THE TROUBLE WITH LIVEABOARDS IS PEOPLE. The weather doesnt always help, to be fair, but mostly the problems are people.
You see, on board will be a group of individuals with diving and little else in common. All have paid good money to be there, and expect their trip to be perfect. It wont be. Were talking small boats at sea here. Things are bound to go wrong, but there are ways and means of dealing with it all.

hspace=5 Right place
Lets start prior to booking. Check the itinerary. I know, simplistic to the point of being insulting, but youd be surprised.
I was once on a trip with a father and son. Neither of them dived, but the dad was interested in shipwrecks and the lad wanted to learn. Unfortunately for the dad, shipwrecks tend to be under water. Unfortunately for the son, they tend to be in places not suitable for try-dives and learn-to-dive courses.
Added to this, if you have a particular interest, booking a trip dedicated to that interest means youre more likely to get the type of diving you enjoy, and in the company of like-minded people.
Bear in mind that even on a five-dives-a-day trip youll still spend more time out of the water and aboard the boat than you will actually diving.

Boat specs
Dont worry about the boat. The increasing sophistication of the travelling diver and cut-throat competition in the dive-travel industry mean that the standard is now very high, with facilities that were top-end just two or three years ago being standard, especially if you go to destinations frequented by Americans. Bless em, our transatlantic cousins do demand certain standards, and will raise hell if they dont get them.
Sorry, did I just use the word sophistication in reference to divers
One boat-related thought you should have concerns size. In olden days, about five years ago, liveaboards took 12 or so passengers. Market forces and the relentless drive for profit has, and is, seeing bigger boats come into service.
More stable, these offer more facilities and space, but you pay for the Jacuzzi and wet bar with more divers per dive. Your choice, but exercise it fast, as small boats could soon be a thing of the past.

Kit decisions
Next comes the kit to take. If you have your own gear, take it. But whatever else you do, dont have your reg set serviced the week before departure.
Regulators have new seals and other bits fitted, and are carefully set during the service process. The new bits take time to settle down, and sometimes regulators need to be readjusted.
You dont want this readjustment to be made on the open dive deck of a pitching liveaboard, by a mechanic more used to marine diesels than precision instruments.
Having said that, if something does go wrong, dive guides and liveaboard crew can often save the day with spare kit and effective, if inelegant, repairs.
If youre not taking your own gear, notify the travel company in advance that youll need to hire stuff. You have perhaps a 50:50 chance of the boat operator finding out before you arrive, but thats more chance than it has of finding out by telepathy.
One critical essential is a dive flag to strap to your tank. The sea is a big place; a little yellow life-saver makes it smaller.
Also put together a small personal injury kit, and dont forget your travel insurance documents, just in case.

Time to sleep
Once aboard youll need to find a cabin in which to sleep. Sometimes the guides allocate cabins, sometimes they are allocated as soon as you book and sometimes theyre first come, first served when you get aboard.
Front cabins may feel as if they pitch up and down a bit more, and may be smaller if they curve into the bow, depending on the design of the boat.
Rear cabins are always closer to the engines and noisier when under way. Often they smell more dieselly.
Oh, and if youre travelling alone, you have a better-than-even chance of having to share with a stranger. If that doesnt appeal, either take a pal, sleep on deck or give up liveaboards. Who said it isnt a free country

Dont upset the guide
People obsess about the boat to choose, but the dive guide is far, far more important. If the guide doesnt like you or your group, your week wont be as good as it could be. If the guide takes an active dislike to you, itll be downright miserable.
A few years ago, I booked on a Red Sea wreck special out of Hurghada and found myself sharing a boat with a dozen hairy-arsed wreckies from oop north. The guide briefed the first dive, and the wreckies did their own thing, completely ignoring him.
He had words with them and briefed the second dive. Same result.
Unfortunately the weather then blew up, preventing us crossing to dive the Thistlegorm. Owing to a last-minute change of boat, there was no GPS or echo-sounder on board, so we couldnt find Rosalie Moller. The new boat also had only one compressor aboard, so we were unable to do more than three dives a day.
You see how important it is to be on good terms with the guide
So how do you do that Turn up to briefings on time. Ten minutes isnt much, but if you make 20 dives and turn up 10 minutes late for every briefing, youll waste more than three hours of everybodys holiday.
Next, listen to the briefing. Reef on the right or left isnt complicated, but getting it wrong puts you swimming away from the rest of the group and the cover boat, and away from where anyone expects you to be when it comes time to surface.
Last, follow the plan. The paperwork the guide has to do if a diver goes missing is horrendous.
So what do you do if you dont like the plan, or want to do something different Talk to the guide. Explain what it is you want to do and why, or what it is about the plan you dont like, but do it quietly and without making an issue of it.
If you get angry, so will the guide.
If you turn it into a confrontation, you lose. The reality is that the guide is there to give you the diving you want, so chances are youll get what you want without any problem.
Oh, and if you cant come to an agreement, dont just do your own thing anyway. Thats inviting the guide to ban you from diving, or even to take the boat back in and terminate the charter.

Know your crew
The crew, too, are there to give you the diving holiday you want, but remember that theyre human beings. They may work at sea, but they have homes and families on land and can be having a good time or a bad time as easily as you.
Most crews seem to read their guests very well. On back-to-back trips last year, I saw the same crew laughing, joking and playing practical jokes with one group of divers, and giving the next group equally efficient service but with none of the horseplay.
This next bit may sound really namby-pamby, but the crew all have names, so find out what they are and use them. Everyone likes to have their name used and see a smile, and a smile will get you far better service than complaints.

hspace=5 Buddy buddy
On most liveaboards you will be afloat for six full days and six or seven nights.
If you do well, youll be in the water for 24 hours, and out of it for the rest of the time, so you have to rub along with your fellow guests.
Most liveaboards are big enough for you to get out of the way for some peace and quiet if you want it, but are too small for simmering resentment and boiling arguments. If youve been buddied with someone you loathe, have a word with the guide and request a change.
It can be done tactfully - you know, swap buddies to match air consumption, that sort of thing.
A lady on one trip I did didnt dive after the second day because her buddy considered her bloody useless and told her so. She didnt tell anyone else, just had a lousy trip.
Mind you, come the last day we were all ready to wedge her ex-buddy into a crack in the rocks and turn his air off, and that was before she confessed all in the pub.
The moral is that if you dont like someone or something, chances are the rest of us arent that keen either. But even if youre alone in your beliefs, youve paid your money and are entitled to have things you dont like changed. No-one will know unless you tell them.
Oh, and it works far better if you ask for what you want instead of complaining about what youve got.

Cover up, stay wet
Liveaboard holidays to warmwater destinations demand two additional precautions. First, take sun-cream and use it. Especially on the top of your head if youre going a bit thin. Otherwise, by day two youll be spending every RIB ride with your arms over your head.
Dont neglect those other bits that you normally keep covered, either. The sun reflects from the water and the ceaseless sea-breeze will fool you into thinking it is less hot than it really is.
Second, my top tip for avoiding and curing all ills on a warmwater trip: oral rehydration powders. Take something like Dioralyte with you. If you get a bit of a headache, take one. If you cant poo, take one. If you feel a bit stomach-crampy, take one.
Most of the tummy problems people have are actually dehydration, in my experience. Water isnt enough - you need to replenish your electrolyte levels.

Keep smiling
A final thought. If something does go wrong and cant be fixed at sea, the only choices are to continue the charter without whatever it is that has broken down, or to cut the charter short.
These things happen from time to time. You can either allow the problem to dominate your holiday and your memories of it, or make the best of it.
By all means try to get some compensation when you get home, but while youre still aboard put up with it, dont whinge, and enjoy yourself.