Frequently Asked Questions about live aboard dive trips
WHAT IS A LIVEABOARD CRUISE?
Liveaboards provide diving facilities and living accommodations for the one who likes to stay onboard for longer times. You eat and sleep on the boat! Viking Liveaboard cruises stay at sea for the duration of the cruise and therefore can explore more remote dive sites. This type of diving opens up a whole world of top class diving and snorkeling opportunities that would simply not be available on a regular day trip dive boat.
WHAT IS THE PHUKET AND SIMILAN LIVEABOARDS CRUISE SEASON?
The season runs from October to May. The weather and Andaman Sea are at their calmest during the months of November to early May, and this is when visibility is at its best. This time of year is also Manta Ray and Whale shark season.
HOW FAR IN ADVANCE DO I NEED TO BOOK?
If you want to ensure your place on one of our most popular choices between November and April you must try to book several months in advance.
WHAT SHOULD I BRING?
Your passport, your diver certification card and insurance details. Bathing suits, shorts, T shirts, sunscreen and perhaps a light pullover or windbreaker. Cameras and Video equipment. Many people bring laptop computers to edit their images on board. You might alike a Walkman or MP3 player for your personal use. Please make sure all your bags have nametags before they get transferred onboard.
WHAT DIVING EQUIPMENT DO I NEED?
Bring everything except tanks and weights. For those who prefer to travel light, we can arrange for rental equipment including dive lights, wet suits & dive computers.
WHAT NOT TO BRING?
Our experience is that the less stuff you bring, the more comfortable your stay on board. Any excess luggage can be stored at our office or at your hotel during the trip.
HOW ABOUT FLYING TO PHUKET?
There are numerous flights to Phuket each day from all major cities in the region. We strongly recommend that you arrive in Phuket at least one day before the boat's departure. This way you have time to rest and acclimatize. If you plan to arrive on departure day, please book flights that arrive at Phuket Airport no later than 15:00h (3PM).
WHAT HAPPENS ON DEPARTURE DAY?
Departure time is 22:00h (10PM) sharp. We leave the office at 20:00 (8PM) for the boat. There are many restaurants near the office where you can have dinner before we board. If you arrive at the office by 18:00 (6PM) there will be time to check in and do the necessary paper work for the dive trip and get fitted for a wet suit should you want one of ours, and still have time for dinner. Be sure to reconfirm your onward flights before we depart.
We prefer to store all luggage on board well before boarding time. You can help us greatly by bringing your luggage to our office before 18:00. If you wish, we could pick up your bags at your hotel, just give us a call. Please have nametags on all your bags.
There are some forms to be filled out before departure and it is best not to leave this until the last moment. Also the National Marine Park Fee, in CASH 1.200 Thai Baht only, must be paid at this stage. Other than that there is no need to be at our office anytime before 18:00 (6:00PM).
CREDIT CARD PAYMENTS POLICY
Things you can pay with your credit card: The cruise price, T-shirts, rental of equipment, PADI courses and you onboard drinking bill.
Things you can NOT pay with your credit card: Camera rentals, National Park fees, crew tips.
We also regret to be no longer able to accept Traveler's Checks as payment because Thai banks will no longer accept "third party" TCs. To obtain cash Thai Baht you can exchange your TCs at any exchange booth or bank. You can also withdraw cash from local ATM machines using your credit card and PIN code. The maximum is the Thai Baht equivalent of US$ 500 per card per day. Our office staff can help you with this.
HOW MUCH SPENDING MONEY DO I NEED?
Bring enough cash to cover the Port & Park Fee 1,200 Thai Baht ($30), crew tips, shopping in Patong, drinks and souvenirs. On board expenses for alcoholic drinks are settled after the cruise. You are welcome to bring on board any liquor or special beverages you wish. There are ATM machines at the airport and in Patong for Thai Baht.
WHAT IS THE CREW TIPPING POLICY?
We believe tips should be given voluntary and based upon the quality of the service provided. Once on board, you will notice how hard the crew works and how your safety and enjoyment relies heavily on their professionalism and attitude. Please note that tips can only be paid in cash.
HOW DO I GET TO THE BOAT?
With prior arrangements (let us know your hotel details please!) we provide complimentary transfers to and from our office. We provide transfers to and from the boat.
BEFORE BOARDING TIME
If you are checking out of your hotel at midday, or if you arrive well before boarding time, you are welcome to use the waiting lounge at our office. We are a 5 minute walk from the beach and Beach Road.
We start transporting guests to the boat at 20:00 (8PM)
WHAT IS THE ITINERARY?
We depart Patong Bay at 22:00 (10PM) First there is welcome drink and an orientation meeting in the Salon and a Safety Briefing. Then you will be assigned a cabin. We run overnight to the Similans. Arrival in the Similan Islands is at night. The first morning we have a light breakfast, an extensive pre-dive orientation and the first of many dives. After the morning dive a full breakfast is served. Then there is some free time before the second dive. Following is Lunch. Then the afternoon dive, some more free time then the evening dive. Depending on our location and the conditions often there will be a night dive before Dinner. The following days we cruise from island to island, dive-site to dive-site. There are detailed dive briefings before each dive.
WHAT HAPPENS ON THE LAST CRUISE DAY?
We depart the islands after the second dive, arriving at Patong Bay in the early evening. Please do not book flights that depart Phuket before the next day.
WHAT DIVING LICENSE DO I NEED?
An open water diving license is acceptable for Viking Liveaboard cruises. Although there are some deep and exposed dive sites, there are enough easy dive sites and enough dive guides on board so that you will never need to dive beyond your limits. Of course if you do not have a dive license PADI Dive Courses are offered to all of our Viking passengers with all instruction and course materials provided on board. The more you study for the course before arriving in Phuket the more free time you will have on board. The certificate will be mailed from PADI in Australia to your address.
ARE DIVE COMPUTERS RECOMMENDED?
Yes! However our dives in the Similans are of a duration and depth where you can figure your dive times and depths from the dive tables. We have dive computers that you can rent for only 250 THB a day in our office.
ARE WETSUITS NEEDED?
The average water temperature is 27C, (80F) but doing multiple dives each day may make you chillier than you anticipated. We recommend at least a thin shorty or light suit or you can rent one at our office before the departure.
HOW MANY DIVES PER DAY?
You chose Viking Liveaboards for diving and that is what we are going to do, as often as we
can. Generally, there are opportunities to do at least four dives per day, with additional night dives when the location is suitable. On the last day there will be only one afternoon dive before we start back to Patong Bay.
WILL THE DIVE CREW GUIDE ME?
Each dive is preceded by a detailed briefing, including charts. You will be accompanied you a dive master or Instructor and you will have a buddy for all dives.
CAN I DIVE SOLO?
All dives are done with a divemaster and your dive buddy.
Solo diving only in special occasions with okay from the cruise manager.
While diving is the priority, there are many other possibilities. When the location is suitable, there is swimming, snorkeling and beach combing. Please bring your own selection of music, movies, books, and games CDs or DVDs if you wish.
WHAT ARE THE MEALS LIKE?
Buffet meals will be served, and just outside is another bar where freshly made eggs are served up every morning to compliment the breakfast buffet. The food aboard the Viking of the Orient is superb. We start with the finest fresh ingredients prepared in our galley by our two chefs for each meal.
WHAT ABOUT DRINKS?
In the Scandinavian tradition we have an "open refrigerator" in our salon bar, 24hours a day where you can find soft drinks, drink mixers, and light snacks. Hot coffee and tea are also available. Beer and wine are available also but we have to charge for alcoholic beverages and do it on an honor system where you write your own bill. Feel free to bring aboard any liquor or special drinks you would like.
WHAT ARE THE CABINS AND SHOWERS LIKE?
There are two cabins with queen size beds. 10 cabins have twin size bunk beds. All cabins have private lavatory with hot water shower 24 hours a day. Each cabin is supplied with climate controlled air conditioning from our central air conditioning system 24 hours a day for your comfort. Each cabin has an outside door to a walkway you can have open for fresh air. There is a picture window in each cabin. This is one of the most comfortable dive boats in the world.
DO I HAVE TO SHARE A CABIN?
Two of our cabins have queen size beds. The rest have single bunk beds. If the cruise is fully booked you will have to share a cabin. If the boat is not full and there are an odd number of passengers, then it is possible to arrange it so can have your own cabin, but this situation can not be guaranteed.
CAN I BE CONTACTED IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY?
Viking of the Orient is equipped with satellite communication equipment. Emergency faxes and e-mails can be forwarded to the boat via our office. Please leave our fax number or email address with anyone who may need to contact you.
DO I NEED INSURANCE?
We recommend that you have suitable holiday diving injury insurance, such as DAN or similar. All passengers are required to sign a liability waiver before departure, and are on board at their own risk. We also recommend suitable cancellation insurance.
WHAT IF I HAVE AN ACCIDENT DURING THE CRUISE?
We have first aid equipment and supplies on board. We have rapid response trained staff on board. We have oxygen on board. We have excellent communication equipment on board. We can summon a speed boat immediately to get you on shore and to a hospital as soon as possible. In extreme emergencies we have capability for a helicopter lift from the sun deck for an air evacuation. There is a hyperbolic chamber in Patong. There are three International standard hospitals in Phuket with any capability you would find in any large city in the world.
WILL I GET SEASICK?
If you are particularly susceptible to motion sickness, then you should consider joining a Similan Islands cruise in the December to April period, when the seas are very calm. The Viking of the Orient has stabilizers that provide a smooth ride while underway. We use mooring points to overnight at the islands visited on the cruise. These mooring points are located in the island's bays, sheltered away from any open sea swells.
IS MALARIA A PROBLEM?
Phuket and the Similan Islands are Malaria free.
CAN I RECHARGE MY STROBES AND BATTERIES?
Power is provided in your cabin.
WHAT IS THE ELECTRICAL CURRENT ON BOARD?
220V 50 cycle power is available in your cabin and throughout the boat.
WHERE CAN I WORK ON MY CAMERAS?
There is a storage area for cameras on the dive deck outside the air conditioned area so they are at ambient temperature. There are tables in the salon you can use for editing. There is a small shelf in your cabin.
WHAT LANGUAGE IS THE INSTRUCTION AND DIVE BRIEFINGS IN?
English is used. Some of our instructors and divemasters speak other languages and we can provide instruction in any language if you make a request well in advance.
WHAT TYPE OF TANKS AND VALVES ARE ON THE BOAT?
Viking of the Orient carries 12 liter aluminum tanks that provide both Yoke and DIN as standard. If you have a DIN regulator or Yoke doesn't matter, all works fine.
CAN I RENT AN UNDERWATER CAMERA?
Our office staff can help you rent a camera. Please request this service in advance to ensure availability.
CAN A NON DIVER GO ON A LIVEABOARD?
Non-divers and snorkelers are always welcome on board the Viking of the Orient. Most of the Similan Islands dive sites visited offer good snorkeling too, and almost every day we do a shore trip for some hiking or beachcombing or swimming.
CAN I EXPLORE THE BEACHES ON THE ISLANDS?
There will be daily trips to shore for beachcombing and swimming and on one island there is a hiking trail to a lookout.
WILL I SEE SHARKS?
Leopard sharks and white-tip reef sharks are the most common and seen on all trips. Whale sharks sightings were infrequent in 2003 and 2004, but regular in 2002 - keep your fingers crossed!
Manta rays sightings were very common in 2003 and 2004, and you will always see blue-spotted sting rays, marble rays, and fantail rays.
WHAT SAFETY EQUIPMENT DO YOU HAVE ON BOARD?
Safety at sea is something most guests take for granted, but unfortunately it's not always something taken seriously by the owners, particularly in Asia. Norwegians take their safety at sea earnestly, learning the importance of this from their offshore oil and gas operations, and designing most of the equipment used in this industry. The Viking features watertight doors, escape hatches and outside access from everywhere on the boat, including the cabins. All safety and emergency equipment is SOLAS approved, meeting international standards. She is equipped with more than 100 SOLAS life preservers and four life rafts also for more than 100 persons, emergency transponders and automatic satellite distress transmitters. All cabins and other rooms on the boat are fitted with smoke and fire detectors. And, there is plenty of Oxygen on board for dive emergencies if they occur. A full safety briefing is conducted on departure of every trip and each diver is issued with a "safety sausage" or inflatable signaling device in case you drift away from the dive site or the boat.
WHERE ARE THE DIVE TANKS FILLED?
The tanks are filled rapidly so you don't miss out on any diving. They are filled quietly as well as the compressor is located below decks.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
In the Schedules section of the website all the trips for the season are posted with the cost of the trip. There are additional costs for any equipment rentals, the National Park fee, any alcoholic beverages provided on board, any PADI certificates for dive courses, tips for the crew.
HOW ABOUT NITROX?
Yes we have Nitrox onboard M/Y Viking of The Orient.