Before you go
A great way to get the best from liveaboard-diving is to arrive refreshed, happy and with working kit that you know how to use.
Set aside some time in the weeks before your departure to get your regs serviced, and at least look over the other kit you’re taking and find time to test everything to ensure that it works as you’d expect.
You don’t want to be paying to replace kit when you could be relaxing.

Trip -3 weeks
Practise with things like cameras and get comfortable with your kit configuration. Better to book a pool session and ensure that your kit is comfortable and functional before working this out in a silty shipwreck.
Do you know how to get the best from your camera? Working it out as you go is
all very well, but if you miss that picture of the dolphin because you didn’t read the instructions you’ll be annoyed with yourself and you’ll annoy your fellow-passengers going on about it!

Trip -2 days
Check batteries and O-rings, confirm that you have all your documentation and that you’ve checked in online if required to.
Have you got enough luggage allowance? If not, buy it before you go.
Do you have spare batteries that might interest over-zealous security staff?
I always carry a copy of the instructions certifying that my strobe batteries comply with the relevant airline’s policies on lithium-ion batteries.
You might want to check your insurance-provider as well. Has your policy lapsed? You’ve still got time to renew.

Trip -1 day
Pack your gear and weigh it. Don’t worry about taking too many clothes, because most liveaboards are very relaxed and you won’t be needing your DJ for dinner. Shorts and T-shirts are the norm.
Get a lift to the airport organised and make sure that your family knows the operator’s emergency contact details. You know you’ll be safe, but give your loved ones some consideration – they’re worth it.

Day 1:Airports, flights & arrival
Be prepared, expect some delays and general “faffing about“. If you do, you’ll start your trip happier.
At the airport your kit will be checked in and hopefully not chucked about, leaving you with your most precious items like camera and regs in your cabin baggage.
For most of us in economy class I’d suggest keeping well-hydrated and avoiding the food. Chances are the operator will have arranged your itinerary and booked hotels and transfers as required, so don’t be put off by multiple flights. Trip operators are very well practised in getting people to their boats.
When you arrive, you’ll likely be met by a representative of the company who will help you through immigration and baggage reclaim before taking you to a hotel or the boat. This can save a lot of queuing and it’s nice to see someone at Arrivals with your name on a card.
Liveaboards these days are usually wonderful and you’ll get a warm welcome. The guides will check your certification cards and ask you to fill in forms detailing your health, next of kin and so forth.
You’ll also get to meet your shipmates and hear a briefing about the boat and safe diving procedures. You may have heard it all before, but procedures do vary, so help the guides out by listening.

Day 2: Getting organised
You might have set your kit up the night before, but on some boats your kit doesn’t stay on the main vessel. In the Maldives, for example, it is still common for small boats called dhonis to carry the compressor and your gear. You will kit up on and dive from this serviceable little tub.
In the Red Sea and the Caribbean your kit remains assembled on the dive-deck. Contrary to what you learn in your training, you won’t rinse it after each dive, though water tanks and freshwater hoses are available for rinsing cameras.
After breakfast the guides will organise a check-out dive, usually close to port so that if anything fails they can organise spares for you.
Check-dives may be boring but are very important as you make sure you have the correct amount of weight for buoyancy control and that everything is working as it should. If you want to check your camera this is an ideal time, but dive the housing without the camera in, just to make sure.
Once checked you can relax as the boat leaves the port area for the first “proper” dive-site. On some far-flung itineraries this can mean hours of sailing, through rough seas, so be warned.
Sometimes it’s sailing through the night, so with luck you can sleep through it. If not, take your pills and hope some passing dolphins distract you.
Red Sea liveaboards commonly don’t involve long sailings, so you may be doing a proper dive within hours.
Southern itineraries and trips to the Brothers will require longer sailings and the sea can be choppy, especially in winter, but they are worth it!


Day 3: The bell rules!
The ship’s bell is rung for dive briefings, gas checks and meals. If your hair is wet it must be meal time; if it’s dry, assume it’s a gas check and repeat as necessary.
Boats carry their own nitrox analysers, so don’t feel you have to bring one. Some boats offer nitrox for free but others charge. You can buy it for the entire trip or just on a dive-by-dive basis. You will be asked to fill in logs to keep a track of gas blends and to log your dive profiles.
You’re now well into your trip. You know your way around the boat, where things live and you’ve probably made friends and perhaps worked out who to avoid.
You may have adjusted your kit a little and you’ve thumbed through the fish ID guide – all in all, you’re having a fine time!
It’s worth flagging up that most boats have excellent first-aid kits and a supply of creams and medications, but don’t bank on it. I often carry a small first-aid kit just in case, with plenty of off-the-shelf meds.

DayS 3-6:
Rinse, repeat, enjoy Dive, swap stories, learn from the experience of others and even consider doing a course or speciality.
Four dives a day can be quite tiring, so consider missing a dive to let your body rest, especially if you’re not at your fittest and you have a few deep dives the following day.

Day 6: Finale
Most liveaboards last a week, so by day six you’ll be rinsing your kit and drying it in the sun ready for packing.
If you’re not already berthed, you’ll be heading back to civilisation. The crew will be readying the boat for the next trip and will be happy with their tips or not as the case may be.
Some last nights are spent on the boat, and usually the crew will make a fantastic meal for you. You will also get a chance to purchase T-shirts and other souvenirs. Dollars and euros seem to be universally accepted.
This is also the night you can head into town, have a drink and enjoy some local culture, but behave yourself and remember that not all countries serve alcohol.

DAY 7: Putting down markers
If you’re lucky enough to be met by your loved ones (hopefully your family) on return, make a fuss of them and treat them well. With a bit of luck they’ll be happy for you when you set off on your next trip.