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Dive Review of Dancer Fleet/Star Dancer in
Papua New Guinea/Milne Bay

Dancer Fleet/Star Dancer, Oct, 2011,

by Michael Judd, OR, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 11 reports). Report 6289.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Indonesia, Caribbean, Cocos, Red Sea, Palau, Philippines, Coral Sea, Seattle
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, cloudy Seas calm
Water Temp 80 to 82 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 2
Water Visibility 40 to 80 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions No deco - Nitrox depth limits
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish 2 stars
Large Pelagics 1 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter N/A Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments [None]

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 3 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 3 stars
Dive Operation 3 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 3 stars
Beginners 2 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments Bottom line at the top - Area great, boat and operator just OK.
It's a long and expensive trip to get to the boat, which leaves from Alotau on Milne Bay, PNG. Figure a full two days travel each way, and around $3000 airfare from the US (the leg to and from Port Moresby, where Air Niugini has a virtual monopoly, is the expensive piece). There are only one or two flights a day from Port Moresby to Alotau, on either Air Niugini or Airlines PNG, so don't plan on easy connections. The good news was that neither airline charged the "excess" baggage fee their rules provide for the local trips (anything over 16 kg) - the reason wasn't clear, but I didn't argue.
The Star Dancer is not too impressive. On the good side, the cabins were large and the air conditioning worked well. A lot of little things could have used repair, however, such as the rocking toilet and the drip from the ceiling (fortunately just water, and not over either bed). The worst mechanical problem was the malfunctioning fresh water system (apparently not a new problem) - we drank salty water for much of the trip, although for the last few days there was good water in the dining room, but not in the cabins.
Overall, the food situation was mediocre. While the food was prepared well, the selection and quantity were limited (big eaters would not have been happy). For those who like snacks between meals, the only option was a cookie jar. On the positive side, the galley ladies never forgot to provide alternatives to those of us who are picky eaters (no fish for me, no beef for my buddy).
The majority of dives were strides from the water-level dive platform at the stern of the big boat, which worked fine. The dive stations were a bit crowded for the 16 divers on board. For some reason (we heard various explanations) it took a few days to consistently get nitrox at 32%. Divers could either follow one of the local dive guides (there were usually two in the water) or venture on their own. The guides were generally helpful and considerate both above and under water. Briefings were generally adequate, although a few times there were wrong guesses on the expected current. The biggest complaint, heard from most of the divers, was the itinerary. The pattern was to do two morning dives at one mooring, then move to another nearby for the two afternoon and one evening dive. In addition, the majority of dives on the ten day trip were in the same small area. We did not go to a number of the locations specified on the Dancer website, and there was no rough weather to blame for this. (There were also none of the village trips mentioned in the on-line "Planning Guide"). The result was that while the dive locations were generally good, it sometimes got a bit boring repeating the same or almost the same dive on many days (although it certainly cuts down on the fuel expense). Many of the sites had at least moderate current, and some drift dives would have been appropriate - with only one small outboard boat, however, this could not be done.
Under the water, Milne Bay provides very good diving. We regularly saw pipefish, seahorses, octopi, anthias, anemonaefish, a wide variety of angel and butterfly fish, plus a few cuttlefish and scorpionfish. There wasn't as much for those of us who like the big guys: a few whitetip sharks, a couple of grey reef and the occasional epaulet shark at night; two mid-size manta came by to check out the boat at one location, providing a swimming opportunity, but I saw none on any dive; once in a while a small group of barracuda. Unfortunately, at least some of the residents of the area are evidently in the shark finning business to make some cash.
Finally, something hardly unique to Star Dancer: the Captain refused to tell us the split of the tip money. This almost invariably means that the "officers" (three Americans in this case) are getting a bigger slice of the pie than the rest of the crew (in the interest of political correctness, we'll call them "the locals"). It's not a secret when there is an even split. Enough said.
In summary, Milne Bay is a great place to dive, but the Star Dancer could make it much better. Our overall impression was that unfortunately the focus was as much on saving money as enhancing the guests' experience.
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Subscriber's Comments

By thomas j dwyer in HI, US at Jul 01, 2012 16:57 EST  
I reported on my trip in April, 2012, why wasn't my report posted. The boat was awful!!! No nitrox working, shower sprayed all over!!! Desalinator not working properly, drank slightly salty water all week. Crew did their best. Boat should not be in the water!!
By Dave Eagleray in ZZ, ID at Jul 01, 2012 20:08 EST  
Thomas, We never received any trip report from you. Perhaps you didn't finish the submission process after your entry is presented for review. You can submit your trip report again. Dave Eagleray, Undercurrent webmaster
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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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