For me, a good liveaboard comes down to the experience. I’ve only traveled with Aggressor twice, so I am not the most uniquely qualified to tell you how much better it may (or may not) be than other companies. But here is what I can tell you: I’ve been on the Raja Ampat Aggressor – a franchise boat – and the Turks and Caicos Aggressor – a company-owned boat. What I absolutely love is that the experience is consistent. Consistently good. Here is my Turks and Caicos Aggressor liveaboard review.
From the moment you get on the Turks and Caicos Aggressor to the time you disembark, you are the focus of the staff. They greet you with rum punch and a friendliness that goes from day one till the end of your trip. Nothing is overlooked. There is always food and snacks. Beer and wine are free. Coffee is always on and fresh. If the dive equipment you brought fails, they’ll lend you a replacement. If you have dietary requirements, tell them and it will be taken care of. Chocolates on pillows. Beds made twice a day. Turn down service. Coffee at your door in the morning. Warm towels wrapped around you after each dive. Five dives every day.
For the life of me, I cannot imagine what’s not to like here!
The Turks and Caicos Aggressor dive deck
At 119 feet, the Turks and Caicos Aggressor comfortably hosts 18 guests and six staff members. There is a large dive deck on the back and you dive directly from the boat. Personally, I loved this because I have very good air consumption and could dive for as long as I wanted. When you are on a boat where you have to use dingies to dive, the dives are often limited to an hour because no one wants to wait in the sun while you’re still down there. On the Turks and Caicos Aggressor, as long as you have air, and as long as you don’t hit your deco limits, you can dive. Some of my own dives were over 80 minutes. I didn’t make anyone wait.
The boat also has a large camera table, a video lab where you can charge all your camera gear, and warm showers – with shampoo – that greet you when you get back on to the dive deck. And, of course, those warm towels that Aggressor has on every boat!
One cool thing about the Turks and Caicos Aggressor is that they have a swing bar (much like one a trapeze artist would use) hanging at 15 feet/5 meters – right at the point where you do your safety stop. And it swings back and forth with the movement of the boat, which is kinda fun if you’re basically a big kid, like I am! In addition to that, there is a regulator hanging from the boat at the same depth that delivers Nitrox – just in case someone gets to their safety stop and runs out of air. Its rare, but it can happen – safety first. When you’re done with your safety stop, which is required on all dives, you just choose an empty ladder to get back on the boat. Someone will be there to help you with your fins, camera equipment, and anything you might need.
As a vegetarian, the food aboard liveaboards has always been hit or miss. With the notable exception of the Rocio del Mar in the Sea of Cortez, where the chef prepared special, high-quality meals just for us, I always feel a little let down. Usually, I get what everyone else has – just not the meat – meaning there is no main entrée on my plate. This time was different than my food experience on the Raja Ampat Aggressor, where the chefs didn’t even try. Jessica always talked to me about my meals beforehand. I appreciated that.
I still don’t quite think they’re there with vegetarians yet. While everyone had turkey, vegetables, and all the fixins for our “Thanksgiving meal” I just had to settle for the vegetables. All the food was great tasting, but for me, it was just incomplete a lot of times. It was my only complaint, but it was a vast improvement over my last Aggressor trip.
None of the meals is 5-star. You just can’t do that on a mid-range liveaboard without a full kitchen staff. But Jessica was impressive. All the food was well cooked and quite tasty and I heard no complaints about it– except maybe that there was too much of it. I concur!
Breakfast: Continental until everyone wakes up. Toast, bagels, English muffins, juices, peanut butter, jam, butter, cream cheese and coffee. When everyone is up, Jess starts cooking eggs, usually with some form of meat, like sausages or bacon.
Lunch: Buffet style. Things like burgers, tacos, gyros, and pizza. Always with soup. Jess makes REALLY good soups, and they were always vegetarian, at least on this trip.
Dinner: A plated meal served individually. Starts with a salad, ends with dessert. All are homemade. Steak, fish, turkey, chicken, vegetables, and more, along with wine and beer if you don’t plan on a night dive.
OK, the rooms are small. And when you go downstairs to view them, you’ll ask yourself, “How does anyone use these rooms?” The answer comes quickly – no one uses these rooms for anything other than to sleep and maybe to take a quick nap between dives. So they’re completely fine.
I heard some guests say they prefer to have side-by-side beds instead of bunks. I agree with that. But you wouldn’t be able to accommodate 18 guests on this boat if you did that. If you have a lot of luggage (and some did overdo this) the staff can help you by storing some of your bigger things elsewhere. In our room, I stored my empty dive bag under the bed and put some of my roommate’s stuff in it as well. Problem solved.
Some rooms have a dedicated shower and toilet. Ours was shared with the room next door. I only used it on the last day. After all, I was taking 5 full showers, with soap, on the dive deck every day! I went to the room to change, sleep, and shave a couple of times. That’s it.
Once you get over how small they are, you’ll notice that the beds are very comfortable. Each has a reading light that you can plug your phone into. Oh, and only phones. If the staff sees batteries being charged here, they’ll move them to the video lab and tell you. A potential fire in the video lab is far safer than trying to put one out in a room made of wood below deck! Good call!
Diving aboard Turks and Caicos Aggressor
This is what you come for! I admit to being very surprised by:
- The quality of the dives here
- The number of dives you can do in a day
- They do 5 night dives
I’ve always thought that the Caribbean didn’t have great diving. Now, this is no Indonesia, but I have to say I was quite impressed. We saw sharks on almost every dive, from grey reef sharks to nurse sharks. Not only did we see them, but we saw lots of them. And not only that, but they often came right towards you before veering out of your way. It was so easy to get pictures!
Diving from the Turks and Caicos Aggressor, you’ll see plenty of sharks, lots of different types or morays, octopuses, squid, triggerfish, green and hawksbill turtles, jawfish, various jacks, and so much more. Not many nudibranchs made their presence known, unfortunately for people like me who live for that type of thing. Although we didn’t see any on this trip, if you’re lucky, you might get to see mantas. Even more rarely, a whale shark. They saw one on a trip prior to ours.
At the beginning of the trip, there were always two guides in the water with us. Towards the middle of the week, there was often only one as they realized many people just went on their own and there was no need for them to be in the water. If you decided to follow them, as I often did, they’ll point out all the cool stuff they find, and you’ll see lots! There’s always something tiny lurking in the coral and they know where it is.
Dive schedule: The dive schedule is as follows:
- Site 1: 8 AM
- Site 1: 11 AM
- Site 2: 2 PM
- Site 2: 5PM
- Site 2: 8 PM night dive
When I first saw this schedule, I thought “Five dives on just two sites?” No worries here. Each time you dive a site, you go in a completely different direction. And the night dive is a totally different experience no matter where you go. Besides, not constantly being on the move with the boat is part of what made the trip so relaxing for everyone, I think.
Nitrox: You’ll definitely need nitrox on this boat. The Turks and Caicos Aggressor offers 5 dives a day, including night dives (which are awesome). The dives are quite deep at times, and nitrox will get you the most out of it. Don’t have a nitrox certification? Don’t worry. They’ll take care of it on your first day with an SSI nitrox certification course. There is a separate charge for this, obviously. When you’re certified, you can use nitrox for an additional $100 per week.
Again, because you are diving directly from the boat, you can dive for as long as your air and no-deco time last. No rushing to get back to a dinghy in an hour. They just ask that you come up with 500psi/33 bar.
The Turks and Caicos Aggressor Staff
This is the easy part to write:
- Captain: Amanda
- Second Captain: Christy
- Engineer: Rob
- Instructor: David
- Photo Pro: Connor
- Cook: Jessica
They all sound like they have pretty defined jobs, right? And they do, for sure! Amanda is the captain and she runs the ship. She is the boss. But as she told us right up front “Any of my staff can (and often do) drive the ship.” Their jobs are not so easily defined. Not only is Amanda the boss, she also serves meals, makes beds, cleans around the boat. They all do. When you get back from a dive, you’re just as likely to have the ship’s engineer wrap you in a towel as you would the cook. When you dive, the captain will lead a few dives. So will Rob or David. They all have main jobs, but they all share responsibility. There is no “not my job” attitude on this boat.
This was like nothing I’ve seen on other boats, where there is usually a strict division of labor. I think it was refreshing to see, but probably is good for the staff too. Can you imagine being on a boat like this for months at a time and having to do the same thing over and over because your captain believes you have a job and must only do that job? If I were to pick a liveaboard to work on, it would be this one. The hours are super long. But at least you get variety in your day – as much as you can living in such a confined space.
These fine people waited on our every need and smiled the whole time. I don’t know if saying we became friends is the right word, but there is a feeling that I’ve met people I won’t soon forget. A fantastic staff who not only took care of us, but were also interesting people and fun to talk to.
The Turks and Caicos Aggressor is worth every dollar you’ll spend. I’ve been on several liveaboards, from the Maldives, to Mexico and Indonesia. All have great diving, but the staff on this boat is exceptional.
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