charter know far in advance; it won't do to show up and find out there aren't any BCs available.
Remember also to bring your travel documents, passport, dive-insurance card and enough cash to take care of the crew tip (see below), departure taxes and other fees that are apt to be cash only.
And if you are pairing a live-aboard trip with a land-based vacation, ask your live-aboard operator if they have an office ashore where you can securely store luggage you'll not be using on the trip. Many do.
SOME TIPS ON TIPPING
With the possible exception of some operations in Australia and New Zealand, tipping is now an accepted and expected practice on live-aboard dive boats. That's important to remember as your crew attends to your needs 24/7 how well they live after your cruise is directly proportional to how well you take care of them.
The customary tip in live-aboard diving is 10 percent of your gross rate (if traveling on a discounted or two-for-one plan, tip as if both divers were paying full rate). For a $2,800 per-person cruise, this comes to $280 for the week, per person large when viewed as a chunk, but actually quite reasonable when you think of all the taxi, bellman, restaurant, housekeeping, beach valet, parking and guide tips you might pay out during a seven-day land-based holiday. The captain will usually have an envelope for gratuities when you settle accounts at the trip's end, and on the premise that every crew member must perform exceptionally well in order for the divemasters to do a good job tips are usually divided among the entire crew by the captain. Cash or travelers checks are the usual form, but some operations accept credit cards ask ahead.
Visit sportdiver.com/getaways/liveaboards for more information, including sample itineraries for various destinations.