The best by review and rating Great Barrier Reef diving packages

This article is about the best liveaboard Great Barrier Reef. When I say best, I don’t mean the best budget liveaboards either.

Best liveaboard Great Barrier Reef - 5 best reviewed GBR liveaboards

The best liveaboard Great Barrier Reef by rating out of 10 and rated by number of reviews. These include the Ocean Quest, the Spirit of Freedom, Spoilsport liveaboard, Pro Dive Cairns and Coral Sea Dreaming.


The best liveaboard Great Barrier Reef

Before I launch into the best liveaboard Great Barrier Reef, let me explain how I've score them and why I've chosen the best dive liveaboards in this list. These 'best' criteria were taken as things stand at the time of writing this article.

  • Number of verified reviews - must be more than 10 reviews.
  • Rating out of 10 and how the GBR liveaboard was rated - must be greater than 9 out of 10.

What this review doesn't take account of is the cost of the liveaboard.

List of the best liveaboard Great Barrier Reef

  1. Ocean Quest Liveaboard - Rated 9.0 out of 10 and Superb, with 4.5 stars from 214 verified reviews. Note that although this Great Barrier Reef liveaboard has a lower score out of 10 than the next dive boat, it's got the highest number of reviews,making it the most popular and best liveaboard.
  2. Spirit of Freedom - Rated 9.3 out of 10 and Superb, with 4.5 stars from 119 verified reviews.
  3. Spoilsport Liveaboard - Rated 9.3 out of 10 and Superb, with 4.5 stars from 101 verified reviews.
  4. Pro Dive Cairns - Rated 9.2 out of 10 and Superb, with 4.5 stars from 119 verified reviews.
  5. Coral Sea Dreaming - Rated 9.2 out of 10 and Superb, with 4.5 stars from 20 verified reviews.

Let's now take a look at each of the best liveaboard Great Barrier Reef in more detail.

Ocean Quest liveaboard

Ocean Quest liveaboard
Ocean Quest liveaboard - image courtesy of Liveaboard.com

The Ocean Quest liveaboard has the most reviews, but out of a 5 best liveaboards, her rating is the least of 9 out of 10. However, the reason I have put Ocean Quest at the top is due to the number and quality of the reviews.

At the time of writing the number of customer verified reviews stood at 214, which include comments from an American diver like this one:

Phenomenal experience, best vacation ever. "The diving was of course the highlight. Of the many creatures we saw, turtles, sharks, innumerable coral but the treasure of the sea had to be the Humphead parrot fish." Recommended for: The staff of Ocean Quest were ALL so friendly, knowledgeable and professional.

Julie Ann R - United States

This is a 36 metre (118 feet) catamaran liveaboard is designed for up to 48 guests, so it's one of the larger Great Barrier Reef liveaboards on offer. Why I chose this as the best liveaboard Great Barrier Reef is due to its consistent high rating by so many scuba divers.

The Ocean Quest liveaboard offers year-round dive trips to the Outer Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The Ocean Quest liveaboard is permanently moored at the Outer Reef and guests are transferred by fast boat from Cairns.

Features of the Ocean Quest liveaboard

  • 23 cabins with air conditioning and en-suite bathrooms.
  • Nitrox available.
  • Food options include western food and vegetarian options. But also catering for diets governed by religious reasons or dietary requirements.
  • Scuba gear rentals.
  • Non-diver (snorkeler) friendly.
A sample of trip itineraries on the Ocean Quest liveaboard include:
  • 2 days 1 night trip - Open Water diver certification required and a minimum of 4 logged dives are required. Approx 6 dives in total. Diving on Norman Reef, Saxon Reef and Hastings Reef.
  • 3 day 2 night - Open Water diver certification required and a minimum of 3 logged dives are required. Approx 12 dives in total. Diving on Norman Reef, Saxon Reef and Hastings Reef.
  • 4 day 3 night dive trip - Open Water diver certification required and a minimum of 3 logged dives are required. Approx 15 dives in total. Diving on Norman Reef, Saxon Reef and Hastings Reef.
  • 5 day 4 night trip - Open Water diver certification required and a minimum of 3 logged dives are required. Approx 16 dives in total. Diving on Norman Reef, Saxon Reef and Hastings Reef.
  • 6 day 5 night dive trip - Open Water diver certification required and a minimum of 3 logged dives are required. Approx 21 dives in total. Diving on Norman Reef, Saxon Reef and Hastings Reef.

Here's another great review of the Ocean Quest, this time from an Australian diver:

I had a lovely time on Ocean Quest, amazing dive sites, cool crew and value for money! "The amount of dives you get to do for the price is amazing." Recommended for: Value, Dive sites and Crew.

Nicole G, Australia

Click here for more reviews, to find out availability and prices for the Ocean Quest liveaboard.

However, if you're not keen on spending a few days with so many people and divers, the next Great Barrier Reef liveaboard might be more in keeping with your idea of a great diving trip. But the benefit of diving on the Ocean Quest liveaboard is that it's GBR diving on a budget also, although this isn't why it was chosen.

Spirit of Freedom liveaboard

Spirit of Freedom liveaboard
Spirit of Freedom liveaboard - image courtesy of Liveaboard.com

Whilst the Spirit of Freedom liveaboard has less customer reviews in total, the rating by the reviews is better than for the Ocean Quest. The verified reviews of the Spirit of Freedom include this one from a UK diver:

Seriously, not enough stars. "The crew. Hands down. I challenge you to find a better one. Professional yet fun and with a great dynamic between them all. They work hard! I stayed on for the three day trip but would have loved to stay longer. Diving was incredible, with a good variation in the dives and spacing for the "must see" stuff, so you could take a break if needed. I've done a bunch of liveaboards and this is the first that I would consider redoing. Thanks to everyone! #terry'sengineroomtour #terryisfamous." Recommended forThe crew, the diving, the food.

Stuart G, United Kingdom

The Spirit of Freedom liveaboard dive boat caters for 26 guests, which was custom-built for divers. The liveaboard dive boat is 37 metre (121 feet) in length and has 11 cabins to choose from. Best Australian Liveaboard by readers of Australasia Dive Log in 2015 & 2017.

Features of the Spirit of Freedom liveaboard

  • 11 cabins with air conditioning and en-suite bathrooms.
  • Nitrox available.
  • DIN adapters.
  • Sidemount diving.
  • Food options include western food, vegan and vegetarian options. But also catering for diets governed by religious reasons or dietary requirements.
  • Free soft drinks and free wine with dinner.
  • Scuba gear rentals.
  • Non-diver (snorkeler) friendly.
  • Family cabins.
  • Free internet.
A sample of trip itineraries on the Ocean Quest liveaboard include:
  • 5 days 4 night trip - Coral Sea & Ribbon Reefs adventure - Advanced Open Water diver certification required and a minimum of 50 logged dives are required. Approx 15 dives in total. Diving on includes the Coral Sea and Ribbon Reefs.
  • 4 days 3 night trip - Cod Hole and Ribbon Reefs - Open Water diver certification required and a minimum of 10 logged dives are required. Approx 11 dives in total. Diving on includes the Cod Hole and Ribbon Reefs.
  • 8 days 7 night trip - Cod Hole, Coral Sea & Ribbon Reefs adventure - Advanced Open Water diver certification required and a minimum of 50 logged dives are required. Approx 26 dives in total. Diving on includes Cod Hole, the Coral Sea and Ribbon Reefs.

Here's another great review of the Spirit of Freedom liveaboard, this time from an Australian diver:

Amazing Experience. "This was a great trip - We did the 5 day Coral Sea & Ribbon Reefs Adventure and had a wonderful experience. The crew was amazing, the dive sites were out of this world, and the boat was great (food, bunk etc)." Recommended for: Crew, dives & food!

Caity S, United States

Click here for more reviews, to find out availability and prices for the Spirit of Freedom liveaboard.

Spoilsport liveaboard

Spoilsport liveaboard Great Barrier Reef
Spoilsport liveaboard Great Barrier Reef - image courtesy of Liveaboard.com

With 101 reviews at the time of writing and with an overall score of 9.3 out of 10, this Great Barrier Reef liveaboard is also one of the best for diving. One such review by an Australian said:

Absolutely brilliant. "The shark feeding The barbecue on the last night The friendly crew The diving in general The organisation of everything was -spot on." Recommended for: The crew, the diving, our group in general. Everyone got along really well and we were from all corners of the globe.

Andrew G, Australia

The MV Spoilsport liveaboard caters for up to 28 divers across 14 cabins in total. This award winning dive liveaboard scores on average 9.3 out of 10 from customer reviews. For those who are prone to sea sickness, the twin hull design of Spoilsport increases stability and reduces motion on board.

There's a highly trained and professional crew on board to make your trip safe and enjoyable. You'll discover unique marine life, which may include the Dwarf Minke Whales.

More Reading: Minke Whale Liveaboard (The Best Place To Swim With Dwarf Minke Whales)

She is 30 metres(98 feet) in length and features the following:

Features of Spoilsport liveaboard Great Barrier Reef

  • 14 cabins with air conditioning and en-suite bathrooms.
  • Nitrox available.
  • DIN adapters.
  • Sidemount diving.
  • Rebreather support.
  • Food options include western food, vegan and vegetarian options. But also catering for diets governed by religious reasons or dietary requirements.
  • Free wine with dinner.
  • Scuba gear rentals.
  • Non-diver (snorkeler) friendly.
  • Naturalist guide.

More Reading: Rebreather friendly liveaboard Red Sea (27 liveaboards to choose from)

A sample of trip itineraries on the Spoilsport liveaboard include:
  • 4 days 3 night trip - Fly Dive Cod Hole - Open Water diver certification required and a no minimum logged dives are required. Approx 12 dives in total. Diving on includes the Cod Hole.
  • 5 days 4 night trip - Fly Dive Coral Hole - Advanced Open Water diver certification required and a minimum of 20 logged dives are required. Approx 20 dives in total. Diving on includes the Coral Sea.
  • 8 days 7 night trip -Coral Sea Safari  - Advanced Open Water diver certification required and a minimum 20 logged dives are required. Approx 20 dives in total. Diving on includes the Coral Sea.

Here's another great review of the Spoilsport liveaboard, this time from an American diver:

Five stars all the way. "- The flight up to Lizard Island is beautiful (sit on the left for the best views). - Talking with Captain Peter about pirates off the coast of New Guinea. - My partner's a bit new to diving, and an instructor was available to accompany her on every dive. - All the great diving! We saw cuttlefish, turtles eating jellyfish, eels, sharks, nudis, you name it. Lots of different locations, all terrific. - Oh, man, the food!" Recommended for: The diving (of course), the terrific crew, and the food!

Harry S, United States

Click here for more reviews, to find out availability and prices for the Spoilsport liveaboard.

Pro Dive Cairns - M/V ScubaPro I, II or III

Pro Dive Cairns liveaboard Great Barrier Reef
Pro Dive Cairns - image courtesy of Liveaboard.com

Another highly rated Great Barrier Reef liveaboard with 119 verified customer reviews at the time of writing this article. Rating Pro Dive Cairns liveaboards ScubaPro I, II and III on average 9.2 out of 10 and Superb, here's how James from American put it:

Awesome experience. "The dive sites were terrific and much more beautiful than I had anticipated." Recommended for: 1. Crew was exceptionally friendly & helpful. 2. Great deal for the money 3. Absolutely wonderful dive sites.

James S, United States

Another custom-built dive liveaboard catering fro up to 32 guests on board. The Pro Dive Cairns is 25 metres (78.5 feet) in length with 16 cabins.

Features of the Pro Dive Cairns liveaboard

  • 16 cabins with air conditioning.
  • Nitrox available.
  • DIN adapters.
  • Food options include western food, vegan and vegetarian options. But also catering for diets governed by religious reasons or dietary requirements.
  • Scuba gear rentals.
  • Non-diver (snorkeler) friendly.
  • Free internet.
A sample of trip itineraries on the Pro Dive Cairns liveaboard include:
  • 3 days 2 night trip - Great Barrier Outer Reef - Open Water diver certification required and a minimum of 4 logged dives are required. Approx 11 dives in total. Diving on Flynn, Milln, Thetford and Pellowe reefs.

Here's another great review of the Pro Dive Cairns, this time from a Swiss diver:

The best boattrip I had so far!! "The whole trip was a highlight. The crew was amazing and made this trip absolutly great!!" Recommended forThe crew, the divesites and the boat.

Nastasja H, Switzerland

Click here for more reviews, to find out availability and prices for the Pro Dive Cairns liveaboard.

Coral Sea Dreaming liveaboard

Coral Sea Dreaming liveaboard Great Barrier Reef
Coral Sea Dreaming liveaboard - image courtesy of Liveaboard.com

The last of the best liveaboards on the Great Barrier Reef is the Coral Sea Dreaming. With less reviews than the other dive liveaboards in this article, she has been rated 9.2 out of 10. A total of 20 reviews at the time of writing include Canadian diver:

Amazing trip with a great crew! "Waking up on the reef in the morning and being able to jump right into the water." Recommended forThe crew, the coral, and the amount of ocean life.

Jaimie R, Canada

The Coral Sea Dreaming liveaboard is an 18 metre (59 feet) sailing yacht. The Coral Sea Dreaming liveaboard had exclusive access to 28 moorings on 9 different reefs in the Great Barrier Reef.

You have the opportunity to visit some of the most beautiful dive locations around the Outer Great Barrier Reef. Catering for just 12 divers across only four cabins, these are the features of this great liveaboard:

Features of the Coral Sea Dreaming liveaboard liveaboard

  • 4 cabins with air conditioning.
  • DIN adapters
  • Food options include western food, vegan and vegetarian options. But also catering for diets governed by religious reasons or dietary requirements.
  • Scuba gear rentals.
  • Non-diver (snorkeler) friendly.
  • Family cabins.
A sample of trip itineraries on the Coral Sea Dreaming liveaboard include:
  • 2 days 1 night trip - Dive and sail - Open Water diver certification required and no minimum logged dives are required. You can purchase a dive package of say 4 dives in total, but please note the prices quoted for the liveaboard don't include diving. Diving on The Coral Sea Dreaming liveaboard includes the Flynn, Thetford Reef and Milne Reef.

Here's another great review of the Coral Sea Dreaming liveaboard, this time from an American diver:

The most incredible thing I have ever experienced. "Scuba diving and snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef. The crew was good fun. The scenery was unbelievable." Recommended for: The crew, the dives and the scenery.

Netanel A, United States

Click here for more reviews, to find out availability and prices for the Coral Sea Dreaming liveaboard.

I hope you enjoyed this article about the best liveaboard great barrier reef

I’d love to hear from you. Tell us about your adventures of diving and snorkeling, in the comments below. Please also share your photos. Either from your underwater cameras or videos from your waterproof Gopro’s!

If this article hasn’t answered all of your questions. If you have more questions either about snorkeling or types of scuba diving (or specifically about the best liveaboard great barrier reef), please comment below with your questions.

There will also be many more articles about scuba diving (and snorkeling) for you to read and learn about these fabulous sports.

Have fun and be safe!


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