Almost eight months ago, I decided to give a pivot to my diving career and pursue my path as a Cruise Director. I became a diver back in 2012, worked as a researcher on coral nurseries and as a dive instructor for 4 years, but I had never experienced a liveaboard before, either as a guest nor as an employee. That being said, I chose the Similan Islands as my destination for doing so and during a holiday trip came to a little town, Khao Lak, in Thailand and signed up for the Trip Leader (Cruise Director) internship with the Manta Queen Fleet.
Everything started at the beginning of February in the middle of the high season. I was the newest one within a team of 50 people (awkward feeling) and I was told that I would be trained by Joe (the trip leader) on Manta Queen 3 (the boat). It meant nothing to me then but means a lot now that I've finished my official training and have joined a few more trips. So, I’ve compiled a list of reasons on what made me change my mind and why you should consider MQ3 if you are thinking of enrolling in Cruise Director training.
Before you read any further, I'm going to give you a bit of background. Joe's a guy from the USA who has done this liveaboard for 8 seasons and who has been the Cruise Director of MQ3 for the last 7 years. Meaning, he has lots of experience in the diving/liveaboard industry and he knows the boat, the company and the dive sites well.
1. Get you involved
Since the very first moment you'll shadow either Joe or Lud (the assistant on board), they, rather than tell you what, when, and how to run the boat, will get you as involved as possible in the daily routine of the trip. They show how to approach people, what factors to consider when making the diving groups, what to check when to do complete certain tasks. You will also witness how to deal with many different situations on the boat. You should pay attention and absorb as much as you can.
2. Organization and Efficiency
As a trip leader, you will deal with at least 20 guests at the same time, different nationalities and therefore languages, ages and cultures. You have to be sure that whatever needs to be done, actually gets done on time (paperwork, payment, equipment, insurances, luggage, organizing courses, arrange transfers, etc, etc, etc). On this boat, you'll see an efficient, functional and organized way to do it.
3. Priorities: find below the main ones I've learnt.
- Safety first. One of the first things that Joe teaches you and goes over and over again is safety. You'll learn about liferafts, how to deal with issues underwater, diving emergencies, evacuations, dive profiles and the list goes on and on.
- Organization and planning: even though the dive sites and daily schedule are kind of fixed the final decision is not always as simple as following that plan. You will be taught about evaluating weather conditions, daylight time, currents, travel time to get to dive sites, different requirements during the same dive. You get to know that leading a trip is much more than sorting divers on the dive deck, making groups and briefings and welcoming people (Just in case that you're wondering, yes, you'll also get to practice/do them).
- Delegate: Your job as Cruise Director is to be sure that everything gets done properly, not to do everything yourself (better to have a good and prepared team).
4. Learn, re-learn or refresh your knowledge.
There is no option of being a dive staff on MQ3 and staying out of the team teaching sessions, regardless of your position or how many times you've been on board. Any topic can be the subject of discussion, if you have no clue about it, you will learn, if you think/say you know, you'll be challenged, so, if you actually do know you'll reinforce your knowledge or get new ideas from the other members of the team. If you don't, no worries, you'll remember during the sessions and refresh what you think you knew. Even though it sucks to face the fact that you don't remember what you should/used to, It's great to refresh your knowledge. How much might you learn? Well, that's up to you. The doors are always open to ask, discuss or practice, you just have to call it. Joe, Lud or any other dive instructor on board will show, explain, help you out and get you involved in the dynamics of the boat, dive sites or whatever you want/need to know.
5. Last but not least, fun! An amazing team, laughing, jokes, great dives, monopoly, sunsets and sunrises, mantas, whale sharks and heaps of marine life, among others, create a great vibe on board of MQ3.
So, I have no reference to compare and I don't need it, I have no doubts about the quality of my training, I'm happy I got trained on MQ3 by its experienced team and I appreciate their time, effort and interest on making this happen.
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