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Dive Review of Peter Hughes Sun Dancer II in
Belize/Caribbean

May, 2006, an Instant Reader Report by Lynn Morton, CA, United States
Report Number 2908
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
501-1000 dives
Where else diving
Both No. & S. California, Hawaii, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Indonesia
Closest Airport
Getting There

		

Dive Conditions

Weather
sunny  
Seas
calm  
Water Temp
85   to 81    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
5
Water Visibility
50   to 100    Feet  
 
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
yes  
 
Enforced diving restrictions  
130 ft. depth, no time restrictions except as detailed in comments below  
Liveaboard?
yes 
Nitrox Available?
N/A 
What I saw
Sharks
1 or 2 
Mantas
1 or 2 
Dolphins
None 
Whale Sharks
None 
Turtles
1 or 2 
Whales
None 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Corals
  3 stars
Tropical Fish
3 stars  
Small Critters
  3 stars
Large Fish
2 stars  
Large Pelagics
  1 stars
 
 
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
3 stars  
Boat Facilities
1 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
1 stars  
Shore Facilities  
N/A  
Comments
I would't recommend this boat to any photographer beyond the simplest point
& shoot.  The facilities were inadequate and unsafe.  The only camera
tables were on the dive deck, subject to spray and dripping divers. 
Despite posted signs saying no drinks, both divers and crew routinely set
drinks there.  For protection at night or to open the housing, you had to
go to your air-conditioned cabin.  So you were constantly dealing with
condensation in the housing due to the extreme temperature/humidity
changes.  The charging stations were also on the dive deck, 2 very small
shelves about 16 X16 inches. The crew used them for misc. items as well,
and mixing hot drinks.  Whenever the boat was moving, you had to remove
everything to protect it from spray.  Since no recharging in cabins was
allowed(due to fire danger), that really cut down on recharging time. 
There was a small space in the salon where you could also charge, but it
was where everyone charged their computers and there was no room.  Besides,
one of the crew members was usually planted there working on a DVD to sell
to the divers.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Accommodations
3 stars
Food
3 stars
Service and Attitude
1 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
N/A
Dive Operation
2 stars  
Shore Diving  
3 stars  
Snorkeling
N/A  
 
 

Overall Rating

Value for $$
N/A    
Beginners
3 stars   
Advanced
1 stars    
Comments  
This trip was our first Caribbean diving and first trip in a
"chain" dive boat.  I did a lot of research and chose the Dancer
because it had little to no dive restrictions and a ratio of 1 to 2 crew to
passengers, the best ratio of all the Belize dive boat operations.  Before
this, beyond CA live aboards, we've only been on the Nai'a and Spirit of
Solomons, so we may be spoiled.  But we will certainly never book another
Peter Hughes trip.
My first clue should have been when I couldn't get a real answer to my
inquiry regarding camera facilites.  It took several days and calls to be
told only that there were some.  They proved to be inadequate and not
safe.
There were no dive restrictions beyond the 130' limit, but reality was
different.  Time was often limited because we rarely got into the water by
the posted time of the 1st dive because the captain was still moving the
boat.  That meant the 2nd dive started late and since the boat was often
moved at lunch, you had to be out of the water by a certain time.  Ditto
for the afternoon & evening.  The 1st dive was scheduled to be at 8:30,
which is very late for a dive boat, and I never hit the water any earlier
than 8:50.  A slipping schedule with set end times made for restricted dive
times.  Also, at the intial boat briefing, the following statement was made
regarding drinking and diving: "The only restriction we have is if
you've had so much to drink you can't find your way to the dive deck,
you're not diving."  Even if it was meant as a joke, they still didn't
restrict drinking and diving.
The crew was a real mixed bag.  They gave you a shoulder massage when you
came back aboard, but I'd rather they had gotten the tanks refilled. 
Divers frequently got set to go only to discover their tank was still
empty.  The promised crew to diver ratio wasn't there and it sorely showed
when they had problems with the air compressor (no Nitrox on part of the
trip) and the air conditioning.  A quarter of the salon was flooded and had
standing water that made for soggy rugs the entire trip.  One couple's
stateroom was torn apart for most of the trip with their effort to fix the
problem.  Lack of organization was evident at all levels.  From embarking
passengers missing forms from the main office, to missing dive times, down
to missing my birthday.  They were told by me, my husband, and again by him
when we boarded, but claimed when the time came that no one told them.  I'm
old enough that I really don't care, but it made for a perfect example of
the lack of organization that beset the entire operation.
Diving was probably pretty good by Caribbean standards.  You always got in
with a giant stride off the dive platform and swam back to the boat.  They
had an inflatable, but it was never used to ferry or pick up divers.  Being
our first time in the Caribbean, the lack of species diversity compared to
the Pacific was hard to get past, but the sponges are beautiful.  We dove
mostly on Long Caye, a day at Half Moon Caye (the best diving), and 2 dives
at Turneffe Atoll.  We went to the Blue Hole, but I was forced to abort the
dive.  In the briefing, we were told that after snorkeling a distance from
the boat, we all had to descend as a group.  We had 2 minutes to get down
to 130' and if you couldn't do it that fast, you had to abort the dive. 
Before we snorkeled over there, we all had to hang on a line together,
being kicked and bumped.  Then the pack moved off together.  I was already
uptight about being able to clear that rapidly, I hate crowds,it was a long
snorkel and I'm dragging my camera gear, and I see ahead that they're
already signaling for descent without all the divers being there.  I pushed
to get there too hard and got totally out of breath.  That's never happened
to me before and it was a bad scenario all around.  I nixed the dive.  They
say they do it for safety, but it was absurd.  Later, they claimed that
someone would have stayed back with me if I'd had problems clearing, but
that was not what was said in the briefing.  It was a prime example of
cattlecar diving with totally unecessary restrictions.
Our last day was supposed to be at the Elbow, but the captain refused to
take us, saying there was too much current.  The divers rebelled after the
1st dive was a total bust, so we went to the Elbow.  There was no
noticeable current.  Then we went back to Belize City for the afternoon and
the night, disembarking the next morning.  The boat sat at the dock all
that time so they could restock for the next trip.  We had to get off,
taking all valuables,  for the reloading until dinner.  You could pay more
to go on a guided tour to escape the boat reloading, but most of us hung
out at a wharf-side hotel.  Some passengers even paid for a room there that
night, because the boat rubbing against the dock all night made incredible
noises.  We missed a half day of diving for that?
All the other divers seemed as unhappy with the operation as we were. 
Perhaps other Peter Hughes boats are better run, but I wouldn't recommend
the Sun Dancer to any serious photographer or diver beyond the party type.


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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.


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