This was only our second live aboard so our experience is limited but it was much better than the first one to the Great Barrier Reef so it receives high marks. We paid extra for the largest suite in the bow of the boat and the accommodations were excellent, we discovered however this was not the best choice for my wife who is subject to mal-de-mer.
The dive itinerary (Simply the Best) was chosen for being well offshore beyond the reach of the many day boats operating from Port Ghalib and Marsa Alam; large pelagics are the primary featured attraction. Dive locations included the Brothers Islands and Daedalus Reef in the south central Red Sea. The typical strong currents at these locations require that divers who book this itinerary be AOW certified with a minimum of 50 logged dives.
Strong winds, rough conditions, and long travel distances made several days uncomfortable for my wife Karen, accentuated by our location in the bow of the boat, live and learn as the saying goes.
On the flip side we were pleasantly surprised at the huge variety of small fish, and brilliant corals. Friendly Napoleon Wrasse nearly the size of Goliath Grouper and many tropical species not seen previously took the sting out of poor photo opportunities for pelagic species.
Food was plentiful and very good quality. The entire staff was cheerful and attentive, dive guides were available for those who wanted them, but divers were permitted to dive their own profiles within the guide lines described.
Much of the diving was done by drops from Zodiac tenders, the mother ship remained fixed to mooring balls located in the calmest spot at the offshore locations. In the rough conditions during our trip boarding the Zodiacs in full dive gear was a challenge at times, the ride to the drop zone could also be very uncomfortable depending on the travel distance necessary. Depending on location and current some dives were permitted directly from the dive deck for those who disliked the Zodiac ride.
Many of our live aboard companions hailed from Europe, Americans were in the minority no doubt due to the travel required, for Europeans the Red Sea is a common dive travel destination much as the Caribbean is for North American divers.
Emperor Divers also operates the Marina Lodge Hotel in Port Ghalib, home port for several live aboard boats including Elite. We spent one night in the hotel following our Red Sea dive safari, accommodations were comfortable and good food is available in the hotel restaurant. We were a little disappointed at the lack of location specific dive souvenirs in Emperor's dive shop also on the premises. Emperor day boat trips can also be booked from this location.
We picked the summer months for our Red Sea trip since it normally offers optimum dive conditions, but Mother Nature did not read the same brochure for this excursion. Something travelers to Egypt should understand is that the summer months are the off season for land based tourism, consequently Egyptian domestic airline schedules are reduced during the period, and this required us to make a long trip by car from Hurghada to Port Ghalib near Marsa Alam that would not be required in the winter months. No one goes to Egypt without a visit to the Pyramids and ancient temples and we were no exception. There is a reason non diver types consider winter to be the travel season in this part of the world, all land based activities were planned for early morning and it was still hotter than you know where!