Overall, we enjoyed our dives and the Spirit of Freedom. We were not prepared for the often extremely rough seas and unexpected cold water temperatures, 72 to 77 degrees F. It is now their winter, but we still thought the water would be warm. We were wrong. Visibility was generally excellent. A 3 mil wetsuit was not sufficient, and a 5 mil wet suit was still cold. Our Spirit of Freedom (SOF) trip included a rough and rocky overnight journey to the Coral Sea, a ways beyond the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) for a special shark feeding, which was very well done and worth the trip. Lots of sharks were attracted by a cage of fish heads. The cage was opened from a roped latch. As divers we viewed the feeding with our backs to a coral wall. Queensland does not allow shark feeding on the GBR.
The dive master who arranged all the dives and who managed the dive locations was helpful in keeping an inconsiderate and rude guest away from us in the dive groups. While our cabin was probably the largest on the ship, we did not have hot water for showers, luke warm. This was a disappointment, especially given the cold water temperatures. Since our cabin was on the top deck, we really got the most rocking from the rough seas. There were 23 divers and a crew of about 10. Nitrox was available. But the seas were very rough, so our cruises to different dive sites were always all very rocky. The food, however, was excellent given the very small galley/kitchen. Our cook even cooked for the Queen! The number of dives per day, 4-5, made it like boot camp. The one night dive was unnecessarily crowded into and with one dive master. Even though the SOF does not provide guided DM dives (only one DM during dives for safety), I will make sure any next live-aboard night dives are with smaller groups lead by DMs to avoid the hoards underwater in the dark, with big fish and a few sharks around.