Last Trip: August/September 2010
The Mermaid II is a Thai-based live-aboard dive boat. It works the Andaman Sea of Thailand and Burma in the November to April season, then moves to Indonesia to work the Bali to Komodo route the other half of the year, which is where I first experienced it. The ship was built in 2000 but has been continuously upgraded. The vessel consists of three decks. There are eight deluxe cabins with en-suite bathrooms on the main deck, and two budget cabins on the lower deck with a single shared bathroom. The dining room is in the forward part of the main deck, while the dive platform is at the stern. The upper deck has a large covered 'party deck' with a big wrap-around upholstered soft, an air conditioned saloon with a big-screen television, and forward of the wheelhouse is the sun deck.
The crew of the Mermaid II is all Thai, while the dive guides are generally a mix of nationalities. On my trip, the cruise director was Spanish, while the guides were from Thailand, Indonesia, Mexico and Croatia. The guides were all very experienced and knowledgeable. They were very good at finding the little things like pygmy seahorses.
As on most dive boats, there's a self service system for drinks, which included coffee, tea, juices and soft drinks. The one significant difference on Mermaid II is that they had real coffee, with a good quality automatic espresso machine. It was definitely a hit with many of the guests on board. As the chef was also Thai, most of the meals were Thai cuisine, and very good at that.
The dive deck is well-laid out, especially considering it can handle as many as 20 divers. To keep the crowding to a minimum, the divers are divided into groups of five, with two groups waiting while two groups are getting ready to dive. There are four or five stairs to climb down to reach the dive platform, but these are easy to negotiate. On the Indonesian trips, diving is done from the boat's two RIBs, while at Thailand's generally deeper sites divers just make a giant stride off the back. There are two showers on either side of the dive platform for giving yourself a quick rinse after dives. There are also separate rinse tanks for masks and cameras. On top of all that, the boat boys will rinse out your wet suit in a disinfectant wash after each dive.
The boat has a full complement of equipment for rent. This comes in real handy around Komodo, where there's a huge variation in water temperatures.
In Indonesia, Mermaid II travels from Benoa harbor on Bali to Komodo an back. They offer complementary transfers to and from the airport or other south Bali destinations. In Thailand, Mermaid uses the Royal Phawadee Village hotel in Patong, owned by the same company, as their departure point.
Pluses: Very comfortable boat, with cabins that have all the amenities. Excellent dive deck and crew.
Minuses: The boat has a shallow draft that can make it a little 'uncomfortable' in rough seas.
The Mermaid II is operated by Mermaid Liveaboards. You can book it through their web site, or compare boats and prices at Sunrise Divers.