Newly launched in the Maldives, MV Orion provides a serious contender for those wanting luxury Maldives liveaboard scuba diving and island cruising
I recently went to the Maldives to see the newly built MV Orion in its second week of operation. The boat already has an impressive setup, and with its final improvements due to be complete by the end of October 2009 (free Nitrox, free unlimited drinking water, personal entertainment systems in each room) it will be even better. The following is a rundown of the practicalities of being on the MV Orion. I’ve also published a separate trip report about the scuba diving on MV Orion – the boat follows a 7 day schedule around Male, Baa and Ari atolls.
Included below are some of my world famous quick videos shot around the boat – there’s zero production values as it’s just me wandering around with my Canon IXUS. However, they hopefully give a good idea of what the bedrooms and bathrooms really look like. The first video shows the boat exterior, while the second and third show the Junior Suite and Standard Double Room. There is also a collection of photos below showing the outdoor bar area, the Executive Suite jacuzzi at the front of the boat, and the huge sundeck up top.
MV Orion is built around the cruising in comfort concept, where the boat is appealing to divers and non divers alike. Scuba is a big part of the boat’s itinerary with three dives a day — four if there’s a night dive – but it’s also a great boat on which to relax, sunbathe, enjoy the spa, sauna and jacuzzi and watch the Maldives seascape go by as the boat cruises during the day. Cabins are very spacious and well-appointed, while the dining room, bar area and sundeck are also designed to provide plenty of room.
MV Orion can accommodate up to 22 guests. It has an Executive Suite, Junior Suite and several double rooms. All rooms are ensuite with hot power shower, spacious and well-appointed. There is a vanity unit in each room which is good for setting up a laptop and camera gear if required. Each room also has its own flatscreen TV and will apparently have a personal media player in the near future. The air con was a bit hit and miss during our trip, but this is apparently being ironed out in the near future.
Dining And Drinking
MV Orion has a very large, comfortable air conditioned dining room where pre-dive breakfast, big breakfast, lunch, 5pm snack and dinner are served. Meals are served buffet style and there is always a choice of 3 or 4 different dishes. Fresh fruit e.g. watermelon or papaya is the standard dessert. Tea and coffee is available free all day.
There is a water machine due to be installed on the boat which will provide unlimited free drinking water to all guests during their trip. Some boats charge for bottled water beyond an initial two litre per day allowance.
There is a full bar on board serving beer and spirits – draught Heineken is around $4 a glass, and spirits around $5 a shot.
Sundeck and other amenities
The sundeck on MV Orion is massive, with a covered area for those who want some shade. There is also an outdoor bar at the back of the boat which is perfect for sundowners. There is a jacuzzi located in the outdoor bar too, as well as a private jacuzzi at the front of the boat for the use of guests who are in the Executive Suite. There is a spa and sauna also located near the outside bar, and a Thai massage service is available on board too.
MV Orion does not stick to a rigid schedule of trying to fit in a maximum number of dives per day. Three dives a day is the norm.
Daily Dive Routine – most days begin early at 6am for 6.30 am dive briefing. All dives are conducted from a smaller boat, known as a dhoni, which follows the MV Orion. The dhoni has a fair bit of room for gearing up and storage boxes underneath each seat. All dive gear can be left on the dhoni between dives. Most sites are no more than 10 to 15 minutes from the MV Orion. Remember to bring water, sunblock and sunglasses for each dive. A towel is provided for each guest in their room to bring on the dhoni.
Because all diving in the Maldives is tidal, guests should be aware that briefings can change while on the dhoni if the current is not behaving as expected. The dive guide will check the current before guests enter the water.
Entry into the water is by giant stride, with a fairly tall ladder to climb back up at the end of the dive.
Stepping onto the dhoni from the Orion can be a little bit tricky, so take care to watch your footing and let the staff help you.
Dive guides – there are two dive guides, Hassan and Alex. They are the co-directors of MV Orion’s business. Hassan is a veteran Maldivian divemaster with over 15000 dives. Alex also runs a large dive operation in Singapore. There will a third Cruise Director joining the boat in November 2009 who will also act as a guide.
Free Nitrox – Nitrox will be provided as standard on MV Orion. It wasn’t available when I was on the boat as it was only the second week of operation – send an enquiry using the form below to check if it’s available for your preferred dates.
Camera Gear – there is a large flat platform on the dhoni which is a good place for putting cameras – a rinse tank is also available on the boat. There are charging stations for cameras in the dining room, but they are only really suitable for smaller cameras as they are cubby holes built into sideboard areas. There are several plug outlets in each room. The plugs use 3 pin British style plug sockets. Bring an adapter and surge protector if you use other types of plugs. The electricity voltage is 230 Volts AC / 50 Hz.
Fly into Male Airport (the Maldives’ capital city) for pickup and transfer by speedboat direct to MV Orion. The ride takes about 10 minutes. Find the cheapest flights to Male on Skyscanner.